The Tweet to Beat: Paying $3 Per Twitter Follower

476 Comments


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 DonorsChoose.org

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 DonorsChoose.org, 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 http://bit.ly 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:

www.twitter.com/tferriss
http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/03/09/tweet-to-beat/
http://bit.ly/tldW (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: http://bit.ly/tldW”

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
UPG 4GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SODIMM W / INSTL
ADD 2GB(1X2GB) PC2-5300 DDR2-667 SODIMM
APPLECARE PROTECTION PLAN-MACBOOK PRO $349.00
PACE 15.4″ (BLUE) LAPTOP BACKPACK EVERKI $29.99

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 DonorsChoose.org.

“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.

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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)

476 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,

    Kai

    Like

  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).

    Like

  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!

    Like

  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.

    -Erica

    Like

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

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

    Like

  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 “http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/03/09/tweet-to-beattweet-to-beat/” delivers a 404.

    Chris

    Like

  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.

    @teenbizcoach

    Like

  8. Seth Godin’s Squidoo.com 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,

    Tim

    Like

  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,

    Tim

    Like

  10. Hi Tim,

    Love the idea. An idea might be to start a twitter trend for this project.

    For example, I have posted, “@tferriss #TweettoBeat – Paying $3 Per Twitter Follower: http://tr.im/haRx

    Tweeting it as a trend, #TweettoBeat, might make it more viral/easier to follow/search on twitter.

    Dane

    Like

  11. Alright, well I got it out to approximately 50,000 people. I don’t know how many of which are on twitter yet. I encouraged them to signup for Twitter solely to follow Tim, for the time at least and then they can get hooked.

    Also got it on Reddit as it didn’t seem to be on there before.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/83az8/tweet_to_beat_3_to_charity_for_every_follow/

    And I got it on Hacker News as well!

    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=508828

    Like

  12. Tim

    Great idea!!

    I replied @tferris already but think it’s worth a second pass…

    What would be really cool is if this reached a ‘tipping point’ by encouraging people to donate 3 hours of their time (and knowledge) in support of local schools [re: educational reform]. 50k Twitter ‘follows’ is just a start. I’ll kick it off and personally commit to invest 3 hours of my time supporting students in our local college’s entrepreneur program as my ‘match’.

    Keep up the great work!

    Like

  13. Tim,

    Tweeted, LJed, Facebooked, MySpaced, and posted to a forum I frequent regularly. If I think of anywhere else to post it, I’ll recomment later. May I suggest a link to where people might donate directly if they’re already following you but want to have a direct impact?

    Like

  14. Distributed across my social network via Twitter (@AlexBerger) & Facebook. Should put it in front of 1,000 or so extra eyeballs. Nice to see self promotion and a good cause combined for mutual gain – something i’m happy to support!

    Like

  15. Tim, I’ve been following you for quite awhile now, ever since I started reading your book. Since I’m not a new follower, will I still be eligible for the drawing?

    By the way, I’m only working 3 hours a week!

    Like

  16. Great idea!

    My previous comment (with links to the profiles/pages I posted to) was probably catched by your spam filter — anyhow, I posted to Identi.ca, Twitter, Facebook and it’s gonna be displayed on my blog and lifestream sites as well.

    Julian

    Like

    • Congratulations, JP! That is awesome and you should be very, very proud. Consider for a moment the permanent impact on lives your actions will have. Well done.

      All, thank you for suggesting I offer a link to donate directly if you’re already following me and have spread the word. I added this to the post:

      “Interested in doing more? Please consider donating a few dollars directly to U.S. classrooms near you through DonorsChoose.org (www.donorschoose.org).”

      Now, brushing the teeth needs to happen.

      Bedtime for Bonzo,

      Tim

      Like

  17. Thanks for putting this together. It’s been Twittered (@jefferyjohn), facebooked, and blogged (sutherlandsoapbox.weebly.com) while I scheme other ways to push it further, and ways to replicate it for my kids’ schools in Canada!

    Like

  18. Tim –

    Another brilliant idea and I’m happy to help.

