Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Twitter’s Un-Famous Users Can Make Money From Viral Tweets

  • The recipe: Find a funny joke, spread it wide, link to brand
  • At $20-$60 per promo, users say extra cash is nice to have

You don’t need to be Twitter famous to make money from viral tweets.

A growing number of Twitter users –- many of them with very few followers of their own -- have glommed onto an inventive way to harness the power of tweets that go viral to make a few bucks for themselves.

These savvy users do this first by finding a tweet that’s garnering a lot of attention. They then use the reply tool to point the Twitterverse toward a brand, which, in turn, pays a small fee in exchange for the mention. None of this happens through Twitter’s established advertising system, meaning the company doesn’t get a cut of the transaction, and it may break Twitter Inc.’s rules requiring disclosure of payment for promotion.

Here’s how it plays out for Blake Forbes. The 20-year-old college student from Austin, Minnesota, runs the Twitter account @BirdExecutive. It only has about 8,000 followers. That’s paltry compared with the likes of Justin Bieber or Barack Obama, each of whom have more than 110 million followers. But the lack of stardom isn’t stopping Forbes from making some easy money.

Forbes looks for tweets that seem poised to take off -- say, a funny joke or a clever play on words. In one case, a picture of a steamroller going over someone’s back. He and his friends then help accelerate the popularity of the postings by sharing them among their accounts, which collectively have tens of thousands of followers. When the tweet goes viral, reaching hundreds of thousands of followers, retweets and likes, a brand might reach out to Forbes to do a promotion and pay him about $30. Forbes has done about seven or eight promotions, netting him around $200 for posting memes.