Monday, May 14, 2012

Celebrity retweets

This man can melt our
webserver with a single retweet
Since I'm one of the people who keeps an eye on mentions of Macmillan on Twitter, I regularly see a lot of tweets like this

@[celebrity]- I'm running a marathon for @macmillancancer. Please RT

Sadly, I hardly ever see any retweets of posts like that.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Before I get started though, let's be clear that this isn't going to be a charity person having a pop at unhelpful celebrities. The celebrities who work with Macmillan are a great bunch who are all willing to go the extra mile to help and we love 'em to bits. However we also know of at least one presenter who now refuses to work with any charity whose supporters swamp them with fundraising requests.

Let's look at it from the celebrity's point of view:

Imagine you're a celebrity with a twitter account. You run the account yourself and you try to follow everyone who follows you but a lot of people want to contact you and it's making things pretty unmanageable. In fact you have so many followers that you've had to turn off twitter alerts on your phone as they were flattening the battery.

Consequently, when you check your twitter feed, there are several things you'll be prioritising:

1. Check for messages from friends or fans you already know.
2. See if there are any messages you need to get answered urgently
3. Make sure no-one's being too rude about you

Let's assume that once all those are cleared out of the way, you still have time to read other messages and you see one addressed to you: "@[celebrity]- I'm running a marathon for @macmillancancer. Please RT". Let's also assume - unrealistically - that it is the ONLY charity retweet request you've received (in reality there will be loads)

Now, if you've got time to do anything with this, firstly you'll ask is "who is this person?". Do I know them?. Is this from a fan?. Have they tweeted me before? You take a look at the sender's Twitter page and it looks like this:

I'll leave aside the fact that this account has obviously just been set up and the sender can't even be bothered to do it properly.  Anyone looking at this page will realise a few things -
1. "This person is spamming" (even if they don't intend to)
2. "I don't know them from Adam"
3. "They're asking lots of people for help; if I don't have time to do anything they probably won't notice".

The response of most people would be to block this account and report it for spamming. However, you're a beneficent celebrity so you don't do that. In fact you give serious thought to a RT but you have a responsibility to your followers. What will happen to your reputation if you pass on a message that turns out  to be a scam? With no other information available, how on earth do you make sure this person is legit?

And at that point our beneficent celebrity finally gives up - and who can blame them?

So how can a fundraiser stop that from happening? What can make one tweet stand out from a load of very similar posts?  Here's some ideas. They don't guarantee success but I promise they'll work better than spamming a bunch of overloaded celebrities.

1. They'll pay more attention if they know who you are
Firstly don't set up an account just to promote your fundraising activity. This may sound obvious but it isn't. If you already have a twitter account use that. Make sure you've got a sensible photo in your bio and some genuine information. Use the link option wisely too - either link it to a page about the event itself, or to your Justgiving page.

Additionally, you're much more likely to get a retweet if you have a pre-existing relationship with the celebrity and they recognise your name. I'm not suggesting you have to take them out to lunch, but taking the time to have a chat, making it clear you know who they are and what they do can make a difference. That may sound like a lot of work but you're much more likely to get a response from a few celebrities you've taken the time to engage with rather than 50 you've casually spammed.

2.Keep it personal
 Pick your celebrities wisely. It helps if you know they are already interested in a charity or a cause. Highlight the connection if you can (although if it involves a illness or bereavement, you'll need to be very tactful about it). Alternatively explain why this fundraising is personally important to you.

Make it relevant - if you're taking part in a  local event, approach local celebrities. They may not have as many followers as Lady Gaga but their audience is more likely to be interested in what you're doing.

3. Avoid looking stupid - do your homework
Rather than blundering in, check out your celeb beforehand - see what kind of messages they post and what time of day they're likely to be online.
  • Does your celeb run their own account or is it clear that someone handles it for them? - if it's clear their agent tweets for them, asking for a retweet during office hours might work better. Also if you can connect with the agent themselves, perhaps they have another client who might be interested in tweeting your request?
  • How Twitter-savvy are they?- whilst I'm not suggesting you exploit newbies, I did once get a lot of publicity via a retweet from an actor who had only just signed up on Twitter. He got over 2,000 followers overnight and was innocently happy to publicise the awareness week I was working on.
  • Do they normally retweet fundraising requests? If it's clear from their twitter stream that they rarely pass on fundraising messages, you may be wasting your time.
  • Have they already published guidelines on their website about how they handle retweet requests? - Big twitter users such as Stephen Fry and Philip Schofield have been asked for RTs so often that they have put up useful guidelines on their own websites. The best way to annoy a celebrity who has gone to that kind of trouble is to ignore the guidelines and expect them to pay attention to you regardless.

4. NEVER indulge in sour grapes.
Obviously if they retweet you, make sure to thank them promptly for their help. However if, after doing all that work, you STILL don't get any attention the worst possible reaction is to complain about it.  That just makes you look petulant and will get you blocked. Everyone's human - perhaps there wasn't time, perhaps they didn't understand what you were asking them to do. So rather than whinging, see if there's anything you can learn from the experience.

And, with a bit of homework and some effort you can get that retweet.....

....just don't ask Stephen Fry; I wasn't kidding when I said he can melt our web server.

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