Twitterthon, How To Do A…

My name is Hilary. I’m 29 and I’m a Twitterholic.

MANIC GRIN

On the 22nd July, I decided to spend a whole 36 hours on Twitter, updating continuously (a minimum of once every ten minutes) in an attempt to raise money and awareness for Marie Curie Cancer Care, a cause close to my heart as a Marie Curie nurse looked after my grandmother.

I first started using Twitter in April 2009. Somehow, just by being a bit silly, making up my own swearwords (bumcakes!) and tweeting vaguely topical jokes, I amassed a whopping 1050 followers.

I was also following (i.e. receiving updates from) 828 people, who had all attracted my attention in a variety of ways. Some were famous, like Spaced star @SimonPegg, comedian @SuePerkins or leader of the free world @BarackObama. Others had caught my eye as they’d had their status updates repeated by other users, a process called ‘retweeting’.

Retweeting is one of the reasons that Twitter is so addicting and enjoyable. If enough people pass on the same update, it can go viral and appear on Twitter’s main page. Even if it doesn’t spread that far, it’s still a great way to get more followers. For example, the very amusing Gareth Aveyard, aka @TheFagCasanova, recently tweeted a video of a pug saying Batman. The crowd went wild. Due to the success of that tweet (and others) he’s now got over 5000 followers; all very well deserved.

What’s all this got to do with the Twitterthon, I hear you cry? Well, when I started it at 9am on Thursday 22nd, I hadn’t really spread the word in advance as I was relying on word of mouth. Retweeting, in other words.

I was hoping that if enough people mentioned my exploits, it might encourage people to donate to my Justgiving page and, if I were lucky, I might make a couple of hundred pounds for Marie Curie. I’d been raising money for them for a year already, and had made £1615 by doing traditional fundraising activities like cake sales, standing with a collection can, naked bear wrestling etc.

Anyway, armed with only a laptop, a Marie Curie t-shirt in luminous yellow, some Lucozade and a link to my Justgiving page, I started my Twitterthon at 9am on Thursday (in hindsight, I should probably have also bought some food, as all I had in the house were some dubious cream crackers and half a pot of slightly grungey houmous).

“I use Twitter a lot anyway,” I thought. “How hard could it really be to constantly update for 36 hours?”

Quite hard, as it turns out.

It started easily enough, with a tweet that announced:

A few people retweeted what I’d said. Then a few more. Some of my followers asked me for more information and I explained that I’d be tweeting a minimum of once every ten minutes for 36 hours, although I’d probably update more than that (I chose ten minutes as I really wanted to keep my options open on the toilet front. I mean, I’m not Paula Radcliffe- I didn’t want to just let it run down my leg).

It didn’t take long for the first donations to start trickling in (sorry, I was thinking about Paula Radcliffe again). I clearly had some very generous followers, who livened up my Justgiving page with entertaining messages such as “Sleep is for wimps. I’ll post you one of those sexy silver foil blankets for you to use a cape afterwards” (@BintOfSparkles) and “I wish you the very best of luck with your 36 hour Twitterthon @Hilary_W. May the caffeine be with you” (@Neurosceptic).

I was trying to be as entertaining as possible. In the back of my mind, I was thinking of Comic Relief and the way that comedy can grab people’s attention in a way that simple pleading can’t. It seemed to work. I mean, I’m no Lenny Henry (hell, I’m barely a Patrick Kielty), but nevertheless after just five hours I’d already gathered more than £200 in donations.

I’d been sporadically tweeting at celebrities to attract attention to the cause, but to no avail. They get so many messages that you really have to persist. Then the very witty and popular @fudgecrumpet decided to help me. He had a list of famous people on Twitter and started contacting them on my behalf. After a few messages, it worked!

Jenni Falconer retweeted the following message to her 39,524 followers:

I suddenly realised that I didn’t need to do all the celeb-bothering myself. I could ask the people cheering me on to join in. I set them a mission:
And by gum, they seized the bull by the horns! Soon, a team of hardy folk led by @Fudgecrumpet, @KingBobulousIII, @TheFagCasanova and @NoFriendsAng (amongst others) were repeatedly tweeting my Twitterthon link to famous folk across the world. It was an immense success- after a while, I could barely keep up with who had or hadn’t mentioned my antics. Eventually, I had to make a list and ask people to help me keep it up to date:

What do Davina McCall, magic gnome Paul Daniels, author Neil Gaiman, IT Crowd writer Graham Linehan, and Professor Brian Cox’s wife Gia (GiaGia) have in common? Why, they’ve all helped to spread the word about Marie Curie, that’s what!