    Just mailed to my complete list (won’t share numbers here but it is significant), will Tweet it several times and publish it on my blog and in my Facebook update. I’m also speaking at two big events in the next week, I’ll promote your challenge there as well.

    And, if you are interested, I’d love to offer one of each of the products I sell as a potential 3rd place prize if you are interested in raising the stakes a little. Just let me know.

    I’m a huge fan of Karmic Capitalism and of everything you do to demonstrate how everyone can help.

    Keep the great effort coming.

    Dave Lakhani

    Like

  19. Great idea Tim! I’ve written an email explaining Twitter and your project and sent it along to several past professors and teachers as well as my parents, both of which work in schools. Also I’ve sent out the info via twitter and facebook! Best of luck!

    -Matt Propst
    @propstm

    Like

  20. Great Idea!

    I submitted it to digg and Yahoo Buzz and put it on my Facebook. I’ve also registered the following domains and pointed them to this page:

    tweet2beat.com, tweet2beat.net, tweet2beat.org

    This is going to be great to watch.

    Trent (@tlayell)

    Like

  21. Hi Tim,

    We’ve been trying to get your ear on something and this gives us a good reason to get top of mind while promoting a good cause. We’re posting on the Twitter stream for our customers and sending to some of our favorite Mechanical Turkers.

    Our specific URL: http://bit.ly/9C6fZ

    Maria
    Twitter ID: mcolacurcio

    Like

  22. Fantastic idea Tim, I’ve Tweeted, blogged and chatted about it with a few friends online.

    It seems like there’s a lot of passion of these kinds of drives. Maybe you can also include ways for people to get involved more directly with volunteering time or needed skills as well?

    Like

  23. Tim,

    Awesome idea! I’ve started spreading the word via twitter, facebook, digg, stumbleupon, reddit, delicious, and other social media sites. I’ve also informed people in the education industry like Jeff O’Hara (Co-Founder of edmodo.com, a microblogging platform for the classroom) and sites like edublogs.org.

    I’ve got some more ideas as well. My wife is a 2nd grade teacher and I’m going to get her to spread the word to her fellow teachers. I’ll keep you updated on all of the progress!

    Jon

    Like

  24. Just Ping.FM’d it and did a special post on Facebook and one of my blogs.

    Will be interesting to see the results.

    I’m curious Tim what you think each follower on Twitter is worth to you? Probably more than a dollar ;]

    Nice way to come up with a win/win or a “Do Both” situation.

    Like

  25. Very admirable. I put the word out on Facebook, Twitter and my blog.

    Thank you once again for helping out those who are less fortunate and allowing us to participate.

    Clifford

    Like

  26. Awesome idea Tim.

    My wife is a teacher and the budget cuts in Duval County (Florida) are killing the school system. They’re cutting resource teachers (art, music, PE, etc), they’re cutting sports in some places… it’s just terrible.

    Teachers already have to spend their own money on classroom supplies. The more we can increase the awareness of the problems in the school system the better off America will be in the future.

    I’ll be tweeting this, posting it on my blog and promoting on facebook.

    Good luck.

    Like

  27. Hi Tim,
    Great idea to help raise much needed money for public schools.

    So many fund-raising events never show us the outcome from the event, which leaves you wondering what the outcome wound up being,

    So I hope you post follow-up messages and post photos of the check or checks being handed over to whoever handles that for the schools.

    It’s great to see people making a difference instead of sitting around waiting for someone else to do it.

    Cheers!

    Michael

    Michael D. Walker

    ###

    From Tim: Michael, I totally agree, and this is why I included a quote from the CEO of DonorsChoose.org at the top of this post and am using a public tool like Twitter. I’ll also document everything as it moves forward. Could not agree more that this is important.

    All the best,

    TIm

    Like

  28. hey tim! i’ve been following you on twitter for a while now so i won’t count as a new follower, but because of that, i’m donating to DonorsChoose anyway!

    so far i’ve posted to my facebook profile, facebook status, twitter status (@thislooks), tumblr page (http://thislooksfamiliar.tumblr.com), blog (thislooksfamiliar.com), submitted to reddit, and mass emailed most of the people who I think would understand how twitter works.

    regardless of which one of us promoters wins the prizes, i think the real winners are the kids who will receive this money. please thank your anonymous supporter for me and all of the kids who will benefit from this money.

    what you’re doing is a clever way to get people involved without too much effort and reminding us of all we could be doing if we put in a little more effort. if we are all able to contribute in some small way to this project just by hitting the internet for a few minutes, we should think about giving more time and doing something even more productive!

