Posted by: pandamoanimum | November 22, 2010

It started with a Retweet…

Several times, Twitter has helped me raise a load of £’s for Charidee. The first time, I did some writings about it…

http://www.walkthewalk.org/Fundraising/FundraisingIdeas/SocialNetworking

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Using Twitter for fundraising

Twitter is a relatively new phenomenon but already one of our walkers has used it to raise a significant amount of money. It’s not for everyone but she has really shown what is possible!

Mandy writes

Now, whilst I never really ‘got’ MySpace, once I discovered the Social Network ‘Facebook’, I embraced it wholeheartedly…adding old school friends, accepting friend requests and the one thing I always particularly enjoyed was reading the status updates of friends and family. One day whilst perusing recent updates posted by friends, I saw that one had commented on something called ‘Twitter’. Now being a curious kind of gal, alright, plain nosy, off to Wikipedia I went to discover just what exactly Twitter was!

So, Wikipedia informed me that: “Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them”.

So, basically, to me, it seemed like a place where people posted messages about themselves like ‘Status Updates’ BUT complete strangers could read them AND you could read what they were up to too!

Reading on, I was extremely excited to discover that Twitter was not only a place for ‘mere mortals’, but that actual *real life celebrities* were frequent Tweeters too!

So, my enquiring mind decided to have a look for myself and 10 minutes later had assigned myself a Twitter @ name and was ready to send my first Tweet.

At first I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about…until realization dawned that in order to experience the proper ‘Twitter experience’, you needed to be ‘following’ people and also, to be ‘followed’ in return to experience what other people were saying and for them to ‘hear’ what you had to say. So, in essence, the more people you follow, the more posts you’ll see…and the more followers you have, the more people will see just exactly what you have to say.

So, I started following…frequent Celebrity Twitter users such as Phillip Schofield (@schofe), Jonathon Ross (@wossy) and Stephen Fry (@stephen_fry) were some of the first, along with the few people I knew in Real Life that were fellow Tweeters.

Now, reading about what the rich and famous are having for their dinner may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but I was enthralled! As I started engaging more with others, I began following more people; some because I was interested in what they had to say, some as their messages made me laugh and even some simply because the bizarreness of their Tweets beguiled me to follow to see what outlandishness they would come out with next! In turn, people started following me, some in reciprocation and others, possibly, because they favoured what I had to say (hopefully because I fell under the ‘interesting’/‘funny’ categories…not the ‘Bizarre’ one!)

Getting more engrossed in Twitter, it became apparent that some celebrity users spent a proportion of their time actually engaging with the non celeb users, such as myself. Having taken note of this led to a bet being made between myself and the very friend who had introduced me to the delights of Twitter. Both having rather large competitive streaks, we decided to try and see who could get the most replies from the more renowned Twitter users. It became a game of I’ll ‘see’ your Will Carling and ‘raise’ you a Jimmy Carr…whilst each coveting the ultimate Trump card of a reply from Stephen Fry who, with nearly half a million followers, gets positively  inundated with messages, so the chances of him seeing the messages we sent, just a minute possibility!

At this time, aside from developing an addiction to Twitter, I was also occasionally removing myself away from the computer in order to train for the Playtex Moonwalk….A Power Walking Marathon taking place over night by women in decorated bras in order to raise both awareness and funds for Breast Cancer Research and Cancer Care.

I had got about as far as setting up an online Sponsor Form, but was in a quandary on how to raise as much cash as possible, other than just by asking friends and family to donate to this worthy cause.  Now, whilst still deliberating on how I could obtain the maximum amount of funds, I noticed that some celebrities although genuinely using Twitter to interact with us ‘normal’ folk, also, at times, used it to relay information to their ‘followers’ about their latest ventures and projects. Certain other celebrity Twitter users didn’t even bother with the niceties of communicating with those following them, but seemed to simply use Twitter as a medium for touting their wares, so to speak. Basically, they only ‘tweeted’ when they had something to plug.

I began to wonder if there was any way that I, although far from being anything resembling a celebrity, could use Twitter as a ‘tool’ to help raise both awareness AND some money for WalktheWalk. With this idea taking shape in my
head, I needed to find a way to reach as many Twitter users as possible. Looking further into how I could do this, I discovered that, within Twitter, there existed something called a ‘Retweet’, commonly abbreviated to ‘RT’. In short, a Retweet is when one of your messages, either seen by someone following you or sent by you to a particular person, is sent on again, but with RT (or similar) added to the front of the message and the inclusion of your Twitter @ name, so that anyone seeing it is able to recognise where the message originated from…like forwarding an email really….You with me so far?….

So, if I sent a message, with the link to my online sponsor form in it, my message would be seen only by the people following me, which at the time of this possibly ridiculous idea was approximately 100. However, essentially, if the same message was then sent on as a Retweet by someone following me who had even more followers, my message (and more importantly my link) would be seen by even more people.  Delving even deeper into how, using Retweets, could give me the opportunity to reach more people than I could simply on my own, I hit upon the idea of asking the celebrity Twitter users to help out. I didn’t plan on asking for donations, but realised that if I asked them to Retweet a message I sent them with my web page link in it, if they were agreeable to this idea and assisted with my plea, potentially I could reach 1000’s of people, as some had simply huge amounts of followers. Now whilst a large percentage of people seeing it would very probably ignore it, what if there was a remote chance that there might be Twitterers who saw it and were generous enough to actually sponsor me? Being rather a cynical person, part of me wondered if I should even bother going ahead with it, but my determined streak would not let me not even attempt to give it a go! Anyway, worst case scenario…nothing came of it, However, ‘if’ by some miracle, this absurd idea actually worked, then even if no funds were raised from it, then hopefully at the very least, it could raise some more awareness of the Moonwalk and what this event stands for! So, deciding to chance this crazy scheme working, in 140 characters, I worded a simple message that included the sponsor form link, asking politely for the message to be Retweeted. I started sending this message to various celebrities that I was following (and even some that I wasn’t!) and then, keeping my fingers tightly crossed that my plan would work, basically just waited!

