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Donating Tweets to Political Campaigns

by Zach Green on January 9, 2012

in Buddy Roemer,Twitter Consulting,Twitter Tools

We have had a glowing article from Mashable, and a major attack from techPresident. Both Alex Fitzpatrick from Mashable and Nick Judd from techPresident have covered us before, with varying levels of positive, neutral, and negative responses.

Donating Tweets is a new idea in Twitter campaigning used to some degree by and They allow you to automatically retweet a Twitter account once a day.

Nick Judd’s main criticism of donate tweets is the following:

Once a day, the campaign wants to turn its supporters’ Twitter accounts into mindless zombies — all in the name of raising stats. The campaign is achieving its desired result: Roemer’s new follow rate, retweets and mention count have all gone up. This doesn’t do much for the follower’s investment in the campaign, or an understanding of Roemer by the public at large.

Given the proportion of donated tweets to mentions, this argument doesn’t quite hold up. Donated tweets works, not because it fabricates a false measure of success, but because it begins conversations and unites the message across all supporters. People reply to supporters who send out the campaign’s message, and supporters engage back. Donate Tweets are seeds that start conversations. They only account for about 5% of mentions, and 0% of other metrics. It is particularly effective because it doesn’t depend upon ongoing, daily tasks from supporters. As Adam explains, Donate Tweets

is not simply ‘raising stats’, it is attracting supporters for Roemer who will help spread his message. Donated tweets are a multiplier. Sending just one donated tweet a day through 150 supporters is generating conversations about Roemer that are resulting in thousands of tweets a day. That is the goal. Think of the donated accounts as volunteer spokesmen who are given pamphlets and told to canvas their neighborhood. The donated tweets are the pamphlets. This is a standard campaign practice. Are these volunteers zombies? Is this work done solely to see how many pamphlets can be handed out?

To understand the multiplier effect of donated tweets, you have to recognize the underlying campaign strategy of new media, based upon traditional grassroots organizing, of connecting and energizing a network of supporters.

Building community is important for any Twitter campaign, whether political or social. Once established, Twitter users are able to coordinate their efforts through common hash-tags and messaging. Top supporters are rewarded with recognition and encouraged to be even more vocal. Potential supporters are quickly brought in to a community that they can build upon. Experienced campaigners can share tips with newer members to help raise their visibility. When big events, like moneybombs, come to pass, these communities of supporters are ready to campaign using certain hash-tags, profile images, messaging, calls to action, and more. Most importantly, supporters become energized through the recognition that they are part of a community acting for a common cause. Community keeps supporters working hard over the long-term, which is essential to any successful Twitter campaign.

Of course, there is a sensitivity on Twitter to manipulation, with terms like astroturf, Obamabots, Ronulans, and so on creating scandal everywhere. There are certainly black-hat techniques. We are white-hat. When I originally wrote this article on January 3rd, I addressed this concern directly, and asked for feedback:

The difference between donating tweets and spam is each of these accounts has a real, unique person behind it who supports the candidate, and can respond to questions and replies. Yet none of these supporters have to keep up to date, or even log in, for a tweet to be sent from their account. These types of one-click, ongoing, non-monetary donations are incredibly powerful in the age of new media campaigns. Especially when supporters max out their donations at $100. What do you think? Tweet me!

Is donating tweets an acceptable tool for political campaigns on Twitter? Buddy Roemer is perhaps the perfect illustration of why this technique is not only justifiable, but merely the beginning of New Media 2.0., with applications built upon Twitter. Buddy Roemer’s central issue is money in politics, addressing issues such as Super PACs, Occupy Wall Street, limiting donations to $100, and ending special interests. He has been in Zero of 18 televised debates, although a Governor of Louisiana who wrote it’s state constitution, a four-term US Congressman, and a Harvard economist. Voluntarily donating Tweets seems like a good alternative when you don’t have money to get a message out.

What do you think? Tweet me!

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