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March 27, 2008

How I made $8.33 with Twitter

by Charlene Li

I'm often asked if Twitter is important or not, and while I'm not a major booster, I fall on the side that it's an idea and technology to watch closely. A conversation with a colleague yesterday sparked me to write this post, which has been rattling around in my brain for a while. It shows how Twitter connects people in new ways previously not possible. 

Twitter is somewhat of a new thing for me -- I'm what is described  as a "binge twitter-er", in that I go for long periods when I don't tweet anything. I'm getting a little better, using Twitter to ask questions or to share a post or link. But I do think it's particularly interesting in that it's a unique communication tool, and I thought I'd illustrate it with this example.

I'm in the midst of a launching the Groundswell book and realized that given all of the upcoming travel, that I would really benefit from a Clear pass, which allows me to skip to the front of the security lanes. I'm lucky in that the airport closest to me, SFO, has a Clear Lanes at pretty much every security area, so I can fly through. I have to say, I am absolutely loving it.

During the sign-up process (which I did back in January), I noticed an area where I can enter a discount code. A little bit of searching turned up that I could get a referral code from someone who already had a Clear pass, and we would both get a free month of service.

But how to find someone? I figured there had to be someone I knew amongst my frequent flyer friends and colleagues who had a pass....but I didn't have the time to send out an email, nor did I want to spam everyone. That's when I decided to Twitter the following:

Charlene Li charleneli   Signing up for flyclear.com. Does anyone have a referral code I can use? I think you'll get 1 month free. FCFS.

christopher carfi ccarfi   @charleneli: i think @anildash uses flyclear.

6315878_normal anildash i *love* Clear. My referrer code is *********, and i blogged about it here: http://tinyurl.com/2fhf9r 05:12 PM January 16, 2008 

(Note: Clear members aren't allowed to broadcast/publish their discount numbers, so I removed it from Anil's reply)

Now this is important to note. The time between when I put out my first tweet and Anil's response was 19 minutes. That's pretty fast, especially considering that I most of that delay was me getting around to sending Anil the direct message in the first place.

Imagine what it would have taken for me to track down, email/spam my contacts to hunt down that code. So the benefit to me was a month of Clear's $100 service, or $8.33.

I'd love to hear how Twitter has helped you get something done -- beyond sharing links, ideas, or communicating with people in your network.

And if you're thinking about getting a Clear pass, let me (or Anil) know and we can "make" another $8.33 together!


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I sold my car the other day and was looking for a trustworthy car salesman in the Nashville area. I sent a Tweet to my Twitter network and had two responses within minutes - both recommending the same company. It's a great tool!

Jacob Morgan

Hi Charlene,

Interesting post. I don't personally have any examples to share. However, I did witness Jason Calacanis get one of his Mahalo pages to the front page of a digg category in just 3 minutes using twitter/live streaming/etc.

On a lighter note, it was a pleasure meeting you the other night at the blogger dinner. I am going to finish reading your book this weekend and will then write up a review. I'll let you know when it's up.

Talk to you soon,


Todd Mintz

I know I've given folks SMX conference discount codes via Twitter that have saved them over $100 in admission.

Ontario Emperor

I don't have specific examples that fit your request, but I can testify to the speed of Twitter, especially for discovering information about disasters. There was an earthquake in Japan a few days ago, and news about the earthquake was being tweeted about well before any news agency could get around to covering it.

Twitter's 140 character limitation is its strength.

Dave Coustan

Twitter definitely helped me and some other folks through the recent freak tornadoes that ripped through Atlanta. It was a better pipeline of information in the moments just after the storms hit, when cellular voice networks weren't working, and kept me company with communication from friends across the country while the power was out.

More in my narrative here:

Brick Marketing

We swear we can't go to a major blog without seeing some talk of Twitter - still trying to figure it all out on this end but seeing it hard to build a network since many people we know do not use the service which creates a roadblock for us in truly being able to understand how we could benefit from it...with all this Twitter talk, we feel pressured to catch on a bit more quickly!

Charlene Li

Thanks everyone for sharing - and Dave, extraordinary story about Twitter being a literal lifeline during the tornadoes.

Ann Wendell

Twitter totally rocks. Material goods wise so far I've obtained (free) through judicious tweeting 2 books (1 novel, one non-fiction), an awesome iPod speaker set and a chicken salad sandwich. Then there are the conferences I learned about, cool local tweeps I've connected with, technical computer advice, breaking news, movie and band recommendations, and the 100s of urls that I paste into an email to send home every day. I can't even remember life without twitter...at least I don't want to ;-)

Matthew Oliphant

I got someone hired at my company via Twitter.


I'll make about $1000 because of it and I have a cool new coworker.


