Tweeting for Beer Money

Entering college, I was looking for a way to earn some weekly beer money, and being the lazy kid that I was, I wasn’t trying to leave my dorm room to do so. I had a friend who ran a large and profitable Twitter account, so I figured it would be a fun endeavor to try to start one for myself. I created a comedy niche account with a teenage male audience and just began by tweeting as much content as possible. In the beginning, it was a slow and difficult process to amass a following, as your tweets only receive minimal impressions. By the advice of my friend, I began investing money into paying larger Twitter accounts (100,000-1,000,000 followers) with a similar audience for promotion. Through Twitter DMs and PayPal transactions, I purchased retweets off of these larger accounts in 15 minute intervals, so that my content would be displayed to their audience who would hopefully follow my account in return.

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Day by day, by publishing tweets up to five times per hour, 14 hours per day, I began seeing growth on my account. I amassed my first 10,000 followers in about a month of paid promotion, a milestone which was important. At this point I began to post an occasional advertisement tweet amidst my content, in which I would be paid somewhere around $0.01 per click on the link. This was not enough to recoup the money I was shelling out for publicity, but it did help me earn a few bucks here and there while I grew my account larger. At this point, my account was large enough to begin “trading retweets” with other similar sized accounts, a way to help each other grow without having to pay. On top of continually posting content, this required us to manually retweet three of each other’s tweets (two content and one advertisement) for 20 minutes at a time, rotating between about 15-30 accounts each day. I steadily gained a few hundred followers daily for the next couple of months, and with every new retweet and follower, my tweets gained more impressions.

At around 75,000 followers, I began to really see growth and some income. At this point, I was large enough myself that other small accounts began to DM me asking to purchase promotion off of my account. This was an easy revenue stream because all I had to do was retweet a few of their tweets and keep them up for about an hour; however, it wasn’t consistent enough to rely on. So to supplement this, I used Squarespace to design a simple website in which I would create little content “galleries” to link people to through tweets. These galleries would range anywhere from “top 10 basketball players all-time by position” to “most expensive celebrity homes” and “strangest facts about penguins,” as well as everything in between – whatever I thought would generate high click through rates. On this website, I applied for Google Adsense and was accepted, which meant that Google would place related ads (like the one pictured below for hotels) on my page based on ad words, and I would be paid per click on each ad. By mixing in several advertisement tweets per day amidst the content, I now had a relatively steady weekly allowance for beer and pizza, all without leaving my dorm room.

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While I have since “retired” from a life of obsessively tweeting and retweeting mildly funny, often raunchy, and usually copied-from-somewhere content, I hold a few takeaways from the countless days and nights I’ve wasted away on the app. For one, I learned a little bit (not too much) about interacting with an audience and figuring out what types of headlines and content attract positive feedback. Secondly, I have determined that social media really can end up providing some form of monetary income for those who seek it. And lastly, I have realized that many (or most) of your favorite themed accounts are usually a lot less cool or original as you once may have thought (or they’re run by pretty average kids who aren’t all that funny).

10 comments

  1. Wow! Really great post! I love your personal experience. Of course, what you are describing is that Twitter is really just a really big Ponzi scheme for attention that reinforces itself. I actually have suspected that is the vast amount of the activity that is taking place on the platform – interaction for the sake of interaction, not for actual value.

  2. This is awesome!! I loved hearing about the journey to essentially becoming “twitter famous.” I didn’t realize how much thought and strategy went into these types of accounts–sounds fairly time consuming. I wonder how many of these accounts are run by college kids looking to make an extra buck.

  3. This is a really cool incite in to the interworking of social media accounts with large follower bases. I always assumed accounts just naturally gained followers and then started getting paid for sponsored posted, I see now how naive that was. I am very impressed with the amount of work you put into the twitter and accompanying website, really shows the length college kids go for alcohol money.

  4. Amazing post! I never knew this could be possible just by taking some time (or a lot) on Social Media. I have tried to gain followers on Instagram on a personal blog about food, but to be honest don’t even know where to start. Its interesting to know that I could and that it fairly simple.
    On another note, I do think that the activity and posts and the people you follow make Twitter a Ponzi scheme as Prof Kane mentions or a great too for daily news and quickest news.

  5. Really interesting personal experience, Paul. The early work you did clearly paid off when you eventually became much larger. I had no idea this was how Twitter users helped each other get so big! Professor Kane’s point about interaction for the sake of interaction is pretty clear here, you weren’t really doing anything revolutionary and yet you still made money off it. Would you ever consider going back to it?

  6. This is a great story and I often find myself having the eerie feeling that I have seen the content posted on some of the most popular instagram pages before. One of the most popular accounts, Tank Sinatra is actually just run by a regular guy and has a lot of creative cool content that has led to his massive growth. It’s so cool that you’ve been able to actually fund a small part of college all through the internet. Congrats!

  7. Really awesome perspective! I actually have started to notice this as our social platforms have become so meme heavy. As my roommates and I, tag and share them we have found the same meme with a different picture in multiple different cases. I am quite impressed with the 15+ accounts and can’t imagine the frustration that may have cause but it is awesome you gained so much out of this. I’m curios tho, what your most clicked on article or gallery was- as I am a sucker for them!

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. This was a really cool post! Crazy how all of that works. I definitely understand what you mean that a lot of the content is repeated–I’ve definitely noticed this on the accounts that I follow on social media. That’s cool personal experience that you were able to use adsense and get paid for clicks!

  9. Wow this was an amazing post- I gained real insight into this whole Twitter economy. I had no idea this was the process you went through to make money through to Twitter. I would be curious as to how much time you spent overall versus how much money you made in total. I wonder what the break-even analysis is for large Twitter accounts: how many followers do you have to accumulate before it is actually a sustainable full-time job? I also really liked how you spoke about your target audience, and had to tailor your material toward them. I would love to hear why you choose teenage boys! I am making an assumption here–but is it because they are an easy one in terms of material?

  10. Great post! I loved the personal story behind it-I’ve always wondered how Twitter accounts manage to build their follow base to a place where they are actually making money off of their content. I follow a fair amount of these users on Instagram, and it’s increasingly becoming more apparent when they are posting strictly to be paid for the exposure.

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