How we created a Twitter viral

24Mar09

A few weeks ago Boy van Amstel and I had funny idea for a twitter mash-up. We would basically measure your twitter popularity in the form of a giant penis. Better know as the e-Penis. Funny enough? Well in order to see if we really created something to talk about we registered a URL: www.epenis.nl and we uploaded the e-Penis app with a few ‘share-this’ buttons. The first button was to post it on Twitter, and the second one was to Digg it. Would people share this site with their friends? How fast would it spread? All question a marketer would like to know when creating a viral marketing campaign right?

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In our first day we managed to reach about 100 of our own friends on twitter. But for it to be really successful we needed to reach some people on twitter with a huge following base. We used our own share this button a number of times on all sorts of people. And after a few tries @michielveenstra, 2500 followers, picked up our message and reposted our website on his own twitter stream on a friday night. Overnight we reached 1500 hits. But as it turned out our biggest traffic came from a porn-blog! Apperently a webmaster from this well know porn-blog picked up our site after seeing it in the stream from @michielveenstra. In the weekend we managed to get around 8000 hits from this porn site. But on monday morning it really took off. Hordes of time wasting desk workers measured their body part. From that point on it really became a trend on twitter. Our ‘twitter this’ button was used a few times every few minutes now. Because people often measured the popularity off well known people they eventually couldn’t help but brag about it too (Cough @stephenfry, 336.599 followers). This caused Great Great Brittian to swarm our website and spread it even more. At this point North and South-America just woke up.

Btw the website was at this moment stll being hosted on Boy van Amstel’s server, placed at his parents’ home. Utilizing almost all of the “massive” 1Mbit bandwith. Thank god his little brother didn’t complain. The reason this was even possible is that epenis.nl has no server-side scripts. It’s all jQuery, HTML, CSS and (small) images. We actually reduced the size of the website by half, by grabbing jquery.js from google.com.

At monday around 4 pm, CET, we finally managed to get the word Penis into the Twitter trending topics. A huge success because now people twittered about why the word penis was even in this list. Generating even more traffic to our site when they found out we were causing it.

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Some people saw a connection between Spring Break, which probaly helped accepting the fact the word penis was a part of the list. Twitter however didn’t agree with that. After a few hours we saw some messages from people who were complaining about their posts disappearing, not much later penis wasn’t trending anymore. Did Twitter screw with us here? We can’t be sure. But the damage already had been done, we had already spread to the American continent. A couple of big American Twitter users like @MrsKutchers, thats Demi Moore (257,150 followers) posted it later in the evening, that really generated lots of traffic and added a large amount of females to our users.

The next morning we had almost 40k hits. At this point we called our viral a success, we expected it to die out rather soon. But we were wrong! To our suprise it kept on going steadily. Around 14:00 there suddenly was a huge spike in our traffic. As it appeared, @Guykawaski (92,399 followers) was giving a keynote during SES New York about ‘Twitter As A Tool For Social Media’. Lots of people posted live messages during his talk and as it turns out also about our little project…

@Searchcowboys: Guykawasaki shows epenis.nl and says it’s more powerfull then twittercounter :) #sesny’

Some other stuff made us laugh too:

@PaulIAm: Darwin just backed the car up to his grave, connected a hose to the tailpipe and took a deep breath…http://www.epenis.nl/’

‘@Retecool: There’s lots of stuff out there that figures out your Twitter ranking, value, mojo, etc. But let’s cut the crap it’s all about who’s has the big swinging dick, right?’

@Vatikan: Scheiße, @satan ‘s ePenis ist länger als meiner http://www.epenis.nl/’

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At this moment we’re still trying to figure out what the hell we’re are going to with it. To conclude, here is a list of the things we learned:

  1. Use Sneezers, find Twitter users with respect and high amounts of followers. (Seth Godin’s Purple Cow)
  2. Post your viral at the right time. We had Spring Break, the SESNY Keynote by Guykawasaki and the usual monday morning boredom going for us.
  3. Maximize sharability. Our ‘Post on Twitter” button was used extremly well.
  4. Make it simple. There are no lists, links, pages. It does only one thing verry well. (KISS: Keep it Simple Stupid)
  5. Sex Sells

Thanks for reading,
Barry Borsboom & Boy van Amstel



21 Responses to “How we created a Twitter viral”

  1. This is really awesome Barry! You only need to find a way to monetize it now :-)

  2. 2 Kort

    Great job with this. Funny and useful. Hey, you should borrow and advertising tagline from another product (ExtenZe) and modify it a bit — “The only REAL way guaranteed to increase your size!”
    =^D

  3. 3 Barry

    Yea its a shame we didn’t monetized it early on. Google-ads denied our request for adds on epenis.nl. And i don’t think we can cash on big time now that the biggest hype is over. anyway we had a good laugh and so did thousands of twitter users.

  4. Great idea, and well executed. Hats off to you both.

    I’m also quite impressed at how much usage your Twitter button was getting, I’ll definitely place mine more prominently going forward.

    Cheers!

  5. 5 sam

    mine 1.07 :( so sad hahaha

  6. Good stuff. I wrote a post about it here and photoshopped the fake result of a famous penis amputee, John Wayne Bobbit. http://mattb4rd.com/eloi/?p=340

  7. 7 anonymous

    You should have named the twitter e-penis the “woodpecker”

  8. 8 Tinh

    It is so funny but useful post, thanks

  9. respect & very well done

  10. 10 Marcus

    Muy machista. Con esto dejan a las minas afuera.

  11. Nive one!!! :) very good use of humor in an article, liked it! thumb up from me!!!

  12. I recon you should try and think up a follow up app, it might not be quite as viral as the first, but you could ride off the back of the existing publicity. I dunno, Twitter balls or something.

    If you actually do “twitter balls” and become rich and famous etc – don’t forget to tell everyone it was my idea :)

  13. Ha – excellent tool. I think I may have a little maggot at the moment though..

  14. She is also nearly always shown as completely lusting after him while
    enjoying every moment. So sit down and put your hand on your lower stomach.
    In order to watch for free, just find the link below for the stream details now.


  1. 1 How we created a Twitter viral | DEEP PURPLE
  2. 2 measure the size of your twitter e-penis | jencorbett.com
  3. 3 John Wayne Bobbit's Twitter ePenis | mattb4rd.com
  4. 4 ZEIT ONLINE - Man muss ja nicht immer reden » Wie lang ist Ihrer?
  5. 5 John Wayne Bobbit’s Twitter ePenis » Mattb4rd’s JugglingApples.Com
  6. 6 Twitter And Me » How big is your e-penis?
  7. 7 10" de atenção - Shared on Google Reader - April 8, 2009 | the worst kind of thief

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