The Story Behind @Dropbox’s 58,449 Retweets.

Before I started YesGraph, I was helping Dropbox on their growth team. I ran a quick campaign on Twitter for Dropbox that produced the most successful single tweet ever published from the @dropbox twitter account. Here is a quick story behind the tweet, and why it worked so well.

lots of tweets


Dropbox is in an interesting position. It solves problem many people don’t know they have. It does so magically in the background, so you don’t really think about how you use it. People love it, tell their friends about it, and can earn extra space that way.

But because the product is so magical, it lacks the same surface area of other products. This makes messaging about features hard, including about how to earn extra space. Those reading this post might find it hard to believe, but many users don’t even know there is a referral program.

Part of the effort of boosting usage was just getting the word out. This campaign was part of that effort. We wanted to blog about how to get more space because that helps users and Dropbox’s growth. The tweet was a prize attached to sharing a tweet that announced that post.

Micro Content Contest

People love promotions and contests. I personally find it odd, but it proves to be an incredibly effective at driving some kinds of behavior.

Like building a ship in a bottle, running a promotion over twitter requires fitting a lot into a very constrained space. In this case, we promised some free space to someone that retweeted it. If we just published the tweet about the blog post and then mentioned the content in the blog post, it would not have worked. The message of the contest was shared within the tweet. This is a subtle but important difference because Twitter is an information network. If your message isn’t self-contained, it isn’t propagated.

It was also short enough to be manually retweeted. You need to leave room for a short comment plus “ RT @username”. The official Twitter retweet stats don’t cover retweets in this format: “oh gimme!!! RT @dropbox A guide on how to get more free space with Dropbox! Retweet for a chance to get +100GB!”

This means there are many other retweets we’re not even seeing. Did you know you can get stats on any link? Just add a “+” on the end of the link in the tweet to find that this campaign earned 135K clicks:

Rabid Fans

Another reason this works so well is that Dropbox is an amazing product with a large number of devoted fans. That kind of adoration means people will help spread the message and want to tell friends about Dropbox. Dropbox also has a precious resource with bonus space. The amount in this prize was the highest amount of space you get buy at the time, and many fans couldn’t afford it. This made it really, really desirable.

In other promotions I helped run, we chose to give away 1TB of space, which is far more than 100GB. In this case, I was worried that people wouldn’t know what “TB” meant, and the smaller incentive was probably enough. I’m shocked every time I hear a stat on how little tech jargon normal people understand.

Picking a Winner

It turns out that picking a winner wasn’t simple. At the time, Twitter’s API didn’t return all retweets. They literally returned a random subset of 100 retweets. It didn’t even tell you the number of retweets on the front end, just that it was more than 100. It was only until they fixed this that I even knew the tweet did as well as it did. I wonder if the message is still propagating?

To pick a winner, I wrote a quick API client that pulled those 100 random retweets again and again. I let it run for a few hours, collected 2000 retweets, and then picked randomly from that set to award the winner. While I would have preferred something more complete with the full set of retweets, I guess the randomness of the Twitter API was just part of the game.

Effort vs Reward

How much effort went into this? Well, I already had the structure for a script pulling those retweets, so that was a bit complex but still quick. Composing a tweet isn’t all that hard. But it was a nice little boost. More campaigns should be like this, before for marketing and growth. Quick little wins are really satisfying for your team too.

Could Dropbox run the campaign again? Probably. At the time @Dropbox had 400K followers. Now it has 3.52M, though no tweet since has even come close. I bet if they ran it again today, it would do at least 10X better. They should probably just link directly to the referral program:

Invite friends to @Dropbox and you both get free space Retweet this for a chance to win 1TB for life

Hell, they could probably do it monthly.

Your Stories

Most stories I hear about social media are beginner guides or are overly broad to be useful. I’d love to hear any stories similar to this about your experience. Please get in touch on Twitter

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