How We Got 31K Pageviews in A Day By Pretending To Be Obama
A week ago, on April Fool’s Day, we launched Crowdfund The Debt: a spoof splash page claiming that the White House was asking everyday Americans to chip in and help pay off our mounting national debt using Crowdtilt. At the end of the day, we had 31k+ pageviews, press mentions in TechCrunch and others, 3,000+ Facebook likes, and countless tweets.
Here’s the story and what we learned:
What was the joke?
Just about a week before, we were brainstorming a good prank for April Fool’s and hit upon the U.S. National Debt. It was the perfect combination of a culturally relevant crisis, a match with Crowdtilt, and just a fun concept. So with the goal of cribbing as much as possible from the Obama 2012 campaign aesthetic, we created CrowdfundTheDebt.com in a few days (with design help from our friends at Hypr) to go live at midnight on April 1st.
With a national debt counter that was counting down rather than up, and a real quote from JFK (as well as fake quotes from Paul Ryan, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Warren Buffett), the page seemed real. Almost a little too real, which we’ll get into below. But luckily, people seemed to get a kick out of it, and with a morning push of our own, the page started to get off the ground.
Our splash page linked to a fake Crowdtilt campaign that we customized with a script that would trigger random contributions from $100 - $10,000 throughout the day. We also needed a HTML hardcoded tilt amount, since our backend didn’t support a $16 trillion goal (thanks Crowdtilt tech team!):
When a visitor clicked to actually contribute, they got this custom popup (with a fancy American Flag background):
Finally, if the visitor came through this far, and logged in/created an account, they were met with the slogan “You’re the hero America needs, but not the one we deserve right now” and this swanky GIF:
How much traffic, and where from?
Here are the traffic stats (from Google Analytics, screenshots at bottom) for CrowdfundTheDebt.com, filtered to just April 1st:
- Unique Visitors: 24,853
- Pageviews: 31,097
- Average time on page: 3:08 min
Almost all of this traffic was a direct result of a viral bump. We were lucky enough to be listed in TechCrunch’s big morning roundup of pranks, and had very kind features later in the day by the Daily Dot and GOOD Magazine, but a relatively small bump from any of that press. 36% of the traffic was direct, and of the 63% referral traffic, the largest sources were Facebook and Reddit (attached is another screenshot of traffic sources at the bottom, if you’re interested).
Watching the number of active users on the site spike upwards was exhilarating! Instead of having to push for traffic through PR — or even through Hacker News (we were killed off the front page after a quick surge to the top), we saw the site spread organically. Before we knew it, Bloomberg/BusinessWeek social media director Jared Keller was playing along, and we got a phone call from a group of giggling young women, who had a bet whether the campaign was a joke or not.
What did we learn?
- People actually got fooled, and more than you would think. Now this one, we weren’t quite expecting. We tried to match the Obama 2012 campaign aesthetic as much as possible, and succeeded thanks to some design help from our friends at Hypr. But even when you confirmed your whopping $55,820 contribution, we never clearly confirmed it was a joke (although we didn’t ask for payment details either). The “realistic prank” is definitely in the April Fool’s spirit, but it ended up hurting us: the admins of a Facebook page with a huge following tried to post our link as a favor, but had to take it down after 15 minutes of confused and angry comments.
- Call to actions are important, even for one-off efforts like this. We spent so much effort tweaking the page and jokes, that we put minimal effort into how users would land on Crowdtilt as a result. Because CrowdfundTheDebt.com linked to an actual Crowdtilt campaign that eventually required a signup to contribute, we got a pretty good amount of traffic/conversions to our actual site. But there was no clear explanation of Crowdtilt from the gag, and no push to create a campaign once they had signed up.
- Apparently, we weren’t joking after all? Thanks to a tweet by Seth Juarez, we learned that one can actually give a financial contribution gift to help reduce our public debt. Huh. Who knew?
Google Analytics screenshots, filtered for just April 1st:
Facebook likes on CrowdfundTheDebt.com as of 4/8:
Thanks for reading, and a very special thanks to modern American politics for making this silly prank even remotely believable. We couldn’t have done it without you :)
Subscribe to our blog for more updates as they come.
The Crowdtilt Team
What’s Your Super Bowl Game Plan?
Super Bowl Sunday is just a few days out. Whether you’ll be watching the afternoon’s broadcast for the commercials (TV advertisers spend serious bucks for spots in this program), the half-time show (will your favorite artist be performing?), or the game itself (you want to see these teams duke it out!), the question is whether to go to someone else’s Super Bowl party or to throw your own.
