Tweet Bombs and Waterfalls

Salto Grande (Patagonia Waterfall)

Consider Sun Tzu’s historic words, “The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.

The one tactic that seems to have struck most folks from last week’s #hungertohope campaign social strategy was the Tweet Bomb.

Roughly 120 bloggers and online influencers kicked off the World Food Day campaign off with a tweet or three. A story may be too much, but a tweet is certainly doable. Collectively, it created a nice surprise, starting most people’s days with a strong call to help feed children.

The effort was immensely successful from our standpoint, especially given some of the weaknesses of the overall campaign, generating 500 tweets in whole. The Tweet Bomb was absolutely necessary for a fundraising event that had very little momentum beforehand.

Our Tweet Bomb also showcased several bloggers’s posts, lending social credibility to the event. In all, it set the tone for another 900+ tweets until that night’s presidential debate…

To play off Sun Tzu, the bomb was a surprise waterfall that landed on the Twitterverse, and flowed throughout the day. In combination with other tactics, the effort drove more than 12,000 visitors into the Hunger to Hope web site.

#hungertohope struggled to convert donations (again, due to the aforementioned weakensesses with the story and appeal), but it was a big awareness hit for World Hunger Day, and the funding clients Yum! Brands and Razoo were happy.

Where the Waterfall Tactic Came From…

King of Limbs
Image by MatthewDR

While I’d like to take credit for the tactical approach, it was something I hacked from the RNC and their highly successful #firepelosi campaign in 2010, which was a featured case study in my book Welcome to the Fifth Estate.

The $16,000 RNC awareness campaign hit the web with GOP influencers propelling the message to the fore of Twitter with a #firepelosi hashtag bomb. Links circled the blogosphere through the deployment of more than 22,000 widgets. The effort leaked onto Facebook and turned into a fundraiser, eventually netting about $1.6 million, including eight online donations of $16,200 a piece.

But even the RNC was not original in the art of surprise.

Surprise is an excellent strategy for winning.

It’s as timeless as the Sun Tzu quote, and as prescient as right now when it comes to winning in crowded markets, particularly those that are not openly looking for a marketing message like a fundraising campaign or a purchase.

Another surprise strategy was Radiohead’s The King of Limbs release in 2011, announced just one week before the music was available on their web site. It trumped every industry marketing norm, a case study Gini Dietrich and I discuss in Marketing in the Round.

Applying Marketing in the Round theory, I would classify such strategies as flanking techniques, in large part because conventional means of direct, groundswell and top down marketing approaches are not easily deployed. Thus the guerilla marketing approach.

Waterfalls, Tweet Bombs, stealth record launches. Surprises.

Call them stunts, yet they work for branding, and then backed with substance with great calls to action and product, they can convert.

What do you think?


  • Making social happen for social causes has been one of my favorite things to do for a long time. I should do more of it my self as an originator, but I enjoy being part of a larger team of leaders attempting to raise the level of engagement and giving. Thanks for including me here and the invitation most of all!

  • I though it was a great campaign well executed. Interesting to see you talk about the ‘weaknesses’. We do a lot of work with charity ABL activity, and its fascinating to watch them ‘grow up’ in marketing terms to cope with the overwhelming demand on everyone’s time and money.
    I though ‘The tweet bomb’ was a particularly good way to create cut through, and as you mentioned engender awareness, and hopefully from these small acorns, great oaks will grow…
    Great campaign, great cause, good luck!

    • Thank you, Damien. Yeah, as far as campaigns go, I’ve seen worse. This one bugged me because it created a ton of action but the low financial result played into social media’s perceived weaknesses. I do know how to address such situations, but the cards were stacked against me this time.

  • I like tweet bombs and guerilla tactics because they create excitement and anticipation. I’ve used the strategy without really calling it such – I use it with friends and family. I suppose I’ve simply translated the idea to business. It keeps things fun for me and my audience.

    • Absolutely, it’s exciting. That’s what makes being a part of a family exciting and fun, too. It only makes sense that it would work for business, too!

    • Erin, the key words there are ‘excitement’ and ‘anticipation’. In order to allow our marketing message to travel, we have to generate a tantalisingly exciting message that people just *have* to share with others,

  • “… backed with substance with great calls to action and product…”

    This is the what is so easily lost in the rush to get attention. And I believe it’s something people are so hungry for in the midst of all the noise: quality. It doesn’t feel like a stunt when it’s done thoughtfully; it feels like something you’d like to be part of.

    Congratulations on the success of the campaign, Geoff. It’s also nice to see you decided to talk about what could have been better.

    • Thank you, Stacey. Amazing how exhausting these things can be, and I agree, having a real product, a real offering is so critical. Without it… Well, you know. Thanks, again!

  • Congratulations for such a successful tweet strategy. Social media is one of the most important tool in making your views heard and its much better when it is used for such a noble cause . I think the awareness will really take the whole campaign forward.
    This strategy works well for people on low budget too, for example bootstrapping entrepreneurs. I will share this story with a group of those people here :), thanks.

  • I am thinking about Tweet bombs effects on search engines… Ever since I joined Triberr, my Google rankings started going way up.

    • I’ve never looked at my Google ranking for my blog. Where does one look for such information? Is it in Google Analytics and I’ve just not noticed?

      • Hey mate, I am usually using Market Samurai, but it’s pretty random. I’ve learned some keywords that I am ranking for, and I’ve made Market Samurai follow those keywords through rank tracker. I am going to dig a little bit deeper into the topic, and will let you know.

  • I love reading stories about successful marketing campaigns. I remember a number of years ago when Gillette first introduced the Mach III razor with a strange and haunting jingle, “The best a man can get”. I bought one.

    So did a lot of people and they had to pull the add campaign not long after it started because they were soon three months behind at their production facilities. I still use their razors.

    I’ve not heard the term Twitter bomb before, but I might give it a try with my next Henry Wood Detective Agency book. If I can convince 100 people to Tweet about the launch, at noon on the launch date and some of those tweets lead to sales, it could really help it climb the ranks, initially. This post has got me a little fired up. Well done!

  • Thanks for being so transparent with the campaign Geoff and congrats on its success! Last night, I was reading about #GivingTuesday and discovered ThunderClap. A tool like this may make “Twitter Bombs” even more successful in the future (or not). Either way, I like how Thunder Bomb makes it easier for people with busy schedules to participate. I guess time will tell to see this tactic’s impact as more organization’s integrate it into their campaigns.


  • Pingback:From my Reading List – Here Comes #GivingTuesday and the Thunderclap | My Timeline

    […] of the Thunderclap is similiar to the “tweet bomb” tactic that was recently used for the #hungertohope World Food Day social fundraising campaign. Currently, there is no charge to use Thunderclap. However, if you create your own clap, you do […]

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