Showing posts with label social capital. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social capital. Show all posts

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, 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:"

"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.

Rockstar by Association

So my dad found out I have a blog - now he gives me shit whenever I'm on my computer. "So, hows that bloooog coming matt, got a lot of readers waiting for you to post?" Sweet, dad.

But the thing is, while most of our parents understand how the internet has changed our lives, they don't realize how deeply it has become ingrained our lifestyles and relationships . For Millennials, the internet isn't just an innovation of utility, it's the single most important source of information, communication, and social capital. But I'm less concerned with the first two, right now - even my grandmother writes and receives emails.

There are two great examples that demonstrate the profound effect that the internet has on generating social capital: 1) YouTube videos and 2) iTunes download suggestions.

The internet is an early-adopters paradise - being the first person to introduce a new viral or digital phenomenon to your friends is sort of like becoming a rockstar. For those 3 minutes when your friends are cheering or laughing, it seems as if they're cheering for YOU.

The internet has made it possible for anyone to be popular - even without talent or good looks. The desire to capitalize on the talent (or stupidity) of others is what makes viral hits possible.

1) YouTube Videos

The Numa Numa video: The Numa Numa video is probably what hooked me on the concept on YouTubing in the first place. But just take a step back and realize the word-of-mouth buzz that fueled its rise to success -think of how many times some college kid was with his buddies and said "dude, you gotta check out this video."


In the case of the Numa Numa video, the viewers who "discovered" it probably benefited more than the actual chubby kid who made it. While Gary Brolsma will forever live in shame knowing that he is the Numa Numa kid (-5 social capital), the few kids who championed the video before it was an internet sensation will forever remind their friends "oh yeah, I discovered Numa Numa waaaay before it was popular" (+5 social capital).

The OK-GO music video, on the other hand, is the perfect example of how talentless people can capitalize on the brilliance of others - in other words, "talent by association." I mentioned earlier how it's possible to feel like a rockstar when you captivate your audience with an awesome new video - this is evident in the stats for "Here It Goes Again." Well over 32 million people have already watched the video - that's millions of rock-stars by association.

Showing your friends a brilliant new YouTube video is one of the most rewarding experiences that normal, talentless folks like us can have. But this idea of talent-by-association isn't just limited to viral videos...

2) iTunes Download Suggestions

One's music library has always been a source of social capital - but the rise of the Apple empire has changed the way we express our tastes. I always call Jules an "iTunes Whore" because she is a perfect example of an early-adopter who gets her rocks off via iTunes.

As noted in the Stuff White People Like, "Because of the availability of music online, a very strict social hierarchy has been created within white culture whereby someone with a large MP3 collection is considered “normal,” a large CD collection is considered to be “better,” and a person with a large vinyl collection is recognized as “elite.”

But the size of your library doesn't matter if it's stocked with terrible "mainstream" music. The iTunes store allows music elitists to discover edgy new "alt" bands - bands that will increase social capital when introduced to their friends via facebook, myspace, and of course - mix CD's.

If you think introducing the Numa Numa video to your friends made you feel like a rockstar, imagine creating a 72-minute CD packed with the freshest alternative/B-side/unsigned/emo/lyric-driven bands (as rated by iTunes) - you'll feel like Bono on a coke.-binge

Ultimately, iTunes allows any d-bag with an internet connection become a music snob - and that's why it's so revolutionary.

Everybody loves that smug feeling you get when introducing a new piece of pop culure to your friends - iTunes can make you a rockstar by association - .99 cents at a time.

Hit Me.