THE BLOG

Money for Nothing, and Your Tweets for Free

24/06/2014 17:44 BST | Updated 23/08/2014 10:59 BST

"I'm in a bush with ten other people." Not the sort of tweet I'd usually be posting at 11am on a Saturday morning. Why was I in a bush? The promise of free money, that's why.

Saturday saw London as the first place in the UK to be the target of Californian millionaire Jason Buzi and his envelopes of 'Hidden Cash'. This Twitter-led treasure hunt went from a couple of tweets being shared from his account @hiddencash, to a full-blown media frenzy with the man himself appearing on Sky News with secret clues as to the money's whereabouts.

Sadly while I worked out the clues nice and early, I misjudged one of them and assumed it started at noon. The sudden retweeting of a smiling lady and her envelope at 10:30am was a little bit of a shock, resulting in me dropping everything and running to my nearest tube station.

I hurriedly arrived ('pretend jogging' so as not to look desperate) to a comical scene of hundreds of people staring up trees, scurrying through undergrowth, and prodding things with sticks. After an hour or so of being scratched to bits with holly bushes, being stabbed in the face with twigs and holding bemused conversations with other weary hunters, I decided enough was enough. I conceded defeat and sat in the sunshine with an ice cream.

This got me thinking though, this man has placed around £100 in twenty envelopes. Two thousand pounds of expenditure and he has newspapers and television interviews coming from every direction, coupled with a constant stream of tweets screaming his Twitter handle from the rooftops.

Our eccentric millionaire appears to have done this out of the good of his heart, but he could very easily get any message he wanted out to the masses with this level of exposure for a comparatively small initial outlay. Not only that, but he's doing this while helping out a few lucky strangers, and giving everybody else a fun afternoon, so of course everyone is going to shout about it!

People like something for nothing, but just how little of that 'something' would push somebody to share on Facebook? How much would it take to get a cynical so-and-so like me to dirty my feed with a competition retweet? In my case, about a hundred quid and the promise of a stick in the eye.

There's also the question of who is running the competition. We're all willing to rally behind the crazy American with dollars for clothes, but what if it were a big company, one of those corporations that the morally self-righteous of Twitter are forever warning us about?

It'd be a very different picture. The perpetually angry would be yelling accusations of bribery and attempting to rally the troops for a boycott, "HOW CAN THEY THROW MONEY AROUND IN THESE STUNTS, WHEN THEIR WORKERS ONLY EARN X POUNDS AN HOUR?" they cry. The hashtags would start, and that fun little game for free cash becomes a PR nightmare as fast as you can say 'armchair activist'.

As the dust settled and the winners spent their money on weekend mojitos in the sunshine, it transpired that even our millionaire was subject to criticism. In an interview with The Telegraph he said he how he couldn't win, and that he was seen as a rich man making his poor monkeys dance. So to be honest if you want to get noticed, you're probably better off sidestepping that big hornets' nest that is human greed and jealousy by keeping your wallet firmly shut.

...Though fifty quid wouldn't go amiss. My bike broke last week.

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