Twestival and #Blackout – mobile social movements

February 24th, 2009

We’re living in the age of the mobile social movement – and I don’t just mean you can get it on your mobile phone.

It’s mobile because you can do a lot of good without being deeply committed to something. That doesn’t mean you’re not sincere, but it means it’s never been more convenient to act on your best impulses.


Twestival shows how short the distance is between idea and execution.

My Twestival Nametag In September 2008, Amanda Rose had an idea for a tweetup that collected donations for CharityWater. In February this year, the idea went worldwide.

Because the infrastructure was already setup ( used WordPress MU so each city could easily manage its own page), getting your own city was relatively simple. The community was already there, and as you might know, Twitterers tend to be better educated, wealthier and better networked than most people, so venues and other details were easy to organise.

In Auckland we had 28 attendees (not bad considering the short lead time of about 2.5 weeks!) and raised $200 which went towards the worldwide total of US$250,000. See the TVNZ coverage here , and our background post here .

Not only did we raise money, we also got to meet fascinating people, like the Dutch student who’d been in Auckland only two days, and was leaving the next day, but wanted to donate and meet some other Twitter people.


If you’re in New Zealand, chances are you’ll have heard of the "online community" causing the government to defer the proposed amendment to the Copyright Act for a month.

Interestingly, opposition had been going some months, with the development of the Creative Freedom Foundation website, but it wasn’t until February 16th that the big idea took hold, and became the #blackout protest .

It’s another example of how people will rally to a cause they believe in, as long as you can communicate it in a simple way that:

  • shows how it affects them
  • incites curiosity
  • takes less than 3 seconds
  • is spreadable
  • translates to multiple platforms (eg the blacked out profile pictures, the banner ads, and even the placards used in real-life protests)

Notice that both of these "mobile social movements" had one thing in common – there was no big corporation involved. While there were corporate sponsors for individual Twestivals, they were in a service role, rather than telling people what to do.

If a business wants to insert itself into a mobile social movement – or start its own – it will face scepticism if its goal is anything but helping people do what they want to do.

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How to promote an event through social media

February 9th, 2009

As we’re gearing up to promote this Thursday’s Twestival and the Marketing Now Conference in April, I’ve been thinking about how best to get the word out about an upcoming event.

Here’s what I’m learning:

Add intimacy to reach and frequency.

Traditional media rely on reach (how many people hear your message) and frequency (how often they hear it). This gets a little annoying (like those TV ads you like the first 5 times, and hate thereafter).

Adding intimacy is something you could even do on traditional media, but few people do. It’s a sense of letting your audience in behind the scenes, so they know and are a part of the event, before it happens.

It could be as simple as me twittering: "Going to the printer’s to pick up the nametags for Thursday’s Twestival. I hope we don’t run out; we printed 100!"

This communicates a subtle reminder of the event, while also communicating other information (there will be nice printed nametags, there will be about 100 people – we hope!). It also lets the audience know what’s happening behind the scenes, and the live, real-time nature of Twitter/Social media somehow helps this.

Get your audience involved

If you’re running the event, maybe you can crowdsource suggestions on different aspects of the event.


  • Better ideas
  • A greater sense of involvement from those who have contributed ideas – and therefore greater likeliness that they’ll attend and encourage others to come.

Sometimes event organisers do this the old-fashioned way, through a competition. But instead of inviting the feedback of potential attendees, they just bribe their way through with a prize.

Sure there’s value in prizes and incentives, but sometimes as an event organiser you can offer great value, without paying a cent. Being heard is increasingly valuable in a busy world where the biggest dollars usually have the loudest voice.

Variations on a theme

Twitter promotion can be like radio advertising – you need to promote your event at different times of the day to reach different audiences. Yet some people will be on there all the time, and since they’re likely to be quite influential you do not want to annoy them.

What to do? Variations on a theme. In other words, don’t just tweet the same old message. Find all its different flavours, and explore them. Are there different speakers? Promote each one and the message they’ll be delivering.

Share your learnings

As you go, maybe write a blog post about … um, "how to promote an event through social media"!

How do you do it?

If you run and promote events, how do you use social media to promote your event? We’d love to see your comments below.

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