Lessons From an Accidental Twitter Campaign

It started when I noticed that the iQuran iOS app was discounted from its usual $5.99 price down to $1.99. The app was pretty much the de facto best Qur’an app available for iOS, and that discounted price was incredible compared to the amount of information, polish, and care that went into it.

Without thinking much, I went to Twitter and offered my followers to gift them a copy of iQuran, free, no question asked.

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Now, I am just a common Twitter user, nobody famous, and my followers are mostly just friends and families. What I didn’t expect was that a couple of famous Twitter users found out about my tweet. These guys had a lot of followers in my country, and with that, a lot of influence.

After the dusts were settled, the tweet ended up with 80 retweets, with more than 70 people requested a copy of iQuran for their iOS devices. It was truly an overwhelming surprise for me, but thanks to a friend, Nizamil Putra, we ended up joining forces and created a separate Twitter account (@freeiQuran) to handle the deluge of requests.

Here are some lessons that sticks out to me after the experience:

Viral effect is unpredictable, prepare for the best

The number of requests were simply beyond our imagination. A retweet from a big influencer can affect the reach of a campaign immensely. We were fortunate enough to be able to afford the cost of the whole campaign. However, had another one or two influencers spread the tweet as well, things will get a lot more overwhelming.

It’s difficult to handle a lot of interactions in a short amount of time with the default Twitter apps

We got a lot of replies in a short amount of time, and it was hard to keep track of them. There was no way to mark a reply as read, and while I tried to keep up by copy-and-pasting people’s data to Google Spreadsheet, new mentions kept coming in. The real-time nature of Twitter makes it hard to keep track of things.

In hindsight, it is probably better to handle the data *after* the campaign is done. Which brings us to the next two points:

Have a clearly defined campaign terms and limits

My tweet was not intended to “the outer world”, so to speak, so I didn’t really limit how many gifts to send and how long my offer should stand. When it explode, it became clear that things would be better if we had a clearly defined terms and limits beforehand.

This isn’t just to help keep the campaign starter’s sanity. We also had a bunch of questions from people asking about the validity of the terms, and other things. This added more to our tasks, and having the terms ready should have helped eliminate that.

If you want to gather data from Twitter users, use alternative methods instead of using Twitter mentions

The default Twitter apps were not designed to help us process a lot of rapid information at once. After certain update per minute, it simply is not possible for human mind to keep up. Therefore, if with the campaign you want to gather data from Twitter users, don’t do it via mentions.

Something like a custom Wufoo form should be a good help, or even a simple Google Docs form that saves information directly into a spreadsheet.

When more than one person handle a Twitter account, things get messy quickly

Nizamil Putra and I both used the @freeiQuran account to communicate with the requesters. There were times when I replied to a question that were already answered by Nizamil, and vice versa. There were no clear indication that a tweet was already replied, so we overlapped each other a lot. I’m still not quite sure what’s the best solution for this.

Really famous people have it hard on Twitter

The experience also showed me a glimpse of the daily life of famous Twitter users. Once you have a lot of followers, the number of mentions will clog up your mention tab very quickly. If someone has an important mention for you, it will be hard to notice it. It doesn’t seem like Twitter is designed from the built-up to handle that edge case, yet. There’s probably a business to be made here.

Those are the lessons I can extract from the experience. To conclude, Twitter is a great tool to do a campaign and spread a message, but be prepared to think of various ways to help you if you want to *organize* it.