The Great Twitter Challenge: A Review

The Great Portland – Vancouver Twitter Challenge is now history. When I started working on this, I wanted to see if Twitter could work as a marketing and promotions tool.

My conclusion: yes, but it’s not ready to play a major role in most companies’ marketing plans.

The negative: numbers, and tracking.

Numbers first — there just aren’t that many people using Twitter right now. Most of my co-workers don’t use it. To the best of my knowledge, none of my customers use it. And, based on the conversations I’ve had with them, they don’t see why they should. When I started promoting the contest, I saw a significant increase in the number of people following me — but I started with 40 followers, and wound up with 147. Until Twitter becomes much more widely used, it can’t be more than a tiny blip in a marketing campaign.

It’s also not particularly trackable. Although I know I had 147 followers, there was no way for me to tell how many of those 147 were actually looking when I sent out each question. There are no “page view” or “click-through” stats to examine.

In some cases, I’d get an answer back right away — the VanderVeer Center skin care products went in two minutes, as did the Oregon Athletic Club membership and the Portland Nursery stoneware pot. Other prizes took longer; in one case, I received an answer back two hours after sending out the question. All of this makes sense — if, say, twenty of the 147 were on Twitter at any given moment, and none of those twenty had any need for what I was offering at that moment, the question would be ignored. Which makes it like any other advertising medium.

The positive: the promotionwas easy to set up, and didn’t cost a dime. A Twitter account is free, and once I installed Tweetdeck (also free), it was simple to administer. I found nine local merchants who were delighted to provide some great prizes. It was also easy for people to enter. There were a few challenges in coming up with questions that I could communicate in 140 characters, but eventually I got the hang of it.

I don’t have access to the sponsors’ web stats, but I’m guessing they got some extra viewers, too — and some of those may turn into customers. I do know that this blog got nearly double its usual Friday traffic.

The network of people who know Phil Bernstein’s name has grown by 107 in the past ten days. That can’t be a bad thing.

If you participated in the contest, or just lurked as it went by on Twitter, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below, or send me a tweet.

Special thanks to Tara Bloom for inspiring this. And thank you to Awakening Business Solutions, Green Lubrication SolutionsMarket Accelerators, Maternitique, Organizers Northwest, Oregon Athletic Clubs, Portland Nursery, Shindaiwa, and VanderVeer Center for being part of the First Annual Great Portland – Vancouver Twitter Challenge.


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7 thoughts on “The Great Twitter Challenge: A Review

  1. My favorite yarn store uses twitter pretty effectively; they send out tweets about new merchandise, changes in store hours (think snow). But they only have about 130 followers, so you’re right about it not being widespread yet. As a free addition to a campaign, it’s great, but I wouldn’t depend on it as the only thing. They also use their website, blog, and Ravelry, so they are pretty well connected electronically. I really appreciate that!

  2. Interesting; I was hoping you’d give some good data on this experiment. Again, I’m hanging in there on making sure I understand Twitter, but I think it’s still in the cool phase rather than the common phase.

  3. Phil, as one of the sponsors I did track the hits to my website and I didn’t see much activity to be honest. A slight blip but that could have been a random thing.

    I suspect this is a bit like radio. If you have a large enough audience/followers some small percent will see it and click through. I’m guessing you would need thousands of followers instead of hundreds to make it work.

  4. Brett,

    I also wish there were a better way to assemble data. Since Twitter is free to use, it’s hard to complain too much — but I wonder if there could be a market for a paid “premium” Twitter in which you could get some metrics.

    Michael, you’re right — 150 followers isn’t enough to move the needle. I gained about 100 followers once I started promoting it the contest, but I was hoping for more.

    My theory is that if someone’s already on Twitter, it’s easy for them to find me and follow me. But the contest wasn’t enough to convince the vast majority of people who aren’t already using it to sign up.

    Interestingly enough, I’m still picking up two or three new followers a day. A year from now, if I’ve got 500 or 600, it might be worth doing again

  5. Phil:

    there is a growing set of tools that are being developed to enhance twitter…for instance, using, you can track who clicked on what link in Twitter. Also…I don’t think the goal ought to be “more followers” but more interested followers from your defined customer niche. Lots of strategies to pursue there. See this story for one small business who’ve really helped their bottom line with Social Media and Twitter.