    Like

  29. Tim, I admire your passion for such things and wish I could be in a better financial position myself to offer some kind of matching contribution. Nonetheless, I have RT and will be donating what I can privately.

    Like

  30. FIXED:

    hey tim! i’ve been following you on twitter for a while now so i won’t count as a new follower, but because of that, i’m donating to DonorsChoose anyway!

    so far i’ve posted to my facebook profile, facebook status, twitter status (@thislooks), tumblr page (http://thislooksfamiliar.tumblr.com), blog (thislooksfamiliar.com), submitted to reddit, and mass emailed most of the people who I think would understand how twitter works. you can see my success here: http://bit.ly/Oe3TI

    when i get home this evening i’ll hit up livejournal, livejournal communities, myspace, flickr, youtube and vimeo.

    regardless of which one of us promoters wins the prizes, i think the real winners are the kids who will receive this money. please thank your anonymous supporter for me and all of the kids who will benefit from this money.

    what you’re doing is a clever way to get people involved without too much effort and reminding us of all we could be doing if we put in a little more effort. if we are all able to contribute in some small way to this project just by hitting the internet for a few minutes, we should think about giving more time and doing something even more productive!

    Like

  31. Excellent idea Tim. Will be very interested to see how this turns out. Social entrepreneurship is the way forward. Will make sure I post it up everywhere I can.

    Like

  32. I can’t wait to see how much is raised – our kids deserve every penny of it. It’s been twittered, facebooked, and emailed to my public interest-minded friends.

    Like

  33. I updated my Facebook status and retweeted. In addition I told my brother who is a Math teacher and sister the speech pathologist. Me I wouk with computers and used to tutor math and computer science.

    Like

  34. Tim – Great, great idea and props on following through with it. As you and your followers have been kind to my own blog numbers, I’m doing what I can. Blogged, tweeted, updated status on Facebook, added link on Facebook, updated status on 5 instant messenger accounts and have added it to my autosig for the time being.

    However – My hope is that you can somehow specifically point this money towards increasing our childrens’ creativity through education, as this will ensure the money goes the furthest in helping these kids.

    Let’s hope it takes off the way you envision it will and thanks for YOUR creativity.

    Like

  35. Tim –

    Great way to bring attention and funds to @DonorsChoose – KUDOS! I’ve been a fan of DonorsChoose.org for quite some time, and I can’t think of a better way to utilize SM Networks…especially Twitter.

    Thanks!

    @Chris_Lugo

    Like

    • @Stephanie and All,

      I wouldn’t mind at at all! Please do spread the word to your local media, put it in your e-mail signature… whatever helps. The more champions, the better.

      Thanks!

      Tim

      Like

  36. Spreading the word about the experiment here at my office and emailing all my friends and family with a link to this page. Great job Tim!

    Like

  37. Posting up in twitter, facebook, linkedin, so far. more to come i’m sure. i have a daughter in this great public school system of ours… and it needs all the help we can give it.

    Like

  38. Wonderful idea Tim! Posted to Twitter and facebook so far – more soon!

    Hope you have some great Pho in Vietnam. That always makes me well when I’ve got a cold or something.

    Like

  39. Hi Tim, “The Tweat to Beat” looks like another great idea!

    I will do my best to spread the word through tweets, status messages, blogs etc. and I was about to set up a mini-site solely for the purpose of bringing more attention to this initiative. Then I found out you had already registered the domains :-) How about me helping you design and develop the [the]tweattobeat websites?

    Kudos on your initiative, I am sure it will at least match the success of LitLiberation!

    David Hund – Valued Standards webdesign

    Like

  40. Tim –

    Thanks for applying your marketing genius to such a great cause! Sounds like people have done lots of great things to help.

