#NASATweetupContest – or ‘how to really scare yourself with Twitter’

So in chatting with folks on Facebook, I decided that for the final launch of the Space Shuttle Program – STS-135 I would, first, sign up for the NASA Tweetup for the launch.  OK, that’s probably a no-brainer, but then folks on FB started guessing as to how many would sign up.  There were about 4,105 for STS-134’s launch Tweetup, so guesses started almost as soon as the registration was closed (which was only open for 24 hours).  So I figured, heck, I’ve got some interesting swag around that I don’t really need, let’s spread the love a little bit!  So I posted the following on Twitter:

Contest announcement! For @STS_135 #NASATweetup I will give a spacey prize for closest w/o going over for # of applicants. #NASATweetup

followed up by:

For my #NASATweetup contest use #NASATweetupContest hashtag. In case of tie, earlier guess wins out.

thinking I’d get 30 or 40 guesses and I’d send them some stuff:

NASATweetupContest prizes

NASATweetupContest prizes

The Skylab patch is an original that’s never been on anything from the early 1970, so that’s kind of interesting, everything else is duplicates or stuff I didn’t really need or CDs I’ve done in my studio.

Then this shows up on Twitter:

NASA TweetupNASATweetupNASA Tweetup
RT @VAXHeadroom Contest! I will give a spacey prize for closest w/o going over for # of #NASATweetup applicants. #NASATweetupContest

Ack!! The power of social media has just pretty much aimed a rapid-fire rabid bunch of space geeks at my Twitter feed!  NASATweetup has about 21,200 followers, so all of a sudden I got a little bit nervous, because this could get WAY bigger than I had anticipated!

OK, it turned out not hard at all, and I had less than 300 applicants for the contest (whew!).  I found TwitScoop the easiest client to search for hashtags and paste them into a spreadsheet in which I could sort and find the numbers.  20,000 applicants would have been intractable in this manner, but 300 wasn’t bad at all.  I posted statistics (Min,Max,Avg,Mean, and Count) every night for about 5 days and garnered about 100 new Twitter followers in the process – a very NICE side affect!

So be warned!  The power of social media is great, but be prepared to have it go WAY bigger than you originally anticipated!  Users generally find a way to use your contest/programs/rules/etc in ways you NEVER anticipated!

From where are you watching the VERY LAST SHUTTLE LAUNCH EVER?  Hope it’s from as close as you can possibly get!!

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About VAXHeadroom

Among other things I was the Lead C&DH Flight Software Engineer on LCROSS. My LCROSS photo blog on Facebook can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/lcross-is-go I run a recording studio and publishing company http://www.untiedmusic.com and tweet as @VAXHeadroom. I'm also a public speaker on space, physics, technology and stage performance. I love talking to kids from K to college, drop me an email if interested in having me come speak!
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