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 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

https://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

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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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.)

478 Replies to “The Tweet to Beat: Paying $3 Per Twitter Follower”

  1. Sorry a little late, I have posted to facebook, twitter, company bulletin board (where donorschoose is preferred charity) and to my class @ UNC. Some one beat me to the 4HWW board but it is there 🙂

  2. I never bothered getting a Twitter account since I was able to waste many hours reading updates without even being a member, but this convinced me!

  3. Hey Tim,

    Long time follower on Twitter, this is a great idea! RT on Twitter and on FB. Will be getting the word around the office as it seems not a lot of co-workers are on Twitter. Will try to followup with friends later on before the deadline!

  4. Hey Tim. Wondering if this can be done with anyone? I work at a local paper and our community schools are really suffering. I may be able to get quite a following. your thoughts?

    1. Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure what you mean by “can be done with anyone”, but I will be sharing the results of this experiment with anyone so other non-profits can use what I find effective.

      Hope that helps!

      Tim

  5. Hey Tim,

    I put you in my Facebook, MySpace, and new Twitter status. Good luck! I want to do something similar now…I’m open to ideas!

    Also, I just sent Oprah a message for you, do I win? 🙂

    ~JoAnn

  6. This is wonderful. I just logged in to your blog for the first time in a few months and saw this. I’m following you as LGfit. Since this is the first time I’ve sent you any correspondence, I have to say: got your book… loved it… use parts of it every day… I continuously recommend it to friends (just did that again today). Your blog is one of the smartest I’ve read. Thanks for being an awesome person in the world.

  7. Fantastic! I really appreciate this opportunity to get involved. I’m spreading the word through my forums, blog, twitter and facebook.

    I’ve been posting about Twitter a lot on my forums (the I Hate My Message Board forums) and I think this might be a good way to convince some to take the plunge. So win/win!

    Thanks!

  8. I was not surprised to see Brian Oberkirch as the inspiration for this idea. I was going to reach out to some mutual friend’s and business associates @kveton and @chrismessina to spread the word. Good luck with the campaign and we’ll see you on the road!

  9. Tim,

    Great idea my man! I started a Facebook group (I used your picture at the top, hope you don’t mind), and I invited all my friends, and left the group open for everyone. A bunch of friends joined while I was asleep, and I am keeping track of it to make sure they go through with the Twitter side of things. Also, I have made up small posters and I am going to distribute them to the local schools and college here. I’m not living in a very big place, but every little bit counts, and I figured why not have the kids help to help themselves. I have some friends at the local TV station here too and I am going to get in touch with them and see what they can do.

    Cheers,

    Chris

  10. Hi Tim what an awesome idea. Will definitely spread the word. Here’s a crazy idea. I’m in Saigon and about to go off to Cambodia. You’re one of the people on my “people i’d like to meet list”. Could i buy you a cup of Ca phe Sua? Time and place would of course be at your most convenience (I have never been to Hue but I know it’s only about 1 hour from sgn). Tracking down Tim Ferris would make an amazing story to tell my friends whom I have recommended fhww. Knowing that you’re a language expert but I’m sure I can offer some help with my Vietnamese in any way you would like to use it. So the options are out there.

    Thanks,

    Bao

  11. Get idea. Doing well by doing good. I like how you are creating a business model that gives as it goes. I think it is important to create business models that builds in direct benefit to society. Thanks for the inspiration, I have already started spreading the word.

  12. Great Idea Tim!

    We need to do all we can to help those that are less fortunate

    Please add this event on your Facebook pages and twitter accounts and help spread the word 🙂

  13. …very, very clever, Mr. Ferriss. . .and what a great spin as well! P.S. >> I have some great things to share with you re: the DonorsChoose sponsorship you helped me put together. I’ll pass along through another channel.

    Cheers,

    Doc

  14. Tim, I always admire you when you use your tremendous star power for good like this. And the last time when you ran the first DonorsChoose campaign it was really fantastic how you “gave back” to everyone who helped contribute by letting us participate in a part of choosing where that money went.

    That’s right: TIM FERRISS GAVE ME $150 TO DONATE TO ANY EDUCATION PROJECT OF MY CHOICE! Very cool.