Well…you could have knocked me down with a feather, when this utterly crazy strategy actually started to have positive repercussions. As the more renowned Twitter folks actually started to retweet the link, a trickle of new followers added themselves to my list. Then, literally only a couple of days after starting my ‘campaign’, I was totally stunned when I received my first donation from a fellow Tweeter…someone who didn’t know me from Adam, but had managed to totally astound me with both their humanity and generosity.

Well, from there, things just seemed to snowball! I accumulated more followers and, with great compassion, they too started retweeting the link to my sponsorship page. Even more astoundingly, more and more donations were made and I looked on is disbelief as the total funds raised continued to climb.

I had set up my Sponsorship page through www.bmycharity.com and, after realising that they actually Twittered, I asked them if they would Retweet for me. Not only did they do this, but they also offered huge amounts of support throughout my ‘campaign’. This included an exceptionally munificent gesture of donating an additional 5p to every £1 I raised over a months period, which also gave a much welcomed boost to the mounting funds.

As the donations grew, progressively more, so did the support and encouragement from these ‘Twitter Strangers’….or ‘Tweeters I had yet to meet as I increasingly preferred to call them’. Truly humbled is the only way to describe how I felt when people who had tragically lost someone close to them, or who were battling Cancer themselves praised me for what I was doing. These people were the inspirational ones, not me. I was simply someone who wanted to do something for an amazing cause and had quite literally stumbled upon an innovative way to raise cash!

Aside from Retweeting the link for me, a couple of renowned household names not only also offered support and benevolence but incredibly made extremely charitable contributions to the cause too, which I was tremendously grateful for.

Now, overall, this ‘experiment’, for want of a better word, has been completely mind blowing. Since starting this journey I have been through an absolute roller coaster of emotions. However, unfortunately, along with the highs, there have been downsides to it too.

Fundamentally, ‘following’ people is the very essence of Twitter and hand in hand with that, of course comes ‘unfollowing’. Click of a button you ‘unfollow’ someone for whatever reason…quickly, quietly, no fuss. However, my first disheartening moment came when someone decided to publically announce that they would be no longer following me, because of my “Charity celebrity heckling” or words to that affect.

Another real moment of dejection was when a well known celebrity agreed to help but declared that they didn’t know how to retweet. In the exhilaration of his decision to help and as each reply can only be 140 characters long, my several exuberant messages explaining how one retweeted very possibly over awed him and to my dismay, he blocked me…therefore meaning I could no longer see his messages or indeed message him myself. This completely mortified me as my intention was NEVER to upset or offend anyone.

Having someone refer to what I was doing as ‘chugging’, a term apparently used to describe ‘Charity Mugging’, left me distraught. On the same day, I also suffered the wrath of having a ‘Troll’ start to follow me who made some offensive and distressing comments in reference to my campaign. The culmination of these two events made me publicly ‘lose my cool’ and this regrettably resulted in the loss of some followers who I assume took umbrage to my heated outburst.

I admit that at this point, there was a part of me that felt like metaphorically throwing in the towel. All I had ever set out to do was attempt to raise some money and awareness, certainly never to cause any sort of offence to anyone and also, I really hadn’t factored causing myself distress into the equation!

However, I realised what I really needed to focus on was the positivity shown throughout, what had unwittingly turned in to a ‘crusade’ of sorts, and not the negative aspects, which were thankfully in the minority. It was a quote shared with me by someone who had started as ‘just’ a fellow tweeter and who I now consider a friend, which gave me the morale boost I needed:

“To avoid criticism, Do nothing, Say nothing, Be nothing” – Elbert Hubbard (US Author – 1856 – 1915)

So, heeding this, rather than getting upset and demoralised by other people’s actions, but simply accepting that by doing ‘something’, of course there will be times when adversity will be encountered, I continue onwards and upwards!

So now, the date of the Moonwalk – May 16th 2009 is fast approaching. My training is going well and I’m walking distances I never envisioned. The creative juices have flowed, the essentials for creating a true magnum opus of a bra to walk in have been purchased and production is under way. My followers on Twitter has, remarkably, just passed the 1000 mark and, whilst I never actually set myself a ‘Target’ to reach in the monetary stakes, staggeringly, I currently find the amount raised so far heading towards the £2000 mark. Now, whilst going beyond this figure would obviously be astounding,this is a total I would be ecstatic to reach.

Thus, the Tweeting and training continues and the quest to Twitter my way to reach 2K continues!

Watch this space! 😉

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Update: The Final Total raised was a staggering £2,609.85…and the use of  Twitter as a means of fundraising also got me an invite to Number 10…but that’s a whole other story…


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