Home Featured Slider How I used Twitter to put a CEO on the street

How I used Twitter to put a CEO on the street


WAIT! I’m not here to evangelise Twitter or to pick news items out of it merely because it seems to be a slow news day. There’s enough of that out there already.

The merits of Twitter still need to be demonstrated to me. To me, it seems like the digital equivalent of entering a sports arena full of people all shouting random things at the top of their voice in the hope that someone is listening. This goes against the very basics of marketing – segment then target.

What I’d like to share with you is an experience I had last week that made me think there may be something more in this after all.

Last week it came to my attention that St Vincent de Paul held an annual fundraiser to give CEOs an experience of what it’s like to live on the street. A quick web search revealed that the annual CEO Sleep out was happening that night.

Later, in the lift, I joked with our CEO that he should attend. He said nothing but instead just gave me ‘that look’. You know, the one that says, ‘Stop talking. Now.’

An hour later he was back at my desk with a challenge. If I can raise at least $300 in sponsorship, he would attend. Within minutes, his profile was registered and an email went out to staff, friends and family asking for donations to put a CEO on the street for the night. I copied this email to my blog and used that as a gateway page. I created a tiny url to my blog and announced my evil plan to the twittersphere.

My profile has over 1,500 followers, so it made sense to twitter from that account rather than his. Using one of the fundamentals of offline networking, I asked for the referral and asked followers to spread the word with a retweet. Within minutes I was getting replies passing on the requirement to donate and make a CEO sleep rough.

In the next hour, I saw the fundraising total move past my $300 baseline target, and it didn’t stop there. The total continued to grow, $400 … $500, and I started to wonder how far we could push this.

I kept the updates flowing as the totals climbed and climbed. Before I knew it we were looking like we could be on track for $1,000. By the end of the afternoon we had raised $1,250 for charity from nowhere. It seems this Twitter thing could have legs after all.

Lessons learned

So what lessons can we take away from this experience? Lessons that we may be able to apply to using Twitter for business?

  • First and foremost, understand that my tweets were not about selling anything or self-promotion. Instead, we used our twitter networks to spread the word about a greater good or worthy cause. To put it another way, get to know your network and deliver value to them. Send them links to news articles that you find which you think will be genuinely valuable to them. By default we raised our profile, but that was really a secondary outcome.
  • Count downs. Twitter seems to be great for counting down to events or deadlines. “Only $125 to go before we break the $1k mark!” or “2 days left to register for the Business Solutions showcase.”
  • Hash tags and keywords. Advanced users don’t really follow other users, they follow trends by using keyword digest tools or hash tags. Tweets relating to this event used the hashtag #CEOsleepout. In this way we knew that people who followed us from this activity were likely to be Sydney-based and networked at CEO level.
  • Ask for a retweet. The benefits are obvious.
  • It’s not about you. Nobody likes a show off, so start getting to know people and discover what you can do for them. Karma will pay you back, I promise.
  • Use opposing concepts. A little trick I learned for writing an attention grabbing headline is to use two seemingly contradictory concepts in the same sentence. In this case, the CEO and the concept of sleeping rough were at odds with each other and invited people to click through to find out more.
  • Use a landing page. There’s only so much you can do in 140 characters, so explain what you mean in more detail before you invite people to take action.
  • Surprisingly, this didn’t take all afternoon. I still met my deadlines and had a full, productive afternoon. I simply took time out for a few tweets here and there.

David Birchall is a Business Solutions Consultant for boutique software solutions consultancy Solentive. He is also the founder and organiser of Sydney networking events group www.sydneynetworkers.net

Photo: moriza (Flickr)