Twitter’s a wonderful beast. Practically unheard of four years ago, it’s now one of the major two (three, I guess, if you count Google+) social networks in the world, infiltrating almost every aspect of our lives. It’s the perfect place to build up a community, grow your fanbase, advertise your product and make creepy new cyber friends. But what makes it tick? What makes a single tweet ‘successful’? The Japanese have been hard at work trying to figure exactly this out.
Studying the success of a tweet is a complex thing, more psychology than science. Although certainly the value of a tweet could be measured in the conversion it generates (think link clicking here), the success is likely the response it elicits and the corresponding favour it carries. And how do we show our approval of someone else’s tweet? By retweeting it of course. Thus it makes some sort of sense that if one could unlock the reasoning behind retweeting, the entire potential of Twitter itself would be at their finger tips ready to be exploited.
That was the thinking of fellow Japanese web agency Omocoro at least, who challenged one of their employees, an unfortunate Mr Sebuyama, with writing a tweet that would obtain 1,000 retweets. Two simple rules had to be followed though. Firstly, he couldn’t inform his 2,000 followers that he was conducting an experiment and secondly, he couldn’t leave the office until he had reached this goal. Goes to show that nothing motivates employees like the prospect of being locked in the office overnight.
1,815 retweets from all over the world and a photo of himself in his underpants with pegs pinching every possible part of his body
The results were very interesting to say the least although, I have to state, not massively surprising to anyone who’s particularly familiar with social networking. Mr Sebuyama initial attempts of tweeting silly or half naked photos of himself were met with almost no responses, demonstrating that most of the Internet truly is now immune to shock value tactics. His simple requests for his tweet to be reweeted though were somewhat more successful, obtaining a good 50 or so responses. Not massively surprising in itself although it does show how potent just blatantly asking for support can be. Personally I always found the calls of ‘pls RT’ to be rather obnoxious but it looks like I’m in the minority there.
Anyway, after indeed being forced to sleep at the office, Sebuyama made a final last ditch tweet out of desperation, promising to attach a clothes peg to himself for every person who retweeted him. A few hours later and the result was 1,815 retweets from all over the world and a photo of himself in his underpants with pegs pinching every possible part of his body.
As slightly insane as this tactic was, Sebuyama’s stroke of genius clearly demonstrates something very profound about Twitter and the folks that inhabit it: humour and interactivity will get you everywhere. Of course, this isn’t exactly a breakthrough in behavioural science and social media marketing folks have been exploiting this human phenomena since the first lolcat image went viral. Give people something funny, give them something they can influence, and chances are you’ve got a winning marketing ticket on your hands – we’ve always suspected this. Still, it took one determined Japanese man, a whole lot of clothes pegs and a complete lack modesty to prove this concept a reality. Bless.
Now, I wonder how many people will retweet this?