If you’re the type who likes to host the party, then you’re also the type who knows how to take care of your guests. Go beyond the standard spread for a regular season game. This is the Super Bowl – there’s no need to hold back.
Some ideas for food and beyond:
- Chicken wings, potato skins, seven layer dip, vegetable trays… Hungry yet?
- Beer, beer, and more beer… Save money and just get a keg. You know you want to.
- Revive a tailgating game, space permitting. Cornhole, anyone? Ladder ball?
- Splurge on that nacho cheese fountain that you couldn’t justify getting during the season…
Your Super Bowl party doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Split the cost with your friends with a Crowdtilt campaign. Even better, ask for a few bucks more and get the keg, upgrade to the 6-foot sandwich platter, or – best of all – build this epic food stadium. Now those are the ingredients for an epic Super Bowl Party!
- The Crowdtilt Team
Crowdtilt + Beer Pong
Who says beer pong has to be a tacky affair? Not Dan King and Sam Roston, who host a beer pong tournament called El Clasico every few months down in sunny Los Angeles.
This September, they used Crowdtilt to collect payments for El Clasico Tres. Check out their campaign here: https://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/el-clasico-tres
Held in a private ballroom at one of L.A.’s best sports bars, and featuring college football, food, beer (of course), and friendly competition (40 teams), the party, we’re sure, was awesome.
If you happen to live in the L.A. area and would like to experience this first hand, check out the group’s Facebook page. They will be announcing the next El Clasico here: https://www.facebook.com/ElClasicoCervezaClub
What’s also awesome for us here at Crowdtilt is to see people come together for a fun, shared event. Crowdtilt can enable heartwarming causes - we recently featured a few campaigns - and also simply bring friends together for a rollicking good time.
Beer pong doesn’t have to be tacky, and pooling money doesn’t have to be hard. So the next time you’re thinking to collect money for a party where you - say - arrange dozens of Solo cups on a table, fill those cups with beer, and invite people over to throw ping pong balls into those cups - use Crowdtilt!
- Angela & the Crowdtilt team
Huckleberry Bicycles + Crowdtilt
You knew that Crowdtilt can be used by friends to pool money for parties, and you knew that it can be used to fundraise for charitable causes - but we bet you didn’t know that it can also be used to distribute tickets.
The owners of Huckleberry Bicycles, a full-service bike shop on Market Street in San Francisco, ran a campaign on Crowdtilt to offer tickets to their August safe-cracking party.
When they were first building the shop, Zack Stender and his co-owners found a locked Mosler safe in the wall. The mystery was irresistible, and so was the opportunity - they saw that cracking the safe provided occasion both to throw a party and to raise funds.
They chose Crowdtilt as the means to supply tickets to the party. Visitors to the store were told about the planned party and directed to Crowdtilt, where they could buy tickets to be entered into a drawing at the party to win half the safe’s contents. Those who bought more than $10 worth were also invited to attend the safe-cracking party. All proceeds beyond the fee to crack the safe would be donated to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.party and to raise funds.
The evening of August 8th, the partygoers gathered at the store, and Ken Dunckel, safe-cracking expert, applied his talents to the inherited Mosler safe. When he finally opened the safe door and revealed its contents, everyone let out bated breath. What met their eyes were an empty first aid kit, and a blank name tag from the Pussy Cat Theater which used to reside at the store’s location.
Unfazed by the anticlimax, Zack proceeded to the drawing of the night’s grand prize winner. The lucky winner was Scott Dier, and because the offered alternative to half of what was in the safe was a Cannondale bike frame, Scott chose the latter over the safe’s somewhat underwhelming contents.
While in-store contributions had come to about $470, the final campaign total raised on Crowdtilt was a whopping $1,830 - and most of the sum went straight to the SFBC.
The Huckleberry Bicycles Safe Cracking campaign on Crowdtilt indicates Crowdtilt’s flexibility. What can *you* use Crowdtilt for today? Start a campaign and see for yourself!
- Angela and the Crowdtilt team
Wednesday Night at Crowdtilt
Yesterday was a big day at Crowdtilt.
Groups throughout the country were fundraising, collecting, and pooling money on Crowdtilt as they do on other days; lots of fun campaigns for fantasy football, house parties, and tailgates as people are gearing up for the opening weekend of college football (Go Longhorns!).
