Eric Nagel

Eric Nagel

CTO, PHP Programmer, Affiliate Marketer & IT Consultant

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
About a month ago, I noticed a new program on CJ, DonorsChoose. They were paying 4% on all donations made through affiliates. I looked around a bit, and came up with an idea that I’ll outline in detail for you. The reason I’m giving it all up is because DonorsChoose didn’t like what I was doing, so without putting up a fight, I stopped promoting them (I also only made a couple bucks). It wasn’t wildly successful like I hoped it would be, but it’s an idea that can be used elsewhere, so here we go:

First, find a merchant that people relate to… one that they like visiting. DonorsChoose was a good one because people like supporting causes like this.

Next, this merchant needs to have news coming out regularly, and make it available via RSS. In this case, I used the DonorsChoose project feed.

TwitterOK, so I went over to Twitter and signed up as DonorsChoose. That was the part they didn’t like. While it wasn’t specified in their T&C that this wasn’t allowed, they felt concerned that their “brand could be easily mis-represented on a site that (they) have limited control over.” In reality, they had full control over the content on the account, as you’ll see later, but everyone sees things differently.

By now you should see what I’m doing… I’m going to syndicate their RSS feed onto this Twitter account. So that’s what I’m doing, and here’s how I did it:

First, I had to read the RSS feed. There are lots of ways to do this, but I use xml2array. I then read the feed and if I find a unique title, I change the URL to deeplink through CJ (for added fun, I use the DonorsChoose Project ID as my SID), make it tiny, then post to Twitter. Sounds complicated? It’s actually pretty easy.

Here’s the script that does it all, and here’s the table that’ll store the items that have been posted (used to make sure they’re unique)

CREATE TABLE `DonorsChoose` (
`cTitle` varchar(255) NOT NULL default '',
`cURL` varchar(200) NOT NULL default '',
UNIQUE KEY `cTitle` (`cTitle`)

After a few tests (I recommend if you’re going to do this to have a “testing” Twitter account before you post to your real one) I started to syndicate the projects feed to Twitter. I simply set-up a cron to run this script every 10 minutes.

Amazingly, after a few hours, I already had a follower! An easy way to figure out who to follow is to search Twitter for your merchant name (ex: search for DonorsChoose). These people are already talking about you and will likely follow you back. Slowly, you’ll get more and more followers this way, and more and more clicks through your affiliate link. Of course, if you really want to get a ton of followers, watch this video on How To Attract 500 Followers on Twitter in 24 Hrs.

So there you have it – an RSS feed deeplinked through CJ (you can easily change this for ShareASale) which is then syndicated to a Twitter account.

Why am I releasing this? Well, like I mentioned earlier, DonorsChoose didn’t like what I was doing. While I still argue that they had complete control over the content in the Twitter account because I was simply syndicating their feed, they didn’t feel that way. So instead of putting up a fight, I just turned off my script and handed the account over to them. I didn’t need to waste anyone’s time by arguing with them.

What other merchants can you use this idea with? Here’s some ideas:

It’s probably better to register an idea, rather than a brand name. Even if they don’t explicitly say you can’t use their name on Twitter, they may not be happy when you do.

So this is my Christmas gift to you… a complete script which can easily be changed for other, similar programs. If you need help customizing this script, leave a comment or email me.

Merry Christmas!

  • Jeff
    Posted December 5, 2008 7:48 am 0Likes

    Smart, smart man you are. Thanks for the tip. If I try this I’ll share the results with you.

  • Trackback: » Make Money on Twitter, in minutes - By Steve Poland - Ideas for Making Money Online
    Posted December 5, 2008 5:37 pm 0Likes

    We’re super grateful for the support that Eric has provided in introducing new users to our website. By partnering with, Eric helped to fund a number of classroom projects on our site, for which we’re very grateful. We’re also impressed by the powerful and innovative syndication model that Eric built.

    However, we started hearing from a number of Eric’s Twitter followers, who were under the impression that they were hearing from our organization directly by following @donorschoose via Twitter.

    As a charitable organization, the trust that we foster with our supporters is of utmost importance, so it’s critical that when our supporters they think they’re hearing from us, it’s really us.

    We explained this to Eric and he graciously agreed to stop tweeting from the @donorschoose account.

    We’re appreciative of Eric’s understanding and cooperation, and hopeful that he continues to participate in’s new affiliate program, helping us to get much-needed resources to public school teachers and students.

    Thanks again Eric!


  • Eric
    Posted December 5, 2008 9:25 pm 0Likes

    Thanks for the comments; I wrote about this more to share my super script with everyone, rather than to complain. The post’s title was simply to get attention (although Steve’s post title, “Make Money on Twitter, in minutes,” probably would’ve worked better).

    I hope to see use their twitter account to it’s full ability. If you’re looking for a script to use, I know where to find one 😉

  • Trackback: 2009 Goals & Resolutions - Nagel Family Website
  • Infoweb
    Posted March 16, 2009 2:40 pm 0Likes

    I love twitter because of its simplicity but now it seems as if we’ll have tweetspams in future.

    I like your title ‘No good deed goes unpunished’, may be its right for twitter.

  • Astralis
    Posted September 24, 2009 12:41 pm 0Likes

    You can’t steal someone’s name, even if you use their content. Maybe they want to use specific content or customized content for Twitter. Because you stole their name, they were locked out of doing that. Good story, though, and thanks for sharing and I’m glad you didn’t fight with them to return the name you stole.

  • Eric Nagel
    Posted September 24, 2009 2:33 pm 0Likes

    @Astralis I think “stealing” is a harsh word, because that implies they had possession of it in the first place. Thanks for the comment

  • AJ
    Posted December 13, 2009 10:22 am 0Likes

    I agree that you didn’t “steal” the name. If my name is John Smith and someone younger than me has the same name, did he “steal” it? Not exactly the same but you get the point. And what is the difference between being the first to register that Twitter account and what happened with domain names in the 90’s. The early bird gets the worm. But I was glad to see your morality prevailed in the end, thanks for the article!

  • Ron
    Posted January 24, 2010 9:46 am 0Likes

    A internet marketer with brains and integrity.
    I have to follow this blog.

  • AdamD
    Posted October 27, 2010 1:05 pm 0Likes

    Interesting story. I’m sorry I’m seeing it two years later!

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