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 over 400 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. I am wondering if it is too late to take part in the experiment. My wife is a teacher of the exact kind of school that you are talking about. In fact, they barely have enough paper to make it through the year. I have a feeling that she could get quite a few educators and students who have not heard about this yet to sign up.

  2. I joined Twitter (and bit.ly) specifically because of this post and project, and my first tweet was the link to this project. I also linked to it from my Facebook status, and am looking forward to updating my status with the donorschoose ante-upping. Hooray for not being reasonable!

  3. Made the following twitter post

    DBSInteractive Get $3 donated to US public school classrooms for following @tferris, check it out http://tinyurl.com/c4u7m7 and follow him!

    and I published the following note on my personal account

    $3 for 3 seconds

    Share

    Today at 8:58am | Edit Note | Delete

    If you’re on twitter, you can get $3 donated to US public school classrooms for following @tferris, check it out http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/03/09/tweet-to-beat/ and follow him!

  4. This will be one of many. @unmarketer just raised $14,800 in 12 hours last week so this should be a piece of cake! Only heard of this today from an Active Rain post that said…”the most interesting blog post I’ve read this year, this is smart”. Thanks Dave Lakahni!

    Kellie

  5. Facebooked and emailed, off to tweet.

    i met a librarian at SXSW (she was asking for unwanted stickers for her students) who told me getting a project funded through DC was the highlight of her year. Donors Choose is awesome, and so is your endeavor.

  6. Great idea, Tim. My daughter’s school coudl use it. Title 1 School in Deer Valley, AZ. They don’t even have enough money to buy paper for the rest of the year, and plan on mass layoffs come May to meet reduced budgets. And I’m sure they’re far from alone. Good luck!

  7. Hi Tim!

    This is a great idea and close to my heart too!

    As soon as I saw your blog today I joined Twitter and became a follower. This is what I have done in the last couple of hours:

    Updated my FB status and added the Tweet to Beat URL to myemail signature for work and private emails. I also got my boyfriend to change his FB status to the Tweet to Beat url – I asked him as he has over 1000 FB friends from all over the world.

    As you are in Vietnam, I have emailed the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in Vietnam (run by my boyfriend’s mum) to see if you could form a partnership with them and raise even more money for this project, litliberation and any future projects. I have also written on her wall so that anyone visiting her FB page will see the link

    http://www.cncf.org/en/home/index.php

  8. Hey Tim,

    I posted your link on my Facebook, and since none of my friends have heard of you, they’ll probably all join Twitter (if they haven’t already) and add you as a friend so they can get the $3 to give to my classroom project!

    I made the following post: Tweet to Beat Experiment – Hey Everyone – ever heard of Tim Ferriss? Well, me either, until I started getting tons of small donations to one of my donorschoose projects and someone mentioned him. He is an author and a public speaker and he is giving $3 to every one who follows him on Twitter. Check it out! (my project is on the first page of his list: Give Us Tools To Become Kindergarten Authors)

    You’re awesome!

  9. Great idea, and I love DonorsChoose since recently getting a nice thank you from a class I donated to a few months ago.

    Posted the link to this page on my Facebook page – hope it helps.

  10. The Final Countdown!

    I just payed forward the $12 Twitter coupon to Donorchoose. I must say, it does feel good.

    I cast a very wide net: got Tweet To Beat featured on our headlines show on Current TV: 59,000,00 (households)!

    Put it up on Facebook (twice), Twitter and Blogspot: 400.

    That’s my final countdown. I hope this has helped those in need and that you’ll all have the joy of having this song in your head. I just cursed myself.

    Cheers!

    Nicolette

  11. I’ve Twittered it and Facebooked it, and now I’m going to be e-mailing a couple of my mailing lists about it. I don’t know exactly how much input I’m going to get back, but I’ve asked folks to fill me in on who else gives this a shot, so hopefully my few actions will generate a good chunk of interest in getting involved in this cause.

    I commend you for doing this, Tim. This is an exceptional use of the media to spread goodwill and help teachers, who are woefully underpaid, bring the nation’s kids up to speed.

  12. Hi Tim! Thanks for creating a way for me to help. To spread the word I did the regular stuff – Twitter, FB, etc. and I targeted viewers of YouTube videos receiving at least 50,000 views per day (based on upload date and views to date). This includes long-running videos such as Matt Harding’s dance and anime videos aired just 2 days ago. Fingers crossed!

  13. Sure glad I stumbled upon this post in time!  I’m now a

    follower of Tim Ferriss (can’t understand why I wasn’t ALREADY

    following you)!

    I spread the word on Biznik

    (a social media site for entrepreneurs that combines social networking

    with face-to-face offline interaction) and on Hellotxt.com

    (which simultaneously sends my tweet to Twitter, Bebo, LinkedIn, Plaxo,

    and Facebook).

    Thank you, Tim, for creating this opportunity for us to support a great

    cause.

