New Tools: "Thunderclap" Spreads the Word

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Using Thunderclap as a launch tool, “BLOW MINDS, TEACH STEM,” created a network of 750 Twitter and Facebook users. They sent out an automated message at the exact same time amounting to a thunderclap that reached 13 million social media feeds.

On September 16, 2014 STEM was suddenly trending on Twitter—a major feat for the organizations behind an effort to recruit more first-rate science, technology, engineering, and math teachers. The Corporation’s grantee, 100Kin10, had just launched a public awareness campaign called “Blow Minds, Teach STEM” and to spread the word via social media, the nonprofit made use of an increasingly popular technique called synchronized messaging. In this case, the website Thunderclap blasted a message that reached nearly 13 million people via Twitter and Facebook.

Sounds complicated? It’s not, according to 100Kin10 executive director and co-founder Talia Milgrom-Elcott, and most important, it worked. Here’s the story behind their success: 

Why did you use synchronized messaging and Thunderclap?

TME: We used it to help launch our campaign "Blow Minds, Teach STEM." That campaign brought 35 of our 200 100Kin10 partners together to launch a national effort to recruit more STEM undergraduates to become teachers. We hired a communications firm to help us develop the campaign, and our partners raised $135,000 to pay for it. “Blow Minds. Teach STEM” includes a dedicated website plus a fun, easy-to-share video aimed at our target audience.

Where did the Thunderclap platform fit in?

TME: Thunderclap was a tactic that helped get attention. We paid a modest fee to register, then we had twelve days to convince at least 500 people to sign onto the campaign through their Twitter or Facebook accounts. If we didn’t hit that number by the September 16 deadline, we couldn’t launch. It was absolutely crazy! We all started mapping networks, thinking who should be on it, how we should reach them, and went to town.  At first there were only a few people, then it quickly started to accelerate, which was incredibly exciting and nerve wracking.

What happened on September 16 when the Thunderclap went out?

TME: By 1pm, we were all on our Twitter feeds and just watching this whole roll-out, one tweet after another going live. Tweets from singer-songwriter John Legend, the comedian Michael Ian Black, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the founder of Reddit, the Goldieblox children’s game, N.E.A., and eventually the White House. The party happened, the launch was live, and then we began the real work of getting people to the website, getting them to fill out forms online, and sharing information with our program partners.

Watch the “BLOW MINDS, TEACH STEM” video, share, and consider becoming a STEM teacher:

How do you measure success?

TME: Our original goal was 100 website visitors filling out forms in the first month. We got that many in the first two weeks of the campaign, and one out of 16 visitors to the site clicked through to one of the STEM teaching programs offered by our partners.

Any advice for others considering synchronized messaging?

TME: Thunderclap is a great way of launching a campaign. It’s really powerful. Make sure the language that you use is equally powerful in getting people to do whatever it is you want them to do. The call to action must be super clear. We might have been stronger in that regard, but overall, we got national attention on Upworthy, Ted.com, and other websites in a way our partners never could have done on their own.