You can make a Thunderclap! But should you?

You can make a Thunderclap! But should you?

For those of you think that Thunderclaps are only something that can cause you to lose power, they are also a service that lets your supporters sign up to essentially donate their Facebook and Twitter feeds to your cause, releasing a flood of tweets and Facebook status updates at a predetermined time. This can help your non-profit or political campaign gain power on social media, which is why you should consider it as a tactic.

The service is easy to use, free, and only generates tweets and posts from users who opt-in (no spam). So should you use it? I answer, “Yes, under the following conditions:”

1) You have something happening at a particular time. Thunderclaps pack a punch because they have a deadline. Hundreds of thousands of tweets and shares happening all at once can help your message trend on Twitter or get noticed on Facebook. But the difference between a random person sharing your content (a tree falls in the woods) and a huge wave of content that gets you trending on Twitter or makes the media and blogosphere take note is all about timing. For a Thunderclap to really work you need something time-sensitive for it to broadcast: ideally a live event.

2) You have something happening at a particular URL. The purpose of Thunderclap’s flood of messages is to get people to go to a particular link (or, more rarely a live event – but social media posts, while cool, won’t actually get you any more attendees if your event is miles away). So if you have a live event, what you need is a webpage where people can watch, comment and re-promote your message again without being physically at the event. Just getting people to see the same message over and over again is way less effective if there’s nowhere for them to go and nothing for them to do.

3) You have a message that is Tweet-able. Because Thunderclaps are optimized for Twitter, the most important thing is having some message that works in 120 characters (the other 20 are needed for the link). So yes, hashtags are key, and in your message needs to be short, clear and powerful. Thunderclap recently nixed including usernames (e.g. @enviroaction) because they are considered spam. By the way Thunderclap will append the link automatically so you don’t need to type it in your message, but you do need a phrase like “Watch live at” to introduce it.

4) You have some other plan to drive conversation on social media. Thunderclaps are great, but they are not a substitute for organic conversation around events, such as live-tweeting, Facebook shares, and other communications. People CAN edit the Thunderclap’s message, but most won’t do so. You may want to consider also sending out links to sample tweets and other ways of driving traffic to social media, so it won’t be just copies of the same message over and over again.

Here’s our non-profit client Environmental Action’s recent example: “I stand with 100,000 today supporting a fracking moratorium in PA! #DontFrackPA Watch live at” That link takes you to our live event page, where we embedded a Google Hangout with video live from the scene.  As you can see, we met all 3 conditions: a tweetable message, a URL, and a concurrent live event. If your action also meets these criteria, please consider Thunderclap.

Here’s our client Florida Watch Action’s past example: “Stop the #homerulehypocrites – Tell Florida leg vote NO on HB 655 & protect local control.” That link (used to) take you to a petition page calling on the Florida legislature NOT to revoke home rule in the final week of the session. Even though it’s not an event, this works because there was such a hard deadline – if we held off the Republicans for one more week, by shining a spotlight on the issue, we win. Too bad Thunderclaps can’t target specific Twitter accounts, or we could have had even more impact by tweeting at the Majority Leader directly or mentioning his account in our tweet.

If you’ve got an idea that you think can work for a Thunderclap – give it a try (or ask us for help). Here’s what to expect when you’re thunderclapping if you’re in the mood to experiment.

1) You need to tell people about the Thunderclap. People by and large do not troll for Thunderclaps on their own, and as always the best way to get people to take an online action is to email it to them (and share it to your social media audiences). Also you need to have enough people take action to “tip” the Thunderclap and make it take place at all. Not sure of your support? Use the smallest possible amount (100 people) as your goal. But you must get at least 100 people to take part in order for this to work — so ask early and often to hit your goal.

2) You should expect engagement rates somewhere between a petition and a financial ask. Because you are asking people to do something a bit more personal and public — essentially donate their personal social media account for a few minutes at a pre-arranged time — and less familiar then simply signing a petition – you won’t see engagement rates at 20-50% like you might for a simple “click here to sign” email. Plus, the simple fact is that not everybody has a Facebook profile or Twitter account (though lots of people do, and the ratio is probably high – like 70%+ of your most engaged email list members). You should also expect to hear some privacy concerns from members, since Thunderclap asks for ‘permission’ to connect with their social media accounts. Anytime there’s a login step in an action, you’re going to hear about it. As always, the best advice is just to be clear up front with members why you’re asking them to do this thing, and make the Thunderclap part of a multi-channel, multi-part message campaign that includes other actions like signing, donating, attending an event etc.

3) You should expect far fewer clicks than the total “social reach” of your Thunderclap. Thunderclap counts the reach of all of the Facebook and Twitter followers of people who sign up. But of course people’s Facebook and Twitter posts don’t reach their entire friend base, and only a portion of those will click. If it’s really important to get a lot of clicks on the link itself, email it to people, don’t rely on the Thunderclap as your only means of outreach.

4) You should expect a boost to your social media profile along with whatever link you want people to click. People can tweet or Facebook it once they sign up for the campaign, as well as clicking on your Twitter feed from the campaign page. Also Thunderclap will sort (and even allow you to download as a .CSV) your Thunderclap’s supporters by how many Twitter followers and Facebook friends they have. You can’t upload the .csv into Facebook or Twitter like you could if it was emails, but you CAN see who has large social media followings and be sure you are engaging with them.

5) You should expect to “trend” on Thunderclap. At one point, PowerThru Consulting had 2 of the 3 “trending” campaigns on Thunderclap. Since it is a relatively new service, you should be able to reach their threshold easily, which will result in Thunderclap doing a bit of extra promotion, as you see in this tweet.

A couple cautionary tips about Thunderclaps: your date must be at least 3 days from when you set it up, and also it needs to go through Thunderclap’s internal approval process before you can share with supporters. From our experience Thunderclap staff are prompt and helpful with reviews during the weekday, but not available on the weekend, so be sure to take that into account in your planning process.

Have more questions about using a Thunderclap effectively for your non-profit organization or political campaign? Contact PowerThru today!

One Comment
  1. […] to push Congress.”  In conjunction with using the hashtag iMarch, this was the largest political thunderclap yet, reaching over 45 million users.  This is a prime example of how social media can be used in […]

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