What is a Tweet-a-Thon?

A Tweet-A-Thon is an online event on Twitter where Tweeters focus all of their tweets on a particular issue. Polaris Project’s Summer 2010 Tweet-A-Thon was centralized–that is all official tweets came from our account with #tags showing their authors.  Decentralized versions are also possible, where the entire community agrees to attach a particular #tag to their posts such as #twtathn. If you are completely confused by anything in the above paragraph, I encourage you to read this guide to Twitter. If you’re not going to read that, here are 3 quick things to know about Twitter:

  1. Each tweet must be 140 characters or fewer.
  2. Topics and themes can have #tags (pron: hash-tag).
  3. Twitter users have @usernames and that is how you refer to them.

WHY RUN A TWEET-A-THON?

It’s not just to get your issue to be a trending topic. Running a Tweet-A-Thon raises the profile of your Twitter account, of your organization, and of your issue. It can also raise money (but probably not very much), and social-media literacy in your organization (though the amount depends on the starting value).

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO RUN A TWEET-A-THON?

  1. A Twitter account.
  2. A staff member who enjoys/understands tweeting.
  3. A group of staff/interns/fellows/volunteers to contribute tweets.
  4. Followers who have a tolerance for a major influx of tweets over a limited period (after you prepare them).
  5. A staff member/intern/fellow/volunteer who is willing to coordinate the Tweet-A-Thon.

Using this guide, you will need 3 weeks of preparation and a nearly full-time commitment for the duration of the event.

TIMELINE
Week 1

  1. Decide that your organization wants to do a Tweet-A-Thon. This requires support from the the collection of folks (whether staff/fellows/interns/volunteers) who will contribute tweets, and the staff member/intern/fellow/volunteer who will coordinate the event.
  2. Design a spreadsheet for folks to input their tweets into. This Google spreadsheet is a clean copy of the one we used internally, with a few sample tweets–you are welcome to use it!

The spreadsheet has some important structural elements:

  1. Each contributor has a column in which to write. This allows folks to see clear progression as they input tweets, as well as read what others are writing.
  2. The document is broken into 5 sections because asking volunteers to write 25 tweets can be scary, but asking for 5 comments on the human trafficking field or 5 blog links, then a few more the next day is less so. Fellows who wanted to tweet outside of the categories are free to do so under the tallies in their column.
  3. When contributors first got this document, one of them had already filled out all 25 of her boxes with 140 char or less comments–this meant that everyone after her could guess whether they were within character limit based on whether their input expanded the cell or not.
  4. At the bottom of each contributor’s column is a tally of their posts. For each first post, a fellows’ name got bolded (these items allowed the administrator to quickly see how progress was going). Easter Egg: the more tweets folks contribute, the stronger the color of their tally cell gets.
  5. On the bottom right-hand corner of the document is a tally of the number of tweets, and the average number of tweets. This also helps with quick updates to stakeholders, and encourages contributors to raise the numbers.

3. Ask the most likely contributors in person to give a few tweets initially. We recruited fellows one-by-one after the general announcement. This stopped the task from being Everyone’s and so Nobody’s. By asking 4-5 people a week to contribute a few, the document grew slowly and we avoided all of the tweets being about the exactly same news items (which would have happened if everyone had scrambled to come up with tweets on the same day).

Goals: collect X number of tweets, write planning document, coordinate between departments, publicize on social networks/mailing lists.

Week 2

  1. Continue maintaining the spreadsheet, adjusting tweet-gathering strategy as necessary. Continue collecting tweets.
  2. Mention event on social networking sites:
    1. If you’re organizing around a tag, start recruiting community members who tweet on your topic through direct messages.
    2. Additionally, it is important to prepare you networks so they won’t be shocked by feeds full of tweets.
  3. Start optimizing Tweets from fellows (adding @s and #s). NOTE: we did not require contributors to use our bit.ly or #tags to @account names, because we wanted it to be as easy as possible to contribute. This did leave significant work for our coordinating fellows. Please see this document for step-by-step instructions on how to optimize a tweet.
  4. Start adding MC (master of ceremonies) tweets. On the far right of the Tweet-A-Thon spreadsheet you will see 2 columns for MC tweets. The MC provide guidance to followers about what is going on–you can give background information, link to a video about the Tweet-A-Thon (here’s ours), or ask for money.

