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Tweeting Away the Crown Jewels

Rarely Tweets are really worth money. But as companies become more social-savvy they find that having users “pay with a tweet” for some benefits combines the viral growth potential of a tweet with the a direct or indirect benefit. When I saw an offer on Steam to buy 2 copies of the highly anticipated game Portal 2 I added 1 + 1 and figured that probably somebody out there might be interested in getting one copy (value €50) for free.

Over the last few days I did my first TweetAway, from Tweeting and Giveaway. Let’s examine the cost versus the benefit, if it turns out that this was worthwhile then we should do it more often in the future. Let’s look at the stats from bit.ly and twittercounter to see what this gained Cocoanetics.

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The first thing that captures the imagination is the prize. You should choose something that gets people excited. Not necessarily something that does not cost you anything. Everybody knows that copies of your own software don’t cost you anything. So there’s no incentive for people to participate. Rather pick something that has some intrinsic value unrelated to your core business. Consider it a marketing expense. Instinctively we are constantly weighing cost versus benefit. Why would I risk looking like a raffle whore to my followers if the prize is not of sufficient value to offset that?

The main aim of a TweetAway is to grow your influence. This is achieved via growing your Twitter followership as well as get people to notice your website and possibly increase traffic there as well. Therefore I announced the raffle on my blog explaining to users how to participate. The tweet contained a bit.ly shortlink, to facilitate tracking of clickthroughs. Some Twitter clients replaced that with their own short link, but bit.ly’s stats also account for these. You get to the stats page for any bit.ly or j.mp link just by appending a +.

For the tweet to have some potential effect it has to be recursive, i.e. point back to the article explaining why it makes sense to tweet it. And at the same time it has to contain a message that tells followers of the tweeter why this specific twitter account might be of interest to them. Otherwise you would only get people playing, but their followers would see it as spam. In the best case each such tweet following the formula would cause several new people to follow the mentioned @cocoanetics account and themselves participate in the raffle.

You also see two spikes on the above chart. The first one was from the original tweet that announced the blog post. Later such spikes might come from people stumbling about the blog post directly and then also wanting to participate. This is why you have to give the whole raffle some time to simmer, like a week seems perfect. On my Google Analytics you barely notice the effect of 336 visits to the article. If you wanted to interpret something into that, then there’s an overall slight decrease of the weekly peaks and weekend dips staying about constant. The reason for this I suspect to be in the lack of time I had to produce more coding related articles over the past month or so.


Even without this raffle followership of @cocoanetics would steadily grow, hopefully mostly due to developers following and not spambots. BTW: There I have the rule of immediately reporting them to the authorities, i.e. Twitter via the built-in functionality, and I hope you’re doing the same. Organic grow of followership for this account is 5.3 per day. Since the beginning of the raffle this increased to 9.75 per day. This means that 84% more people are following @cocoanetics than before the raffle.

Here’s the 3 month chart from TwitterCounter.com.

More detailed and more visually pleasing are the charts you get from TwentyFeet.com also for free:

TwentyFeet also shows you two additional metrics: on how many lists you are and how many followers you lost. So besides of the clearly visible steepening of the red line (followers) you can also see the green line (listed) to turn into an upswing after plateauing for a while. And the turquoise line (followers lost) shows somewhat of a decreasing trend. So generally the result can only be judged as very favorable.

It remains to be seen whether these new followers will immediately unfollow after the conclusion of the raffle, but I like to think that there’s method to my madness: I keep personal tweets on my German personal account and the Cocoanetics tweets are relevant to iOS developers with some tangents mixed in that have in the least something to do with the Mac/iOS ecosystem.

I used the free service of TweetAways.com to facilitate the drawing. By linking it to your Twitter account you receive an API key via direct message. This key, your account name and the winning phrase are all you need to have them randomly select a winner. Immediately upon hitting the “Pick a winner!” button you receive a DM informing you that the drawing might take a couple of minutes. Then you receive an @reply with the name of the winner.

For this drawing I entered the entire “payload” of the tweet as the winning phrase, since only complete tweets should be eligible to play. This was the text I set in bold.

Portal 2 Giveaway by @cocoanetics (BTW a great source for iOS dev info): http://bit.ly/g5nsKG #raffle

So there were 26 participants which matches up with the bit.ly stats which also shows all tweets leading to the same page. Some people worried that their “ticket” would have been too old, but by the looks of things TweetAways captured all the tweets they should have.

One in 26 were really good odds to be winning here, compared to other raffles. Having 1% of your followers participate might sound low, but in most areas a conversion rate of 1% is considered high. Our happy winner is Sam Grover, iOS developer at Small Society. Congratulations, Sam!

Sending the prize to the winner is easy on Steam. You have a window that has all your guest passes and gifts. From there you can either e-mail the gift or directly send it to a Steam ID.

Now here a bit of advice that I can only give because I got cheated myself. I found it odd that somebody contacted me with a Twitter name that was only off by one character. This guy had actually copied Sam’s twitter profile to the letter. At first I found it a bit odd, but I was so excited to have the winner respond to me that this oddity did not ring any alarm bell. I even asked this person why there were two twitter accounts and he told me that this is because he did not want to reveal some personal account info. My brain must have been shut down.

Well, you learn. Because it was my own painful mistake I purchased another copy of Portal 2 and sent it to the correct Sam Grover. Only send the prize to the exact winning address regardless of what great stories you are being told.


TweetAways are a fun and engaging practice that can get more people to notice you and your services. For them to be successful you have to consider these rules:

  1. Select a Prize that is likely to be coveted amongst your target audience.
  2. Publish the TweetAway participation rules in a blog post
  3. Construct a tweet that contains a trackable short link to this post and to-the-point description of what this raffle is about
  4. Get the tweet out to at least 2000 followers to achieve some critical mass. Consider sponsoring tweets on accounts with sufficient followership.
  5. Add a marketing payload to the message, that would be the twitter account for easy following and a statement why this account is of interest.
  6. Give the raffle a week time to cook, some people will find the blog post via your website and also want to participate
  7. Use a transparent process to perform the drawing of a winner.
  8. Perform due diligence when handing out the prize to the winner to make sure you are sending it to only the true winner.

I’m happy with my general results and I will definitely do something similar again soon once a good prize presents itself. I encourage you to also do an occasional tweetaway like described here because I think that it adds great value and interaction to your Twitter activities. If you need a conduit to get the word out to 2500 iOS developers, sponsor a tweet to get your own TweetAway going.

“This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: ‘huge success’. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction” – Still Alive, the Portal title song.

And then another Portal opened … (Update May 1st)

I contacted Steam support and asked them nicely if there has any way to get the stolen gift back. At first they offered me a refund, but I told them that I love Portal 2 and want to keep playing it. But then they surprised me and told me that they had credited one Portal 2 gift to my account.

This can mean only one thing for you: another raffle! And somewhat suitable to do that since @cocoanetics is just about to cross 2600 followers. Since you’re probably anxious to get playing in Co-op mode with me, I’ll have this raffle last for the next 24 hours only. Here’s the text to tweet:

Another Portal 2 gift materialized! @cocoanetics is giving away a copy. Follow and retweet to participate! http://bit.ly/fXRAdN #raffle

Good luck!

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