Yesterday, seriously disgruntled British Airways customer Hasan Syed took to Twitter to vent his frustration at the airline. Nothing new there. And yet there was something new, something groundbreaking even, about this particular complaint. Why? Because this was not just any tweet, this was a sponsored tweet.  Hasan had taken the pioneering step of using Twitter Ads to purchase a promoted update to give his complaint some extra welly.

We are of course used to people voicing their complaints on social networks, and harnessing the collective power of the social universe to stand up to big brands and make their voices heard. However, until now, paid social updates have been the preserve of brands only, a sacred space in which companies could promote their pristine corporate messages beneath a veneer of sociability. Yet social advertising is relatively inexpensive and easy enough for the lay person to set up on a small scale, so in a way, it’s surprising somebody hasn’t done this before.

So does this tweet mark a step change? From here on will brands’ promotional messages be competing for space with their detractors, not just in the free social spaces, but the paid ones too? Only time will tell, but social media has shown once again its democratising force, its ability to facilitate and empower the Davids to humble the Goliaths in new and surprising ways.