Goals: collect X number of tweets, write planning document, coordinate between departments, publicize on social networks/mailing lists.

Beginning of Week 3

  1. Continue maintaining the spreadsheet, thanking contributors, thinking of ways to order tweets, encouraging those who haven’t contributed.
  2. Optimize all tweets.
  3. Mention again on social networking sites.

Mid-Week 3

  1. Review tweets–just like inflight movies, you may need to edit for length and formatting. Also like in-flight movies (and if this fits with your organizational needs) you may need to edit for content.
  2. Input all tweets into your tweet scheduler. We used MediaFunnel, though HootSuite or any other scheduler is fine.
  3. Thank all contributors, and close entries (softly if you can handle late tweets).

Day 1 of Tweet-A-Thon

  1. Tweets start pouring out.
  2. Do blog post mention.
  3. Send message to grassroots community with link to blog-post.
  4. Set up live Tweet-A-Thon computer in public space (ours was in our cozy kitchen) so staff can appreciate it without having to go to Twitter. This is a great way to help bring individuals who are less comfortable with Twitter into the event.
  5. Monitor for retweets and replies. Try to engage constantly, and make sure to retweet others to bring them into the conversation. We thanked nearly every person who retweeted us individually–this is an option.

Day 2 of Tweet-A-Thon

  1. Tweets continue pouring in.
  2. Monitor for retweets and replies.
  3. Keep stakeholders updated.

Day 3 of Tweet-A-Thon

  1. Tweets continue pouring in.
  2. Monitor for retweets and replies.
  3. Toward the end of the event, send out thanks to all major retweeters, followers, contributors, and donors generally.

Week after Tweet-A-Thon

  1. Hold event evaluation.
  2. Update statekholders and social networks if appropriate.
  3. Write How-To post.
  4. Go out for celebratory lunch.
  5. Thank all contributors.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  1. Consider programming all tweets in before the event, rather than doing it during. Scheduling them live was incredibly time consuming (all day for 3 days).
  2. Consider making an event tag, like #StopTrafficking, #twtathn, #tweetathon, #trafficking, or the event name, eg #SMSwalk, #HTday or #MryXmas. While not doing so this time was a conscious decision to create a new event style on Twitter, having a standard #tag would have allowed for our unexpectedly active followers to feel more involved. It is unclear how much value our contributors and followers found in having each fellow have a #tag.
  3. Your followers may unfollow you because they see you flooding their feed. I believe, if your tweets are of good quality, more of them will deal with it by spreading your message as they did for us. This is grace, and deserves thanks.

SUM-UP

A Tweet-A-Thon takes a good deal of work, but it was worth it. We saw a significant uptick in our followers’ engagement, and got the message about human trafficking out to folks who didn’t talk about it much.

TWEET-A-THON BY THE NUMBERS

  • Number of tweets: 501
  • New followers: 108 (2,088 —> 2,196 in 3 days)
  • Cash raised: $50
  • Links (to articles, videos, donation pages) clicked: 1266
  • Folks touched: 100,000+Consider running a Tweet-A-Thon around an event like a walk, a national holiday, or an important bill. Prepare your volunteers for the work and thank them constantly. Have fun rolling in the roiling conversation that is Twitter.

And let us know how it works for you in the comments!

 

 

2 comments to What is a Tweet-a-Thon?

  • Kaitlin Kramer

    Hello! I found your article on how to run a tweet-a-thon to be very useful (I’m organizing one for a non-profit right now). However, I could’nt find the sample Google spreadsheet that you were referring to and I would love to see an example of how the spreadsheets were used. Could I get a link, perhaps?

  • Jessica Dickinson Goodman, Online Outreach Specialist

    I hope it went well–this was a project of mine when I was a Fellow at Polaris Project in 2010. The spreadsheet was pretty simple: rows for each participant and 25 columns for tweets. I had some sample ideas, like “Tips” or “In the News” but mostly let my participants have free reign. Let me know how it went,