Social Capital and Branding - One Tweet at a Time

During my sophomore year of school, I was originally pretty reluctant to open up a facebook account. And while I didn't quite know what to expect, it was the voyeur aspect of facebook that eventually sold me - you know what I mean. Needless to say, I fell in love with Zuckerberg's creation shortly after and never looked back. And consequently, I've been working to move a little further up on the adoption curve to prevent myself from becoming that guy who doesn't use [insert latest interwebs sensation here].com.

Enter Twitter.

Joining A Movement

I finally adopted Twitter last week - in the most ass-backward way possible. Without the unbelievable success of facebook status updates, there's not a chance in the world I'd pick up Twitter. Of course, status updates were only created by Zuckerberg et al. in order to cash-in on the rise of micro-blogging. But I don't really care either way - I love them both.

Twitter is brilliant because it provides users with a powerful sense of contribution, immediacy, and access that's simply not available elsewhere. There's an air of camaraderie in most tweets that facilitates dialogue among mavens, celebs, and johnny-TwitterFoxes alike. Whether it's 23-y/o @Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore, the radio DJ's from @The Sandbox, or the hilarious guys behind Blommit.com, everyone subscribes to this unspoken culture of reciprocity and sharing.

Twitter allows any 20-something studentfessional to consume, produce, and promote anything across the interwebs with outrageous efficiency. More importantly, it's understood that feedback, retweets, and @replies are essential to the community's success - no matter how many followers you have. Anybody can be a rockstar.

Infinite Possibilities

But while Twitter still enjoys an overwhelmingly positive and pollution-free atmosphere (i.e.; not Myspace), the site's proliferation (and increasing relevance) are both undeniable. Nielson Online just released its list of top 20 social networks - and the numbers don't lie. The most stunning stat was undoubtedly the '07-'08 YOY growth of Twitter: 664% - which makes it far-and-away the fastest growing social network on the web. Granted, it only logged a unique audience of 2,665 in Dec. '08 - nothing compared to the near 60k of Myspace and Facebook. But of course, this concept (illusion) of privileged dialogue is among Twitter's greatest draws.

Every great brand aims to build meaningful relationships with consumers - and the internet is a powerful tool. But Twitter provides brands with a transparancy and accessibility that no blog or facebook page can match. Mashable released an excellent overview of the 40 best brands on Twitter, which illustrates exactly what I mean. But I particularly like one 'brand' that's not listed: NHL All-Star Alex Ovechkin.



Autograph or @Reply?

I may not be a hardcore hockey fan, but the recent tweets of hockey sensation Alex Ovechkin show Twitter-branding at its finest. Ovechkin is known in the NHL for his raw talent and larger-than-life personality. In fact, you may have seen him in the cool tv spot promoting the league's All-Star Skills Competition.

After his performance last year, Ovechkin was favored to win the skills competition again this season. And of course, there was a lot of speculation among the fans and media about what he might show-off. In the days leading up to the event, Ovechkin engaged fans with tweets like:

"Lots of questions about my trick shot plans - mine's a secret. Kane has some good stuff, though: http://tinyurl.com/97jhf5"

"Last hint before go to ice - I show one of my shots before, but not in last year's."

Ovechkin also texted-in a tweet just minutes after stepping off the ice:

"'Did ya like it?' from txt"

Ovechkin's real-time updates absolutely scream honesty and fan-commitment. And of course, with the skills competition being decided by fan votes via text message, Ovechkin brilliantly tapped his online resources - not by asking for votes, but simply reinforcing the emotional relationship he's worked to build with fans across the world.
Ovechkin understands what many other top brands on Twitter do not - followers don't need to be personally addressed in every tweet - they just want to feel that way. The fact that he updated fans directly before and after his performance is far more valuable than pumping out generic @replies one-by-one.

Ovechkin realizes that Twitter's true power lies in its narrative. His 1,749 followers don't care what he did in practice. Instead, they want an all-access peek at his emotions and fallibility. My favorite Ovechkin tweet is from just after his televised practice the morning of the event. Obviously aware of the swarm of media attention in Montreal, the 23 y/o says with a healthy mix of humor and self-consciousness:

"'Nobody saw me fall in practice, did they?' "

Honesty. Transparency. Emotion. -In 140 characters or less. That's how a Twitter brand communicates

Hit me.

2 comments:

Mitchell said...

Ovechkin was hilarious - its not easy for someone from another team to get Canadiens fans to cheer for him. Also, miking up Savard was a great idea- he was funny and entertaining which will help his reputation with fans, which apparently was not good before this year according to a recent article in SI.

Al D. said...

Nice flesh-colored backdrop.

Your Twitter analysis is light on emotion. Consider: http://levarburton.com/?p=3

More internet thoughts here: http://seantice.tumblr.com/post/24019565/what-the-heck-is-twitter