    For my contribution, I wrote a little shell script that grabs the trending themes on Twitter, and every few minutes sends a message to the people reading about the trends, asking if they have seen your post. I created the TweetToBeat twitter account to post from. I’ll be running my script for the next few days to make sure plenty of people have a chance to see this. I figure this method of reaching out to people will cover a lot of folks who may not be getting news from blogs, digg, etc.

    I’ve created a trackable link (http://tr.im/ttob), so i can monitor my progress. As you know, tr.im can weed out bot click-throughs to give a much more accurate representation of how many people hit the link.

    I will keep this running around the clock to people checking out the twitter trends in all time zones can get the word and join the cause!

    Thanks again for your clever entrepreneurialism!

    Like

  41. Hi Tim,
    I’m a student of development economics (actually a pretty small study field) so I have a special interest in this topic.
    What I want to know is what criteria do you go by when selecting a school to build? a child to help? and so on.. I couldn’t find this info on your website, but I’d say it’s the most important factor on whether or not you’re going to be effective.
    Regards, Roark
    P.S Thanks for your advice on studying kanji, I discovered the amazing ‘Remembering the Kanji’ mnemonics based method and making perhaps 4 x usual progress

    Like

  42. Hi Tim,

    Thanks so much for what you are doing. I RT on my twitter page as well as sent to a few celebrities w/ many followers, asking them to kindly RT. I also posted a link to this blog on my Facebook account. Good Luck!!!

    Laura

    Like

  43. Not to be the devil’s advocate here, but don’t my tax dollars pay for US public education? Perhaps the crisis in Darfur or the monks in Tibet might be a more worthy cause? Just throwing it out there for discussion.

    Like

    • @Snow,

      Your tax dollars should pay for US public education, but it’s non-selective. DonorsChoose.org allows you to choose the specific places (your hometown, for example) and classroom projects you’d like to help.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Tim

      Like

  44. I just posted the link on my facebook page.

    Just hope this help !

    Thx for all the things you do for your people tim.

    Like

  45. I have found little in this post that backs up the idea of direct help. To what extent do you control what your money will be spend on? You mention DonorsChoose.org as if that word is self-explanatory. It is not. Building or supporting a school without a concept of what you want to teach is no different than charity. You give money away without an interest in your impact? What do you mean by helping directly? Exactly what is direct?

    In your karmic capitalist post you contrast empowerment to charity, but you don’t explain the difference. Saying that one should think in terms of empowerment is not an explanation, but a statement, a re-branding of charity.

    Spending money does not empower. Earning money does, for which action and knowledge are required. However, giving a book by Ayn Rand would have a different effect than giving someone Immanuel Kant to read. What do you stand for? Will you choose the materials that are given to the schools? Being a money pool manager is not the same as empowering people to achieve prosperity. Why choose DonorsChoose.org? How did you make that choice?

    Leaving the context of empowerment to chance doesn’t make your project right. How do you benefit? Your name on the door of a school doesn’t represent a philosophy, unless you name one. Leaving the teaching to others will have some effect but none that you control directly.

    I wish you would verbalize the moral logic of your project in more detail to make your project one that backs – well, an idea. Pooling money is not an idea, merely an activity. Why are you doing it? Giving a girl money for nothing doesn’t turn her into a self-sufficient being – automatically. It is more or less just a redistribution of money and odds. You could use the same money to open a school that teaches things you believe in. That would be “direct”.

    “you can finance a girl’s education for 10 years ($2,500) and effectively guarantee a future without poverty to an entire family.”

    Show me the teacher who can guarantee that, because he should be collecting money.

    Like

    • Hi Alex,

      While I appreciate the hard-line objectivist response, with DonorsChoose.org, you control EXACTLY what your donation is spent on. I’ve seen their financials and know their operations, and I’ve written about this before.

      I’ve been discussing Ayn Rand with several people for a few days now, and I believe that — in this case — doing some due diligence before attacking would benefit everyone involved.

      Best,

      Tim

      Like

  46. Hey!

    Great cause. I’m very impressed by everyone’s creativity so far – thanks for the ideas.

    I’ve added the url to my gmail email signature, posted it to my Facebook status, and am emailing out to a few communities that I’m a part of.

    Tara

    Like