Twitter as Pledge Drive: Micro-Celebrities Cash in for Good Causes

If you run in digital ad circles, you probably brushed up against Tide’s charity contest last night. At the event — structured as a contest — interactive agencies, senior execs of major Web companies, and P&G’s internal marketing brains converged to compare notes and raise cash for charity.

The proceedings were structured this way: Those present were divided into four teams, competing through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other channels to see who could sell the most Tide t-shirts at $20 a pop. $50K in e-commerce sales, doubled by P&G matching funds, were raised for the non-profit Feeding America.

Contestants used various tactics, including paid media, video and coupons. But the preponderance of activity seemed to be around social platforms — in particular Twitter.

“I’m looking at charity T-Shirt sales LIVE right now,” Deep-Focus CEO Ian Schafer twittered to his nearly 2,000 followers.”If your company buys 50 shirts at http://www.tide2.com I’ll take you to a Mets game.”

The way Schafer and other contestants used Twitter at P&G is similar to how public radio broadcasters raise money. In fact, at least one listener-supported station has been using Twitter this way. WFMU in Jersey City has been hitting up its 2,470 or so Twitter followers to tune in and give during the station’s annual fund drive, which is wrapping up this week.

One of the station’s programs — Tom Scharpling’s “Best Show on WFMU” — went a step further, using multiple Twitter accounts to raise dough. Friends of the show, including author and famous person John Hodgman (@Hodgman) and comedian Paul F. Tompkins (@PFTompkins), appeared in-studio for the pledge drive and while on the air asked their Twitter followers to tune in and pledge. It’s hard to say how much credit those efforts, and Scharpling‘s too, deserve for the $120,000-plus in pledges “Best Show” eventually brought to the station.

Tomkins and Hodgman are far better known than Ian Schafer and Pete Blackshaw, who are both anonymous outside the interactive ad sector. But they’re still not huge in the grand scheme of American celebrity. Yet all four of them have enough clout to use burbles of text to sway at least a few fans to give for a good cause.

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