There were some great campaigns for some amazing causes yesterday/last night including one where people are raising money for a comic book writer to buy back his keepsake collection of comics, which he had sold to afford the medical costs of a baby he and wife adopted. This campaign is definitely heartwarming in its own right (and the outpouring across the web in various articles on the campaign are inspiring to see).
However, a different campaign happening in Tennessee caught my eye as well. Students at Vanderbilt University pitched in to help cover tuition costs for an international student who was facing the possibility of having to leave the country by week’s end because the cosigners on his loans were denied. We don’t know the specifics of the student’s situation, but his classmates did, and what happened blew me away. Within *24 hours* (and just a day before the tuition payment was due), over 150 students came together to help fund their friend’s education. We have seen some amazing flash fundraisers in the past few months on Crowdtilt, but nothing quite like this because there wasn’t a single whale-donor that gave $2,000 or $3,000 or $5,000 (every contribution was under $200), and there was no celebrity push or news media distributing the fundraiser to the masses (98.6% of the traffic came from Facebook).
These students weren’t buying something, but they were paying for something. There weren’t “rewards” in it for contributors, and all the traffic and awareness came from them and their networks. No blog articles, no hype-men, no external attention, no PR at all.
To put this in perspective, here is a fundraiser by celebrity Ashton Kutcher (who has 12 million followers on Twitter): it raised $6,600 over the course of multiple days.
The idea for Crowdtilt was born a year and a half ago with a simple thought: that the “connected” web was a network of communication and collaboration around information. The potential of collaboration around an equally critical resource - money - was still left for initiatives to disrupt. Of course, we’ve had PayPal for a several years, but exchange and collaboration are not the same thing. It’s the difference between email and something like Facebook. And as deposed dictators and the whole world have seen in the last year and half, there is a clear difference between exchange and collaboration.
Last week, parents from a school district in Utah used Crowdtilt to privately fund a full-time science teacher for a local elementary school (and the libertarians in the district likely high-fived!). Though the campaign yesterday didn’t raise as much money, the difference was speed - less than 24 hours. A quiet 24 hours to the rest of the internet but a lively one for those students at Vanderbilt. Tomorrow we open up Crowdtilt from 10 days to 30 days, and we’re excited to see what your groups will tilt in the future.
-James Beshara, Co-Founder, Crowdtilt
Fund Your Open-Source Project on Crowdtilt
Do you currently collaborate on an open-source project or see a clear need for a new one?
Let Crowdtilt help you boost or jumpstart your project.
Turning to the open-source community for funding is not new, but has become a lot easier in recent years. Even just a few weeks ago, this project was posted to Kickstarter to help people install Ruby on Rails on their Mac computers.
While Kickstarter is great for funding larger projects, Crowdtilt allows you to go after smaller initiatives that you know would be supported by a specific community. And because of the all-or-nothing approach, it’s a risk-free approach to gauge interest in a new feature or entire project.
Needless to say, not all campaigns will be embraced with equal enthusiasm especially when a realistic funding goal, technical aptitude, or feasible plan is missing. However, if done properly, it can be a great way to collectively fund projects that otherwise would stay stagnant for months or years.
Take a look at this recent campaign aimed at supporting the existing Drupal community.
While it does not focus on one particular open-source project, it helps developers find one another and reduce the coordination and transaction costs of connecting them with potential projects.
“For example, if a non-profit wants a better donation process built for their web site and can offer their office space, three developers can offer their time, and five interested individuals can fund transportation for the developers — then Drupal gains this feature and everyone benefits, whereas without this coordination it might not have happened at all or been done as a custom code hack that others wouldn’t have been able to use.”
Progress on this projects can be found here: http://groups.drupal.org/node/190094
So if the bottleneck to your current open-source project is a lack of funding, but you know people would love to get behind the idea, then start a campaign on Crowdtilt today and share it within your community.
Drupal is an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications. It’s built, used, and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the world.
4 Tips to Make Your Crowdtilt Campaign Successful
If you’re new to Crowdtilt and are still getting a pulse on this exciting new way of pooling money with friends, follow these tips and blow the roof off your campaign! This advice is based on our personal experiences of watching campaigns be extremely successful or totally flop.
Know the Cost - Before you start a campaign, you should know how much it will cost to do what you are planning to do. Asking for additional money or returning money afterwards will not only create additional work for you, but it may actually cause your camaign to fail.