    I blogged about it last time, I Tweeted you up this time, shared with some English and grade-school teachers I know here in Bangkok, and included you in a weekly round up on my blog (how could I not?). Thanks again.

  15. I’m sharing it with all my 400 scholarship students – all from low-income backgrounds and high schools with more than 50% of students on free and reduced lunch. They will definitely get this AND get the word out! I’ll put it on our Facebook page as well.

    Good luck and thank you!

  16. Just discovered your work yesterday from a friend, and love everything I hear and read – really great stuff!!

    We’ll beat that target and more, this will spread like wildfire!

    Spreading via all means (well okay, mostly electronic..) possible.

    The Tweet to Beat – Paying $3 per Twitter follower: http://bit.ly/18w974

  17. Very nice Tim. I’ve seen education from every angle with my kids – good public, very rough/rural public, homeschool and private. There is no doubt about the disadvantages many public school systems represent.

    They can use every penny of support. I’ll promote every place I can…

    Cheers…

  18. I have 2 proposals waiting to be posted on Donor’s Choose….if anyone wants to support a poor South Carolina gal’s classroom….let me know!

  19. Tim,

    Saw the post this afternoon and think it is a great idea. I work in commercial real estate and my team works with a lot of education clients (Universities, High Schools, Charter Schools, etc). I have passed this around the office and to a few of my clients and friends, as well as posted it to my Facebook account. I hope you are able to hit the 50,000 mark. Looking forward to following the progress over the next two weeks.

    PS I like the urgency associate with the 2 week deadline.

  20. Nothing could get me to open a twitter account, until today. Damn you Ferriss! But what a good cause… I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea: education is the key.

    I also posted the link to my Facebook status.

  21. Hi, Tim – great idea, as always.

    Here is what I did:

    1. Posted a bulletin on myspace. Audience: my 184 friends.

    2. Posted a myspace blog.

    Link: http://is.gd/mNMx.

    Audience: I have 15 subscribers and get about 50 visitors a day. Not much, I know, but better than nothing.

    3. Posted a note on facebook.

    Link: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=56206914899.

    Audience: My 251 friends whom I “tagged” manually. Can’t tag more than 25 people at once, so I had to tag a group of 25, refresh the page, erase all of the “taggees,” tag a new group, etc…

    4. Posted an update about this on Twitter.

    Link: http://twitter.com/Night_Runner.

    Audience: My 29 followers and anybody who finds that tweet via a random search.

    5. Started a thread on the INTJ Forum.

    Link: http://intjforum.com/showthread.php?t=14520.

    (Potential) audience: 5,642 members. :^D

    6. Started a thread on SlickDeals – the most popular site with free stuff and, well, slick deals. 🙂

    Link: http://forums.slickdeals.net/showthread.php?sduid=68441&t=1235623.

    (Potential) audience: tens of thousands of users – couldn’t find the exact number.

    7. Emailed the link to your post to all of my college professors. I’m on good terms with all of them, so I asked them to mention this in their classes.

    Audience: thousands of Internet-addicted college students. :^D

    I hope this helps. 🙂

  22. Great cause- sent it out on facebook, mass email, and taking $10.00 off of my photography services for anyone that can show me that they joined!

  23. Tim! Some timing… my main laptop just died, so Joe’s macbook is very luring! Typing this on a freakin tiny 8″ netbook screen and it’s killing my eyes.

    So here’s my chances to finally become a mac convert with stories to tell the grandchildren on how Joe’s laptop ended as mine.

    ACTION STEPS:

    1. Tweet sent to 5,434 followers (http://www.twitter.com/hongkongwong)

    2. Facebooked / friendfed

    3. Posted to blog list hongkongwong.com (+already got the previous article on the last competition)

    4. Told a teacher I botoxed today who’s telling a whole school here in the UK (and she loved me for it. thanks?)

    5. The rest as before, except posting on BW (would post again as in last competition got you quite a large number of clickthroughts from it with 250k views / month, but it also almost got me fired! So taking a more conservative approach this time…!)

