How to Win a Tweet Race (and Other Far More Important Lessons Learned)

So we really won this thing.
For those of you who followed my directions and unfollowed me back in January, it’s safe to come out again. The #MBTweetRace is now over. Here’s the pre-race story. It makes for some entertaining “before” reflections on the experience.  As promised, here come the “after” reflections.  No particular order.

It’s About People, Not Tweets

The MBTweetRace was run on tweets.  Get people to retweet a particular hashtag and you’ll win, right?  Nope.  That’s thinking like an advertiser buying banner ads.  The power of this “Web 2.0″ thing is giving people a reason to connect with people, not things.  The #MBteamS hashtag was a way to connect with other people, not just score points.


I have an entirely new appreciation for Facebook’s ability to organize people.  Forget blogs.  Forget Twitter followers.  Forget all of that.  If you need to organize a group of people, go where they are and use your skills to connect them.

On Celebrity and Follower Counts

We went into the contest with a sour attitude on the role of celebrities in the contest.  It appears that 2 million + followers might be an advantage.  It took 2.5 days before any of the teams + celebrities learned how to capitalize on that.  It wasn’t our team.  It was very close to burying us, even with the significant lead we had built.  It did significantly skew the final results.  While it was happening I told Todd, “Whether we lose or win this thing, I’m going to see the role of celebrity in this contest as the thing I disliked the most.”

Related:  Twitter is a completely different experience for those with a crazy number of followers.  The tool itself makes it impossible to engage in any sort of meaningful connections with people at a certain point.  During the contest, @tsand would tweet something.  Followers would respond.  He’d refresh 2 minutes later and Echofon would show 200 new replies.  Refresh again, another 200 new replies.  We missed a good 90% of what was happening across the community on our behalf during the race.  Next to the celebrity thing, missing so much of the online piece made me sad.

How We Did It:  Playing the Game

There were particular mechanics built into the game that, when executed correctly, gave us a huge advantage.  Using #MBteamS was worth 1 point.  Using RT @tsand Foo. #MBteamS was worth 3 points. A little math, a little creativity, and a few thousand hours inside of World of Warcraft makes this part of the challenge interesting.

About half way through the race we decided to disregard many of the challenges and simply work with our followers to have fun.  Interestingly, our followers then took it upon themselves and play the game in our behalf.  To this day I still haven’t read the Scavenger Hunt Challenge.  All we did for the 99 Bottles Challenge was clarify with the race director that we could, in fact, bounce that back and forth between two people instead of coordinating 50, 100, or 200 people to do this right.  We also have a tech savvy bunch of people willing to help each other make videos, share Google Docs, and take on roles playing to their strengths throughout the race.

How We Did It:  Playing the Community

We did a bit of organizing people prior to the race.  Most of it was simply a way to make others feel like they were a part of something.  A conversation starter.  “We still have room for a Team Jew.  You interested?” etc.  Now you are part of a team…not just spewing a hashtag.

We gave people something to connect with each other about during the race.  More importantly, people began inventing their own games to connect with us.  “Little known things about @ijohnpederson”, etc.

We had fun.  I have never laughed so hard in my life.  Tears.  Many times each day.  Most people are surprised to learn that @tsand and I really have only known each other “in real life” for about 4 hours prior to this thing.  Serious.

This wasn’t a three-day race.  It wasn’t a month-long contest.  We’ve been curating these people networks for the past 10 years.  While it paid off nicely in a very public way in this instance, this is still pretty small compared to the other impacts building online community has had on my life.

In Summary…

Thanks.  The experience was awesome.  It has both deepened my relationships with a number of folks as well as introduced me to a few hundred new folks that I’ll continue to weave together into “our” community for the next few years.