Davina has 302,000 followers. Impressive, eh? But not as impressive as Neil Gaiman. Guess how many he has?

Ok, fine, I’ll tell you. He has 1,472,277 followers.

Yes, you heard me right. One and a half MILLION followers! Many of whom would have seen the link to the Twitterthon.

After that, donations came thick and fast. Several people donated a second time once they got up on Friday morning to discover I was still going! I wouldn’t say going strong, but definitely still going. I’d spent the long hours between 2am and 7am being supported by a few insomniacs and a handful of Americans, such as @Hydeandgeek, aka Scott from Erie, PA who sent me links to amusing videos and asked me questions.

I couldn’t quite believe it when I reached 7am on Friday. By that point, I’d been tweeting solidly for 22 hours and had made over a thousand pounds, far more than the £200 or so I imagined I’d make. However, I was really struggling by that point. The symptoms of RSI had set in:

I’d highly suggest that all professional fundraisers, marathon runners, telethon presenters etc. resort to unseemly whining towards the end of their event. It really seemed to pay off. My £3000 target, so unlikely seeming at 9am on Thursday suddenly whizzed much closer as people moved to silence my plaintive cries with cash.

I have to admit that I burst into tears when we reached the target at 10.30am, a whopping 10 and a half hours before the end of the Twitterthon. But by that point the ball was well and truly rolling and there could be no question of stopping early to soak my agonised fingers in Deep Heat.

People continued to donate, not to mention bother celebrities in an attempt to generate more hype. The wonderful @Scriblit offered to draw comedy writer Graham Linehan (@Glinner) a photo of him rescuing a kitten from an evil tree if he mentioned the Twitterthon. Sure enough, he did, and true to her word, Scriblit drew this:

How great is THAT? Very, that’s how.

Graham Linehan also told me I’d made him laugh, which is pretty much the highlight of my entire life. Well, that and raising so much money for Marie Curie, of course.

From then on it was just a question of staying awake, forcing my exhausted brain to type coherently rather than just saying random strings of words like “Pigeon. Soroptomist. Welding.” Not to mention laughing at the various jokes that were heading my way at regular intervals.

I particularly liked the one by @ephemeraldog about Keith Chegwin stealing my bed.

When I finally finished at 9pm on Friday, the total raised stood at £3780. Even bearing in mind I’d managed to cobble together £1615 prior to that (the result, let me remind you, of a whole YEAR’S worth of arduous fundraising!), that still meant we’d raised £2165 for Marie Curie in 36 hours, a whopping amount.

I also gained over 200 new followers, who I hope don’t desert me when I revert to swearing a lot and making rude jokes.

It was an amazing, tiring, emotional, wonderful experience. I’ll definitely do it again. But next time I might go to the shop first so I don’t have to subsist on old houmous and cream crackers for 36 hours.

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

8 Responses to Twitterthon, How To Do A…

  1. HILARY LUKE says:

    welll done HILARY i lost my lovely mother but thanks to the lovely marie curie nurses she was able to die with dignity their work is amazin

    • ladyribenaberet says:

      So sorry to hear about your mum, that’s awful. glad to hear she benefited from a Marie Curie nurse.

      Thanks again for all of your help over those long 36 hours!

  2. Brennig says:

    Think you’re brilliant and full of awes. And we shall dedicate next week’s show to you – thanks to you we got a musical lead (any colour black) and will be playing them next week in your honour.

  3. Becky says:

    Well done Hilary – an amazing acheivement and your blog has made me laugh alot this morning!

  4. Sarah Day says:

    Well done Hilary!! Amazing stuff, you must be so proud 🙂 Enjoyed reading your blog about it. Hope you have recovered now, all the best Sarah (Penarth) xxx

  5. Adrian Wardle says:

    STREWTH! What an amazing feat! – XLENT! Hope your poor fingers are better now. Love from A.

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