#Tubeathon livestream event: Telethon for the Twitter age

Friday, 20 December 2013

Shira Lazar (@shiralazar), host of the YouTube show @WhatsTrending, remembers watching Jerry Lewis telethons growing up. These hours-long, annual fundraisers featured entertainers and encouraged viewers to pledge contributions to a charity by phoning in. She and @WhatsTrending co-founder @DamonBerger wanted to create their own telethon for the social media age — “an updated charity telethon really using Twitter as the center of it,” Berger said.

The second annual Tube-A-Thon livestream holiday event (#Tubeathon), which took place on December 12, was just that. The two-hour-long program generated more than 50,000 Tweets that donated money to @CovenantHouse, a charity that aids homeless children across the U.S.

For each Tweet with the sponsored hashtags #Tubeathon and #FiestaMovement, Ford — promoting its @fordfiesta car — donated $1 to @CovenantHouse.

Lazar and more than 100 YouTube and Vine stars reiterated this incentive during the #Tubeathon; Tweets sent anytime that day unlocked the donation, not just those during the live program.

Twitter was integrated throughout the #Tubeathon telecast. The performers live-tweeted and their hashtags and handles were displayed, as were a multitude of Tweets. In addition, projected on the back of the stage was a Mass Relevance Twitter wall that featured Tweets with the hashtags. “It was uniquely Twitter centric, not only the donation engine of it but the interaction with the crowd was solely based on Twitter,” Berger said.

Like last year’s event, the variety show-esque telecast included musical and comedy performances from YouTube stars. This year Vine stars were on hand too. “Bringing in a new type of celebrity was important,” Lazar said. “It was exciting for us to bring them into the fold.”

Lazar and the performers did all they could to get people tweeting with the correct hashtags to donate money. They read questions from Twitter on air and answered them verbally. They also had a “Tweet Bank,” a digital-age version of a phone bank. Five laptops were set up, and rotating shifts of talent would log into Twitter to participate in Q&As with fans and promote and fuel use of the hashtags.

“We had really interesting engagement around different questions,” Berger said. “We were very serious about using this as a conversation metric not just as a gimmick for donations.”

@WhatsTrending promoted the livestream leading up to the big day and then live-tweeted throughout the event, frequently using @mentions of performers, posting updates of who was performing and retweeting performers’ live Tweets.

It proved to be a successful event, nearly tripling the 18,000 Tweets during the previous year’s #Tubeathon.

Do you know of other innovative uses of Twitter? Write to [email protected].