The Tweet to Beat: Paying $3 Per Twitter Follower


48 hours ago in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Photo: Matt Mullenweg)

“Tweet To Beat could generate help for thousands of students in high-need public schools. My colleagues and I are cheering you on!”
-Charles Best, CEO of

The Ethical Bribe

The gist: To benefit U.S. public school students, I will bribe the entire world to follow me on Twitter for $3 each.

I’ll also be giving away a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world and a fully-loaded MacBook Pro. But first things first…

This is “Tweet to Beat”, a follow-up experiment to LitLiberation, which was a campaign by bloggers and their readers, and CEOs and their employees, to spread the power of literacy worldwide. It was a new fundraising model based on competition and social media scalability, and it funded not only US public school projects (20,000+ students) but also libraries and schools in developing countries. I’m in Vietnam with readers right now to visit two of the schools.

With zero financing or hard costs, this model ended up raising more than $250,000 in less than a month, 3x more than Stephen Colbert during that same period.

The Experiment

I think that was just the tip of the iceberg, and Twitter is the perfect laboratory for a new-and-improved approach (at least with a few variables).

It’s public and therefore accountable, it’s trackable, it allows exclusive communication with followers when needed (“protect my updates” under settings), and it’s current media popularity makes it the ideal PR vehicle for this campaign. Last but not least, though this experiment has no victims, produces no spam, nor violates the Twitter Terms of Service, this alternative use will get some purists hot and bothered.

Here’s how the Tweet to Beat campaign works:

1) For every new Twitter follower in the next two weeks, I will donate $1 to, and an anonymous supporter will match $2, for a total of $3 to U.S. public school classrooms per follower. For now, the matching limit is tentatively capped at 50,000 new followers, though I’m open to increasing it later. 50,000 new followers would mean $150,000 to U.S. public school education, and I hope to double or triple this total with a few twists.

The goal is directly helping 25,000 U.S. public school students in low-income and high-need areas in two weeks. This timeline is half the time dedicated to LitLiberation. My current follower count is, at the time of this writing, 22,782, so we’ll round down and begin the count at 22,500.

Every Twitter follower will also get:

-6 months of RescueTime’s Pro time tracking tools for free (Normal price: $48). Just install it with no data entry and know exactly how you spend your time. Set thresholds, alarms, or use it for an entire business team. Full disclosure: I am now an investor in RescueTime, as I think they’re the best out there.

-6 months of DropBox’s Pro 50GB account for free. (Normal price: $60) This is a reader favorite. Sync your files automatically to your computers and the web; sign in and access your files from any browser or mobile device. It’s the world’s easiest back-up and syncing service.

-6 months of PhoneTag Alpha, the latest voicemail transcription service, for free (Normal price: $60). This is closed to the public and an exclusive for Tim Ferriss followers (!). Read voicemail on your mobile phone, portable device and/or e-mail. Forget about phone interruptions and suffering through long-winded voicemails.

Total value: $168 to each follower.

2) There is a simultaneous competition for those who would like to spread the word. Just do the best you can (Facebook, blog, e-mail friends, FriendFeed, add to your e-mail signature, tell local media, etc.) and detail what you did in the comments here. Tell your friends who are teachers and encourage them to do the same. Bonus points go to people who act sooner vs. later. Deadline for comments is 3/30/09 at 3:30pm PST.

If you’re able, I suggest you use a service like to get a unique URL for this post so you can track clicks on your individual link as you promote it. Click-throughs are more important than “exposure”. Here are a few links you can use: (shortened URL for this post)

Not sure of what to say? Here’s the simple version for Facebook status and other channels:
“The Tweet to Beat – Paying $3 per Twitter follower:”

Just get them to this post using curiosity and let the post do the convincing. For more promotional tactics that work, see the comments from this past competition.

The prizes:

Grand Prize: Round-trip ticket anywhere in the world Continental Airlines or one of their OnePass partners fly. This is pretty much everywhere on earth. Redeem the ticket anytime within 10 years, so no rush. If you prefer the 2nd-place prize, opt for it and the 2nd-place winner will get the round-trip ticket.

2nd-Place Prize: Brand-new condition 15″ MacBook Pro and laptop backpack with the following specs, donated by direct marketing expert Joe Polish (his Richard Branson interview here):

15″ MB PRO 2.6GHZ 2GB / 200 / SD APPLE $2,794.00
ADD 2GB(1X2GB) PC2-5300 DDR2-667 SODIMM

How Little Does It Take?

I hope you choose to participate and make a difference. Karmic capitalism doesn’t take much.

Taking an hour to mentor a child, sending a single e-mail, or following someone on Twitter — remember that the small things are often what have the biggest impact, as we actually do them.

Please spread the word and further the experiment. I’ll share all of the results so others can duplicate them with non-profits worldwide.

Interested in doing more? Please consider donating a few dollars directly to U.S. classrooms near you through

“One of the great movements in my lifetime among educated people is the need to commit themselves to action.”
-Peter Drucker

Posted on: March 9, 2009.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

477 comments on “The Tweet to Beat: Paying $3 Per Twitter Follower

  1. Tim,

    Great idea! I’m going to send it out on my blog, twitter and facebook. I wanted to let you know that the short url in the post isn’t correct. It 404s on your site.

    All the best,



  2. That sounds like a great cause. Nice to see Twitter used in this manner. I was wondering when the platform would start these type of experiments. Cheers to making the public schools a little richer and @tferriss a little lighter in cash.

    I’m predicting more than double your current followers. People love to give back especially if it’s for free (for them).


  3. I’m posting on my twitter account, @trickjarrett, on my podcast’s twitter account and on my Facebook pages in hopes of stirring up more support. Awesome stuff Tim, love that you’re helping support public schools!


  4. Hi Tim,

    This is a great idea! It would be even better if your comments field allowed inline videos — they can communicate so much more than simple text.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the results.



  5. Tim this is an awesome cause, I’m sure you’ll reach your goal pretty soon.

    Btw, is a pretty neat tool, you just opened up my eyes on how to use similar link tracking tools to build an affiliate program!


  6. Good luck with this, very generous & I will be Retweeting / promoting it as much as I can.

    Just to point out an error, in the links to use the full link “” delivers a 404.



  7. Incredible work, Tim! I don’t know where you guys (and gals) think of this stuff but this is really ingenious use of social networking & social media. Love it, love it, love it!

    And for all of you 4 hour work week readers out there who don’t necessarily have the money to give to causes you are deeply passionate about…never underestimate the value of resourcefulness, your time and/or your expertise. Just with the will to wanting to do good will often bring the answers before the questions. In 2008 I did something volunteer related every single week of the year and in the first quarter of 2009 I am feeling it all come back in immense proportions.

    So despite the state of the economy I encourage and challenge you all to take your life from hard knocks to heart knocks by empowering others and volunteering in your community. It can and will make a difference.



  8. Seth Godin’s has done two charity fundraisers via Twitter so far, and it was a smashing success.

    I will be spreading the link around, and continuing to teach young students about free enterprise along with my SIFE team.

    Keep up the good work!


    From Tim: Thanks, Ethan! Seth is a smart gent, and I’ll have some new wrinkles on Twitter to be announced soon in a follow-up post. This will be a lot of fun, and the impact should be tremendous if people get involved as I hope they will.

    All the best,



  9. @Ethan,

    Thanks! Seth is a smart gent, and I’ll have some new wrinkles on Twitter to be announced soon in a follow-up post. This will be a lot of fun, and the impact should be tremendous if people get involved as I hope they will.

    All the best,