Pimp My Tweet

This week, I received a direct message on twitter from a non-profit agency telling me about their grand opening and then ended the message with “please RT”.

(Now, before I go on, I must tell you that I formerly worked for a non-profit and I actually believe in the work this particular charity does. This post has nothing to do with the work of this organization, just the approach they used to publicize it.)

However, something about the message just struck me the wrong way. While I do follow this organization on Twitter, they have never interacted with me before and vice versa. The immediate plea for help without any prior conversation just didn’t sit well with me. So, I let it sit.

It wasn’t long before I started to see other local folks begin to retweet the information from the charity. A number of the tweets were from media outlets and local reporters. I have to admit, I was very surprised to see people, especially media folks, share the information as I’m betting they were messaged out of the blue just like I was.

This approach reminds me of the old mantra from the public relations world — build the relationship before you pitch. In social media circles, the same message seems to hold true — talk first, ask second.

So, why did this work? I have to admit, I’m puzzled. The cold contact in traditional media often falls on deaf years, but perhaps this approach has merit in social media land. Or, maybe people simply felt compelled to share in this particular instance because it was a charity doing the asking.

Am I’m completely missing the boat here by not pimping my wares by begging people to RT my stuff? Somehow, I don’t think so. But, it’s always possible I’m wrong.

What do you think about this tactic? Why do you think it worked? I would love to know your thoughts. Let’s get a good discussion going in the comments.

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Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

7 replies on “Pimp My Tweet”

Laura, I think the fact it was a known charity probably made for the RTs. Even from people who had the same kind of relationship with the organization as you did, being that it was a charitable organization the effect may be different than it had been say, a used car salesmen.

I have to admit I would probably have done the same. I would be miffed if some one who never spoke with me through twitter or any other way for that matter asked me for help out of the blue however, I think if it was a charity I knew was legit I would probably RT their tweet.

Just my two cents.

Thanks for weighing in, Nathan! Yes, you make a good point. I have a soft spot for charities and I love to see them succeed. That’s why I felt really conflicted about it. However, it makes me wonder, is this unwritten “rule” not to direct message pitch people is just something that is known to social media enthusiasts and not the average user? Are we overreacting to a natural way to reach out to people?

All that said, you’re right, if the organization was less than legitimate, or perhaps not a non-profit, it very likely would have been ignored.

I’ve noticed the RT requests from businesses and individuals as well. I think a better approach would be to try to create content that people want to RT w/o having to ask. But, if it was for a good cause I’d probably RT.

I think Dan Zarrella did some research on this, and the number one factor affecting ReTweets is simply asking.

I have asked in the past, but not without rather loud I’M PIMPING alarm bells going off in my head. It also tends to help when you’re requesting aid on behalf of a third-party, or the message itself is compelling enough.

After all, we’re not asking people to retype the message. You’re simply asking for a click… that thanks to the new ReTweet style isn’t even apparent as a personal endorsement.

You’re right to feel the way you did about it, but don’t neglect it in your toolbox for when the time is right. Nobody wants to be the ReTweet Whore.

I agree with Nathan on the charity aspect of this and would add that some folks, like at a news aggregation site, will RT because they have a large and diverse audience, so there is a decent chance someone will find interest in it. Others may be doing so in expectation of a return favor. Personally, I view the RT as a minor form of endorsement so I make sure I read and agree with any links before doing so.

This is a great question. I for one am a prolific “Tweet Pimp” but I know that I need to establish a firm relationship first. I am a devoted disciple of Chris Brogan’s 12:1 rule: share 12 times before asking once. A cold retweet request without a relationship is a non-starter.

Thanks for the great conversation, everyone!

@Nikki – I agree. Good content should speak for itself. If it’s something that adds value, people will want to share it.

@Ike – I remember seeing Dan’s research on that and remember being struck at the numbers on re: asking for RTs. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask people for a RT. I just think it’s wrong to do so without ever having communicated with the person before. You’re right – it can be a good tool if used properly.

@Mike – Yes, I can see more why news organizations shared it. It WAS newsworthy. It was just interesting to me how well this tactic worked with reporters. It begs the question – would a press release been as effective? I agree that a RT is a form of endorsement. That’s why I’m a bit selective about what I chose to share.

@Stanford – I’m a Brogan devotee and remember seeing the 12:1 rule. I think that rule applies in a lot of instances. If I remember correctly, he also talked about it in terms of tweeting your own stuff. Retweet others 12 times before sharing something of your own. Either way, the point is to share graciously and develop a relationship before asking people to do something your behalf.

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