    Hey, I will do anything for charity (and Joe Polish’s macbook!) 🙂

  24. I have personally had 12 wonderful projects funded at Donorschoose.org! I am thrilled! These are supplies and fun project activities that I never could have gotten without the support of donors. You get to pick the project and classroom that you want to donate to. My students are just thrilled to open the packages as they arrive! They have learned so much from the wonderful materials. Donorschoose.org is definitely a worthwhile place to give a donation whether large or small. We certainly appreciate it very much.

    Mrs. B

  25. Hi Tim,

    I’ve been telling people about this on IRC and in private forums. I’ll report it to the most appropriate crowds I can find. Mostly educators and people who are interested in your ventures. Like you say, it is better focus on that productive 20% and ignore the 80% who will not join in.

    Good luck and good will,

  26. Tim,

    I am going to do you one even better and open you to the other 80% as well. Make that over 9000%. A source so vast and powerful you and your anonymous source may be shocked at the response.

    That’s right, I am posting this to 4chan.

    Now the experiment gets fun.

  27. You guys rock. I’m off to the airport to Saigon. To all of you here in Vietnam, I’d love to meet up, but the only potential days will be the 13th and 14th in Saigon. I’ll try and make it happen and will let you all know if I can.

    Gotta run,

    Tim

  28. Great Idea Tim. I will tell my friends also. I am new at Twitter and Facebook looking to add more friends. It does feel good to help others, it is amazing at what you are doing. Have a great week.

    Bruce Mills

  29. Great idea !!! I’m following, I’ve post it on my twitter and facebook and working on posting a quick code for my mobile friends.

  30. Why would I even want to get more money to government schools. They’re already spending more per pupil than most countries and still can’t get kids to read good. What we need is more money to support school choice. Competition is what we need.

  31. Great idea 🙂 You finally got me to join twitter. I wonder if you will have a time commitment on how long we must continue following? Just in case I return to my old ways.

    Posted the link & invite as my status on Facebook,…have bout 460 friends,…hope it helps. Will email the link in next business update newsletter if minumum hasn’t already been achieved.

    Way to keep making differences in creative ways.

  32. I joined twitter to add my $3 to the pool of money going to public education. As the son of two public school teachers, I am constantly hearing about the problems within our schools. I also was so impressed to hear our president speak today about education. Hopefully, contests like this will eventually become unnecessary as schools will be fully funded, teachers will be paid what they deserve, and ALL our children will be given a great education.

    I posted the link on my page….. I can only sign up for one thing a day, so that ruled out the tiny url site. That being said, I have no way of tracking how many people “click-through”, but I am hoping my friends and family help contribute to this cause.

    Tim, I would also be curious to hear about other educational projects you have done. Also, I know this is something you’ve been working on for a couple of years, so I would be interested in your ideas about how we can fix our schools.

    Thanks for the great work!!!

    Scott M

  33. Timbo,

    I have posted to twitter.com/thinkheresy

    Heresysnowboarding.com/blog

    My Facebook + groups (snowboarders, skiers etc)

    And emailed to about 200 people.

    Grouse idea, has given me an idea for Heresy (so thanks for that).

    Tim Marsh

    Heresy Snowboarding Australia

    (I however suck, I am working on a full time job, Heresy and 2 other enterprises so I can get down to 20 hours a week, I LOVE WORKING like a ninja).

  34. Spreading the word on Twitter and Facebook! Excellent idea! Stumbled upon you trying to understand wordpress.org to create a new website for myself. The power of social networking!!!

  35. Ok Tim, you have me motivated with this one. I do not have an active blog or anything like that but judging by the number of chain letters my wife gets, I bet her network of fellow chain email’ers can compete with anyone.

    Here is the link I created for tracking:

    http://bit.ly/16nzKJ

    So is that it? How do you track where the hits come from?

  36. Great innovative idea! I love the forward thinking. Definitely supporting, I posted the link in twitter, facebook, made a global event in facebook including a shortened bit.ly link that once click will automatically post the event in the persons facebook profile ( he he he ). I’m also going to all my teachers in my past telling them about it and having them spread the word to their co-workers.

    Also my roommate works for CBS as a network broadcaster I dropped a few hints on her to see about getting her to run a story getting some publicity. She seemed a bit…apprehensive. Any suggestions on breaking her in? Besides buying her three bottles of wine and getting her to commit completely inebriated.