  14. First I started a Twitter account to follow you, then sent a message to oliviamunn. I emailed my personal contacts. I posted on txmma.com and got a few hits. I run a website for a MMA school in Houston (www.teamtooke.com, 4000+ unique visitors in Feb.), talked to the owner and he agreed to let me add banners to the site to promote this. So I built the banner and added it to the site. I posted on the school’s myspace and facebook, as well as my own myspace and facebook.

    This was a very interesting experience. It made me more aware of my circle of influence, and definitely made me get a bit creative. Thanks for the challenge Tim.

  15. Well, I’m new to viral marketing, but I did get 34 hits to this page (thanks for the suggestion about biy.ly)

    Used Twiter and Facebook.

    @dcjones

  16. Awesome work! this is similar to the types of guerilla tactics and viral marketing used for my company. Cost-effective is the key as the world is in recession. I send my congrats to contest, its cause, and people who do support this tweeter frenzy. The contest has alot of perks for multiple parties, so good luck to all.

    Anyone interested in projects like this, can hit me up on twitter@elucidmarketing or facebook@elucidmarketing I am looking for a few motivated people in the marketing, web development, and small business field. We’re working on research from social media sites, complimentary sites to the big social networking sites, and different programming skills for the future.

  17. Hi Tim, posted on facebook (in Italian) and on twitter (in English)…

    Great idea… leveraging co-financing in this way is absolutely brilliant…

    We should chat one day, I’m helping a community in Uganda (free education for 600++ children) building a school over there and raising funds from Italy… I always watch out your great ideas and obviously I’ve got the first US edition of 4HWW 😉

    Go on with tweet to beat and let us know…

    Cheers,

    Dan

  18. Twittered (viv10), FaceBooked and Emailed. Also spread around two relatively large mastermind groups. Good luck with this…great idea..great karmic support

    Celebrate Life

    Lorrette

  19. The main problem with “education” is compulsory education. Kids naturally love to learn, but forcing them to do assignments that teachers or anyone else command them to do turns learning into slavery, especially after they’re about 6 years old. THAT is what’s wrong with “education”. Solve THAT problem and you’ll really be accomplishing something. End compulsion, coercion, authoritarianism.

  20. Sorry, but I have no desire to further assist government schools. Government education has created a bunch of confident incompetents. The best thing that we can do in this country is to shut down government schooling.

  21. I think what you are doing is wonderful! It looks like you have almost double the number of followers. You are in inspiration. I can’t wait for your next book too, it sounds great!

    I’m tweeting about your U.S. Public School benefit!! 🙂

  22. Hi Tim,

    I’ve seen many times how you successfully create campaigns for worthy causes like this by leveraging the Internet and your “superhuman” skills. This got me thinking with the typhoon disaster here in the Philippines . Some background here: http://su.pr/1rA2GS . Very similar to Katrina disaster..

    If possible please point me to a direction or give a me a quick blueprint on fastest way to setup something to get funds for the flood disaster here in Manila. There are many places to donate but it seems Philippine Red Cross and top Universities here are the most credible place to send direct money to.

    Any help from you setting up this cause will be very appreciated. Best bribe I can give you is a free place to stay anytime in both Manila and Boracay (many say the best beach in the world). That’s a promise.

    You or one of your VAs can email me im@kokoro-works.com

  23. Hi Tim – just thought you’d like to know that Tweet to Beat inspired Tweet for ALS, the one-day fundraiser we are doing today where we try to earn $10k in donations in 10 hours TODAY (10/1/09) through social media.

    It’s a big goal, but we believe in it and hope we can make it happen.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    And just to be clear, I’m not trying to spam your comments here, just trying to get a note to you. If you don’t want to approve this, I understand.

  24. Tim,

    Evolved this meme into a social action twitter app called @giveatweet – a free service on twitter that allows you to donate to any 501c3 non-profit (about 1.1M) in the US. You can pick a matching pledge to increase your donation to the charity. Or create your own pledge to pay-it-forward in true twitter fashion. It also has events to microtest or run a fund-raising campaign.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Cheers

    Rohit

  25. Tim,

    In your videos you mentioned wanting help to enhance the school system in the U.S.

    What about Canada? I have a growing organization here in Canada that might be able to support your message. We focus on empowering youth through personal entrepreneurship.

    Yours,

    Tim Francis (not Ferriss – too bad LOL!)

  26. Yeah dude

    like this has nothing to do with the fact that you calculated your cost per new twitter follower to be worth $1. It’s obvious and it kind of grosses me out. Your next book should be “The 4 hour reputation”. The credit should only go to this conveniently “anonymous” sponsor, if there even is one.

  27. We set up a fundraiser through Twitter for my friend’s daughter Layla that was fighting cancer. I was happy to say that in just over 24 hours we were able to raise in upwards of 50k. She ended up passing away on March 9, but her legacy lives on! These fundraisers can really help spread the word on topics!

    -Sarah

  28. t’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 ha

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