Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm

Wow, what a day.
January 29, 2010 started off as just a normal day in Twitter world. We were excited that our site @abolishcancer, had received a commitment the day before from a junior at Penn State, to sponsor the site. Pat Howley, a junior at PSU majoring in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management, agreed to sponsor our site. Pat has been following our site for a while and is a supporter of our efforts to help use Twitter to raise funds to fight cancer.

Pat is also active with a group called THON. THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Run by students at Penn State University, it supports a year-long effort to raise funds and awareness in the fight against pediatric cancer. (check them out at I’ve connected with many of the organizers and supports of THON over the last month or so and find every opportunity to send a tweet their way in support of their cause.

So, If you are familiar with how our twitter feed at @abolishcancer works, we ask for a daily sponsor and whoever agrees to commit to the sponsorship agrees to pay $1 for every new follower to @abolishcancer to a charity fighting cancer. Pat agreed to sponsor with the understanding that he would donate his funds to THON. I explained to Pat that our previous sponsors had averaged about 50 new followers each day, therefore $50 in donations.

Boy, if we only knew….

The day started off rather normal, several tweets were sent out and we started to see many retweets, especially from THON supporters. By mid-morning things started to pick up and we had over 100 new people on board as new followers. Then it all changed after lunch.
You see we occasionally tweet about getting an influential person to support our efforts. It just so happens that the THON group got that very wish. Khloe Kardashian, American television personality, wrote a blog post about THON. Then around 1PM eastern time she retweeted the following

“For every new follower of @abolishcancer TODAY @PatHowley agrees to donate $1 to @THON to fight cancer

That’s all it took. It had now gone viral. You see Khloe has over 917,000 followers. From that moment on tweets and retweets grew exponentially. Followers grew and were encouraging others to become new followers. By the late afternoon, THON had become a trending topic of Twitter. Now I’m not sure how many new supporters went to the THON twitter feed or the THON website to donate but it was clear that this was an impressive display of PR, communication, marketing all directed towards the awareness of fighting childhood cancer.

So what about Pat and his sponsorship? Well, instead of getting the average number of new followers for a day, around 50, @abolishcancer received quite a few more. 1,734 new followers to be exact. What does that mean for Pat and his agreement to pay THON for new followers? Well, we’ve been in brief discussions about the tab. Pat is committed to making this work but, like most college students, doesn’t have $1,700 in cash lying around. Our next steps will be to find a clever way to get support for Pat and the $1,700 to THON. We encourage any ideas and efforts to make this happen. Pat and I will continue the conversations to come up with a plan and keep everyone in the loop.

Meanwhile, the stage has been set. @abolishcancer has a massive new following and will continue to seek sponsors to support causes such as THON. THON received an increased national awareness and will continue to get supporters, with the potential to get more influential people on its team. And Pat got a new following and the comfort of knowing that he helped support a viral infection of the best kind.

Proof positive that Twitter can be a powerful tool in our efforts to help @abolishcancer. Thanks to everyone for their efforts. Let’s keep it up.


  1. I started following yesterday, and had no idea Pat was a junior at Penn State, I just assumed he was someone with deep pockets! I had already donated $100 to THON (I have a son who's a junior there as well)--I figured one more dollar would always help. When you figure out a "clever way to get support for Pat" make sure to use Twitter to spread the word; I'll donate more some more so he can maybe meet that mark.

  2. It's important to keep in mind that what you guys are doing isn't just about money but awareness, too. Even if pat doesn't meet this number-the cats out of the bag and THON has become international. Congratulations and thank you for what you do.

    FTK always,

  3. Great point Justin, thanks for the support

    Darah Bonham

  4. thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog... these past two days have been unbelievable... no works can express how i feel right now....
    THON is still with me even thought I study abroad in London right now. The four diamonds are tattooed on my right arm, so THON travels with me everywhere I go...
    Your blog and twitter are helping make a difference in the world, and I truly appreciate it...
    When the day comes where there is a cure, kids will be kids, parents will be happy, and THON will ever be known as just an event in the past that helped make the world a better place.

  5. I got a $20 in my pocket for you Pat. Find me at THON to collect. Just ask DZ-DTD for Xander's dad.