How do you get hundreds of people to show up at a Washington D.C. Metro station to get or give a free hug on World Happiness Day? Verifeed was asked to find local people on Twitter whose conversations indicated they might be interested in hugging and being hugged for an hour during evening rush hour.


It was just a week to go before the UN’s World Happiness Day. Our client, an entrepreneur who wanted to “road test” the early Verifeed, did not have a Twitter account or a website for his “free hugs” initiative. He had no list, no marketing funnel, no advertising budget – and no official organization. How could he possibly get the word out quickly and effectively enough?


Verifeed seized the challenge. We started by looking for people we could geo-locate on Twitter to the DC Metro area – and looking for those who were talking about being “happy”, happiness and World Happiness Day. After excluding terms like “Happy Birthday” the dataset was virtually empty. No one in DC was happy!


So we flipped it. Who in DC was “pissed off”, “angry”, “irritated”, “frustrated”, “sad” or generally in need of a hug?


Turns out, many thousands!


Of those 18k+ angry people, Verifeed classifier and pattern recognition algorithms segmented all our targets by the cause of their anger or sadness. Many were frustrated by Metrorail delays; many more by Republicans or Democrats; some by a recent breakup; some by poor service or a faulty product. Once segmented, we scored each for how influential they were in driving and amplifying conversations and changing opinion. We chose the top 10 most influential people in each segment – a total of about 60 people – and created targeted and personalized messages for each of them.


@JoeMojo Redline got you down? You need a #freehug. Get and give Thurs 6pm Dupont metro – tell your friends. Plse RT! 

@RedSquid Sounds like you’ve had a frustrating day at work. Get a #freehug this Thurs 6-7pm Dupont Circle Metro. Tell your friends!


Verifeed created a @FreeHugsDC Twitter account and it had two followers – Verifeed founder Melinda Wittstock and the #freehugs organizer. But that didn’t matter, because using the @mention functionality at Twitter Verifeed started aiming personalized messages at each of the 60 people – with just three days to go before the event.



People who got our personalized and conversational messages responded and we responded back. They shared with their friends – and their friends re-tweeted.


Of the 205 people who showed up just a few days later to get or give a free hug, at least 180 of them specifically said they had “heard about it on Twitter” and most mentioned @FreeHugsDC.