While reading this article, and I was struck that it probably was relevant to a social networking site, HumanBook, which has over 250 million profiles of people, including you, your friends, classmates and relatives.
The HumanBook is a mutually managed people directory. People list their own real-life connections, and other connections they have awareness of, to create a lifelong network. The network houses the connections, and then the collaboratively updated address book nurtures them, assuring that they need never be lost. HumanBook is the tool that will allow you to cherish and sustain all of the connections of your whole life. So if you're interested, go to http://www.HumanBook.com and find your profile today!


I think you've hit on one of the key elements of twitter: it's a realtime utility. Yes, it keeps a history, which is lovely for catching up, and great for future-robot-alien archae-anthropologists

Joe Ciarallo

Hi Charlene, I was very reluctant to jump into Twitter at first, but since blogging for mediabistro, I've found it a great way to get in touch with people quickly, as you mentioned in your post.

Case in point: mediabistro wanted me to interview Robert Scoble as he is speaking at our conference this May. I've had a hard time tracking him down given his schedule, even though he did commit to an interview by email.

Last week I saw a tweet that he was hanging with the Fast Company crew near my office, so I hopped down there, got to chat with him and his producer and do a 5 min. interview. This would have never happened without Twitter.

Looking forward to tomorrow tomorrow night.

Mary Branscombe

But you can do the same with blogging - social or not - without disturbing people. If you want to get a Virgin flying club membership and you cite me, we both get extra miles. Rather than twitting at people I put it in my blog and two friends have done it so far. If you want to sign up for Mozy and get free space, you Google for a discount code; my blog on the subject must come pretty high up the list because a lot of strangers have used the code - and only some have left messages saying so. Recommendations about products and services - I'd ask my network. A discount code for a service I already want to use - why limit myself to just the people I already know who don't mind being disturbed one more time? I'd rather save their attention for something that matters like a proper conversation!

Ryan Hill

Good stuff. There's a little known community out there that seems to be on the rise. It's built around the idea that folks like to help other folks. It's designed for the very situation you found yourself in, Charlene: Your mobile, you need an answer quickly, and you don't have the means to find it yourself. Members of the community can text the outfit with a question and other members who happen to be logged in are alerted of your question and track down your answer for you. There's unwritten social pressure to 'put your time in' and answer as many questions as you ask.

The community is called Mosio. URL is www.mosio.com. Definitely check it out. The more people the merrier....literally.

I've used it for everything from settling bets over useless trivia (i.e. What's the name of that movie about orchids with Chris Cooper in it) to more pressing questions (i.e. what's the address of my voting preinct if my address is xxxxxx). Answers tend to come faster in the evening when more folks are online, but even when I post a question in the morning, I've yet to wait more than a couple of minutes.

Beauty of Mosio is that your question gets a big seed vs. only going to folks on your network. The entire Mosio community can see your question. Also, sometimes you have a dumb question. There's value in being able to post a dumb question to a bunch of folks you don't know, and who don't know you. It's like the guy who wears the easter bunny costume on the side of the road to advertise a furniture store going out of business sale...ask him to take his mask off and you'll have a problem...

Only question I've ever asked that I wasn't able to get an answer on was "what was the first video to get 1 million views on youtube?" Anybody?

Marilyn Pratt

Found out about your Blogger NYC meet-up through a tweet by jowyang, then discovered that it was "sold out", then asked a twitter friend to dm jowyang to see if it would be possible to "show up". He did and I was emboldened to go to meet you. Outcome: I now have a copy of your very interesting Groundswell (worth the trip to NY)and had the pleasure to meet a number of folks I've had correspondences with for months now but have never met face-to-face. All through twitter.

Paul Chaney

First, congrats on Groundswell. I just purchased my copy. Read BL's recommendation and figured, if BL likes it, it's bound to be good. :-)

OK, my Twitter tale... On more than one occasion I've put out a call for help and received immediate responses. Yesterday, for example, I had a question about the CMS app Joomla. I received a couple of replies at least and, today, am going to be on the phone with a Joomla maven.

I agree that Twitter's real-time nature makes it useful, but that can also be a negative at times when the conversation moves so fast it's hard to keep up. Tweets get lost in the mix. Thank God for TWhirl's retweet function.

Gerald Buckley

I met Scoble, Winer, Jas, Sifry and MacLeod in London thanks to Twitter. Probably wouldn't have known we were going to be in London same time without it.

We've had so many local TweetUps that it's insane. Turns out there are lots of us discovering each other all over the world via Twitter (and services like it).

My LinkedIn network is healthy in small part to my twitterings. People "know" me and I "know" them.

As for Clear... Great program!

Jim Adams

I use twitter to communicate with our employees. The other day our email went down. Twitter was the perfect way to let our remote employees know that we know the mail is down and we should have it up with 30 minutes. It saved time, phone calls, and anxiety of the unknown.

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com

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