Write a Good Description - It’s not about the length but rather the content. Communicate the main aspects of your campaign in a few sentences. “When”, “Where”, “Why”, and “How Much” are your best friends in this.
Share. Share. Share - As with many things in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Make sure to share your campaign with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter so they understand what you are asking of them. Repeat as often as necessary.
Post Progress Updates - This is probably the most overlooked aspect of running a campaign. Celebrating crossing the halfway point is a great way to re-introduce your campaign. Repeat when crossing 75% (and 90% if necessary).
As always, we’re always right behind you to answer any questions you may have. Email us at email@example.com or hit us up on the Live Chat.
3 Unexpected Benefits of Pooling Money with Crowdtilt
Besides the sheer fun of organizing events, trips and gift givings, there are few unexpected benefits to the Crowdtilt service. Campaigns are…
Viral - If you are running a public campaign, you can reach people outside of your personal network. If the cause is applicable to many people, the campaign can turn viral.
Quick - Since you don’t have to wait for peoples’ checks to come in the mail or wait until you see a person the next time, you can pool money much quicker.
Convenient - Probably the best benefit of all is the sheer convenience. Sending a payment online takes less effort and makes it a win-win for everybody involved.
Is there anything else that you enjoyed while using our service? We are dedicated to improving your experience so let us know if there is anything on your mind!
Local teacher tilts her way to Confratute 2011.
A community of parents group fund a teacher’s excursion to an acclaimed teaching seminar.
The University of Connecticut is home to the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Their studies, focusing on meeting the needs of gifted and talented youth have received national and international attention for over 40 years. Every year they host the annual Confratute where teachers from around the world can soak up cutting edge teaching concepts directly from the experts themselves. This year, Ashley Rich was able to attend because a group of parents saw the tremendous value in funding her trip. The new methods and concepts she could learn would directly impact the quality of the education their children would receive. The local community realized this wouldn’t happen without their support and responded by putting together a fundraising effort by using a Crowdtilt campaign as the epicenter.
After a few months of hard work promoting the cause, these parents achieved their goal and tilted their campaign. It was a great opportunity to help privately fund a public school teacher’s continued education and these parents saw the campaign through.
It was the hard work of the parents who spread awareness through their online networks that ultimately pushed the funding through. Their dedication to the cause and their children’s education was the driving force in tilting the campaign. This should serve as a shining example of how people can use Crowdtilt to get things done in their community. Find something that enough people are passionate about and use Crowdtilt to give them them an opportunity to make it happen.
Ashley and some friends enjoy some downtime in between seminars.
Now it’s time for Ashley to give you a free tutoring lesson. After all, if you’re going to learn something it might as well be from a top-notch teacher right? The thank you letter she sent us and her contributors was spectacular. In fact, it can serve as a template for your next post-campaign thank you. The letter also allows us to underline the importance of thanking your donors. It’s likely the same network you’ll be going back to for future campaigns and leaving them on a positive note is very important. Ashley hits the nail on the head with this one and you can too.
Dear Crowdtilt Confratute Contributors,
I cannot begin to express my gratitude for sending me on the trip of a lifetime. I spent five fun-filled days at the University of Connecticut studying Renzulli Learning, a gifted and talented education program that is geared towards enrichment based learning for all students. It is the 34th year that Confratute has been offered by Joe Renzulli and Sally Reis. Most of the people that I came in contact with have attended the conference year after year. Now, I understand why! I wish everyone could experience the love for education and children that radiated throughout the campus!
Each morning I attended a session where various keynote speakers from around the world shared their expertise and wisdom. The afternoons consisted of two different classes that I chose, Strategies for Differentiating Curriculum and Plugging into Creative Technology Outlets. I left each session with excitement, as well as with a wealth of strategies and knowledge to bring back to Moss Haven. I also got the opportunity to talk with Joe Renzulli and Sally Reis, one-on-one, on several occasions. They offered guidance and tips specifically for MHE. I admire their genuine dedication and love for education.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to attend Confratute 2011! This was a conference that I’ve always wanted to attend, but I knew that I could not do it on my own. Your contributions, kind words, and trust turned my dream trip into reality. I appreciate it more than you know! I am blessed beyond words and forever grateful!
Moss Haven Teacher, 5th/6th Grade
Still having trouble writing a thank you letter? Here are some more examples.
Ashley would also like to thank Starbucks. They donated some coffee to help with the campaign’s promotion.
Posted by: G.Case
Campaign highlight video.
Posted by: G.Case