Promoting a nonprofit fundraiser on Twitter: 5 lessons

Do you know the saying “One learns more from failure than success”? If that’s true, then I’m a wise woman. Below are a few “wins” and “losses” I recently gained, while promoting Note in the Pocket’s 1st annual Socks and Undie 5K Rundie on Twitter.

1) Twitter photo contest flop

My photo contest poster.

My photo contest poster.

I’m convinced that not many knew about this contest until the day of the race.  I tweeted about it a few times in the weeks leading up to the 5K. On race day, we displayed this poster, made by yours truly, near the check-in table. We had three photo submissions total via Twitter and Instagram.

What I would do differently?
Next year, we’ll write a blog about the contest and tweet a link to it often before the race. The point of the contest, was to encourage participants to share photos on Twitter/Instagram to encourage engagement (i.e. retweets, favors, replies). I would also display contest information in an obvious place or in several places on the race website.

2) Teamwork: tweeting during the 5K

Tweets that include photos and videos typically receive higher engagement. A volunteer and I tweeted photos and comments live throughout the race. I learned that during a live event, it’s best to have more than one person sending tweets on Twitter because they can tweet about different areas of the event simultaneously.

3) Using a “secret” hashtag

I don’t think many knew about the 5K hashtag #SAURUN2014 because only a few were using it independently from our race tweets. It wasn’t entirely a failure, since for the 1.5 months leading up to the 5K, tweets with #SAURUN2014 were retweeted a far bit. I also used the hashtag on Instagram before, during, and after the race which helped.

What I would do differently?
I would create a graphic with the hashtag and display it on the race website, tweet the graphic often, and share it on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms before the race. Next time, we’ll include the hashtag on all print materials too, and maybe even on the race t-shirt.

4) Tweeting directly to others

Did you know that people who run in the Wake County, Durham area, also like to drink beer? Well I didn’t, until I tweeted race information to pubs in Raleigh and a few – to my surprise – retweeted or favored them. It was helpful to idea toss with the race committee and develop a list of who would be interested in the race. Although time consuming, it was worth searching Twitter for those organizations, businesses, and individuals on our list, and then tweeting to them directly.

5) #1 No-no: I started a new Twitter account 

Socks & Undie 5K Rundie May 10, 2014 Dorothea Dix, Raleigh NC

My brother and I at Socks & Undie 5K Rundie, Dorothea Dix, Raleigh, May 10, 2014.

Starting a separate Twitter account for an event isn’t always the wrong course of   action. In this case, it was an uphill battle because I started from scratch to build followers and promote the race. NITP’s main Twitter account has a small but super engaged following. My hypothesis? This following could have helped us get the word out if I had used that account exclusively.  Closer to the race, I tried tweeting from @SocksandUndie5K to @NoteinthePocket and that gained more engagement.

What I would do differently?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I may suggest taking down @SocksandUndie5K account to next year’s race committee, and just send race tweets from @NoteinthePocket. In order to keep @SocksandUndie5K followers engaged, we need to tweet on it throughout the year until the next race. What to tweet now?