    All in all this is a wonderful idea, opens the mind to a new wave of marketing that’s free and effective.

  37. Hey Tim,

    I just made an awesome blog post about this fantastic cause.

    Here it is: http://bit.ly/17NYZl

    I also let my friends know about it on Twitter – http://tinyurl.com/brk32j

    (what’s great too is when I update my Twitter, it updates my status on Facebook)

    Anyways, hope this has helped and I’m really glad to help you raise awareness and money for a great cause that can benefit a lot of kids 🙂

    ~Mike S.

  38. Hello,

    Both hubby and I are artists and teachers (4yrs old-adults)

    Hubby teaches in public school in the DC area with many children with high needs! I do PT at a local college way supported by govnt funding who come from high need schools in Washington DC.

    This is such a worthy cause…retweeting with

    @Olivosartstudio

    best,

    Claudia & Sergio Olivos

  39. What a great idea! I have already posted this through twitter and am excited about coming up with new ways to spread the news. I’m about to call it a night, but expect that tomorrow I will be investigating what else I can do to help!

  40. Tim,

    Happy to see you focus so much on education in your giving. I shared the link to this blog on Twitter and asked folks to follow you. So far at least 35 people have clicked on the link. Hope that translates into several new followers and more importantly several more dollars to schools in need.

    Enjoy your travels,

    Scott

    http://www.twitter.com/achievers_life

    P.S.> For those looking to improve their lives through continous learning, I highly recommend iLearningGlobal.tv (http://www.ilgachievers.com)

  41. Pingback: Tweet to Beat
  42. The first time I read the post, I was confused. I only got it when I read it again, LOL! Great idea, noble cause. I already contributed in sending the message across: tweeted the URL, made it my signature in the forums I frequent, and will be telling other people through bulletins, e-mails and other means.

  43. I’m putting it out on my facebook every day. I’m also emailing my inner circle to do the same. I’m thinking it should be contacting 2-3000 people every day.

  44. I’m following on Twitter, posting to Facebook, and posting this link to my local email groups. I’m a long-time supporter (and donor!) to Donorschoose.org, so this is great!!!

  45. I am helping out the best I can, started a facebook group and gave you a retweet. Great idea, we need all the help we can get to close the education gap.

  46. JACKPOT!

    I just got the word out to 59 MILLION homes! I’m a producer at Current TV which reaches viewers in the US, England, Whales, Ireland and Italy. After pleading, I was able to get a mention on our headlines show “Current Tonight” which airs in almost 59 million households world wide.

    It will air tonight at 11PM EST, 8PM PST. Look out for headline #12: Twittering for a Better World.

    I figure this is the most impact that I could spread as my Facebook, Twitter and Blogspot accounts only reach about 200 people. I put it on all those sites first but then extended myself outside the social networking box.

    I hope this helps get many new followers for guru Tim and, more importantly, helps pay it forward to children in need. Which makes us all feel yummy inside.

    Cheers!

    Nicolette

  47. I signed up for twitter yesterday to follow, then took a closer look at donorschoose.org. I dug around for a little bit, noticed that a school near me had several projects looking for funds. Last night I funded a project so it could be finished. Had a nice email waiting for me this morning and I am now looking at other projects.

  48. Ok, following up:

    I have tweeted it (170 followers), posted to my facebook page (322 Friends), and posted to the Triangle Down Syndrome, Family SUpport Network (FSN) of Wake County, and Wake Special Education PTA email lists here in the RTP area of NC. I’ll be contacting local Media Outlets next.

    We have donated thousands of dollars to DC.org in the past to support our schools.

    Keep up the good work!

  49. We also have an online charity where we utilize social networking to raise products at BloggersGive.com . I am so so happy to see others doing the same thing. Our site varies between 40-50K visitors a month at our main blog and I made sure to post it here:

    http://www.momdot.com/raising-150k-for-public-schoolsby-tweeting/

    To help you out, we host contests on our site since we are a mom blog and we offered our visitors an extra 5 contest entries for the remainder of the month on ALL contests to follow you, to help encourage the donations to come in.

    We also let our forum community know.

    Great job!~~~~

    trisha

    @momdot (twitter)