Sage’s Twitter Promotion Experiment

I’m running the Chicago Marathon October 11. This is my first marathon. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, chances are you’ve seen me post about all my training adventures over the summer.

I’ve tried to make some sort of comment or observation about each run I’ve done while training. I’ve tagged each post with “#marathon” so I could easily find all of these posts at another time, if I wanted.

I’m also running the marathon for a charity: Rock For Reading, a group that “seeks to combat rising youth illiteracy rates in the United States through the recruitment of book donations from publishers and distribution of donated books to literacy organizations.”

To be a runner, I have to raise a minimum of $750 in donations. This seemed like a great opportunity to see if I could use social media as a major way of achieving these donations.

I have 450 friends on Facebook and 900 followers on Twitter. That seemed like a good enough base to work with. If I could get 1 percent of these people to donate, I’d have about 13 donations.

I didn’t really know what to expect. I had never done a direct call to action in social media.

On one hand, I thought I might be able to get a better than 1 percent conversion because these people are my “friends.” They know me and interact with me online. But on the other hand, I had this report sticking in the back of my mind that said:

…less than 5% of social media users regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions in any of nine product/service categories. In addition, only 16% of social media users say they are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites.

Maybe people wouldn’t pay money for anything if asked to do so in social media. It was anybody’s guess what would happen.

So far, I’ve made eight donation request posts in Twitter that then automatically went to Facebook:

05-01 – Friday
Holy crap! I’m actually doing the Chicago Marathon… for a charity: #marathon

07-30 – Thursday
I’m supporting Rock for Reading at the Chicago Marathon. Would you consider donating? $5 would be AWESOME!!

08-06 – Thursday
5 miles in 48 minutes & tool pic of 2 deer. I’m running Chicago #Marathon for charity. $5 would be AWESOME!!

08-08 – Saturday
Made the 9 mile turn. 5 to go. Feel really relaxed. Training for Chicago #Marathon for charity. $5 would be AWESOME!!

14 miles was little trouble. I’m a distance runner! I’m running Chicago #Marathon for charity. $5 would be AWESOME!!

09-04 – Friday
Just had a beautiful 5 mile run prepping for the Chicago #marathon. I’m running for charity. Please help:

09-15 – Tuesday
I uploaded a YouTube video — Support My Marathon Run and Get Stuff

09-16 – Wednesday
Support My Marathon Run and Get Stuff. Check out how here:

My primary form of communicating about this promotion has been through Twitter and Facebook. However, I wrote one blog post May 1 about it. That was retweeted four times.

Here are the donations I’ve received so far:

  • May 1: $26.20 from a business associate; $50 from a co-worker
  • May 5-7: $26.20 from my mom
  • July 30: $50 from a close friend
  • August 8: $50 from a business associate; $20 from a vendor
  • August 27: $20 from a college friend

That puts my total of $242.40. Seven donations for an average of $35 per donation.

My May 1, July 30, and August 8 posts got an immediate response. May 1 and August 8 were interesting because I posted two donation requests each of those days (May 1 was a tweet and a blog post). Both of those days got two donations.

The August 8 posts were very similar. They had a little different lead in, but the call to action was identical.

I really thought my September 4 post, using the “please help” message, would work. It totally flopped.

And so far, my September 15 and 16 requests have gone unrequited. I offered a free lifetime subscription to a membership service I offer if someone would donate $200 or more. People in my network could swing that monetarily. But for whatever reason, they didn’t bite.

Adding all my subscribers up between Twitter and Facebook, I’m looking at roughly a 0.5 percent conversion rate. Although, taking crossover connections in both networks into account, it’s probably closer to 1,000 unique people. So maybe I got a 0.7 percent conversion rate.

Only half of my posts elicited direct response. Or, looked at another way, four out of seven days I posted brought no return at all.

What’s also interesting is the people on my networks who haven’t donated yet. Maybe they’re waiting until a little closer to the event. But at least three people in my life, who follow me online, would probably donate if I just asked them personally.

Why didn’t they donate through my social media pleas?

  • Maybe they think my messages are too general and would rather have a more personal, direct request. But yet my mom and a very close friend felt comfortable enough with my social media requests.
  • Maybe they don’t support reading or running.
  • Maybe they already have all their charity money accounted for.
  • Maybe they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

In reviewing my pitches, I can make some observations.

September 15 and 16 had multiple problems:

  • It was a pitch for a large sum of money.
  • It was a multiple-step process. They had to go to that page, watch a video, donate, and then get their membership.
  • The reward may not have been something a person wanted.

September 4 seems a little vague to me now. It doesn’t mention an amount to donate. Also, both September 4 and August 6 had the URL on another line. I wonder if the line break made a difference.

The day of the week doesn’t appear to matter. My two-donation day (August 8) was a Saturday. You aren’t supposed to be able to sell anything on a Saturday.

I’m going to try the August 8 recipe again:

  • Two requests for donations on Saturday during a long run.
  • Keep the URL on the same line as the post.
  • Use very similar copy.
  • Eight total posts about my experiences as I ran that day.
  • A really positive and uplifting message with each donation request.

Overall, I could have a much better conversion rate with e-mail. I can’t be assured of that. But if I e-mailed all of these people with a targeted e-mail that was personal and direct to them, it would probably have had a better conversion rate.

It’s also a touch creepy asking people for money on social media sites. It’s hard to describe it, but it just feels a little wrong. I’m not sure if I’d do it again or not.

I don’t feel that way about e-mail, though. I don’t know what the difference is in my head. But there seems to be one.

How do you feel about selling or being sold in social media? Is charity one thing, but for-profit something different? What if it was indirect?

What if someone said something like, “Sage is running the Chicago Marathon for charity. I’ve donated, you should too!” I’d like to know what you think. Leave a comment or e-mail me your thoughts!

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