Twitter Week: Using Twitter Without Knowing You’re Using Twitter

Twitter is great, but its especially great when its mobile. Whether you update via text message or use a client for your phone, being able to update the world with what you’re doing anywhere in the world anytime is pretty crazy.

My friend and occasional hotel room crasher Brad Ward wrote a post last fall about Twitter and its been stuck in my mind ever since.

In it, he talks about a way to market your Twitter accounts to students. He recommends using Twitter’s text messaging powers to accomplish this. He says:

Twitter was essentially designed and built around SMS, but seems to veered away from that. Let’s not forget about this powerful feature.

In essence, you can get certain audiences, especially students, to use Twitter without ever knowing they are using Twitter.

Here’s how.

Once you have a Twitter account, and you’re feeding it content using a service like TwitterFeed or by posting at, you advertise to students that if they text follow youraccountname to 40404, they will get updates on their phone. That’s it. Not once have you mentioned you are using Twitter to send updates.

We started doing this last fall at my institution for people to get athletics updates on their phones and a decent number of people signed up. Now, when a new story is posted by our athletics staff, followers of that account get a text message with a headline or the score of a contest. The people getting the SMS messages don’t need to know what Twitter is or how it works, they just get the updates as regular texts. Don’t forget – after all that setup – you still have a regular Twitter feed you can promote and people can follow. It’s a win-win.

We’re rolling this out over the summer to incoming students as part of our orientation program. We’ve set up a Twitter account (@alleghenyorient) for our orientation team and we’ve trained them in how to post updates from the web as well as from their phones as they’re out and about around campus during the program.

Now that we’ve set up the team and the account, it’s time to start telling the students about it. We’ve posted on our Orientation site with a link to our regular Twitter page as well as how they text a follow message to 40404. We’re also going to start promoting it in our Class of 2013 pages.


We just finished a postcard being mailed to all students giving them some dates and instructions, and we included the text messaging instructions on the printed piece. Here is a close-up of the Twitter information:


That mailing is dropping any day now to students, and I’m interested to see how many people sign up for it. I’ll post updates here over the summer.

4 thoughts on “Twitter Week: Using Twitter Without Knowing You’re Using Twitter”

  1. Quick note on this – Twitter has actually changed things since I posted those screenshots. It’s response to the ‘follow bradjward’ now says: “Welcome to Twitter!” So while not quite as ‘stealth’ as it once was, still just as effective and powerful.

    Great post!

  2. Wo, I really like this.

    There is one thing I don’t understand in terms of logistics…

    If the person doesn’t have a Twitter account, they can still receive updates on their cellphones as long as the person they follow have Twitter?

    Is that correct?

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