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.

Emotional Branding

It's been a while since I've posted. Although not much has changed since my last post (see Loving Wal-mart), I'm a little bit closer to figuring out what makes me tick as a marketer. My work/school combo provides a great balance between the hands-on and the hypothetical. And while I don't always have the chance to apply the principles I've learned, 'unrelated' doesn't necessarily mean 'irrelevant.'

Marketing is a great because nothing exists inside a vacuum - all consumers are emotional - the way we think, act, and feel has a overwhelming effect on
how we consume. And while marketers can't control consumers or the fickle forces that influence our happiness, trust, and spending, a little empathy and observation can teach us a lot. My greatest strength as a marketer is undoubtedly my own foundation as a fiercely emotional consumer.

Great brands create an irrational loyalty between people and ideas - and it doesn't really matter what that belief is.





I've made a resolution to work harder on developing my own brand in 2009. A brand will die without discipline and trust...and sometimes it's easy to get complacent.

Being a better friend in 2009 is what you could call my positioning strategy, while being more disciplined with my writing is technically my marketing communication effort. Like any good marketer, I know how I want my own brand to be perceived, but the hard part is earning trust in an overwhelmingly deceitful world.

But in a world of emotional consumers, a little honesty and empathy can go a long way.

Glad to be back. Hit me.

Loving Wal-Mart is Cool...Trust Me.

Say what you will about Wal-Mart.      

But they're good at what they do - damn good.

Sure, they may not sit atop the opinion polls as of late, but the folks at Wal-mart know how to run a business. Depending on who you talk to, Wal-mart hovers somewhere around a 60-75% general approval rating - but those numbers don't factor in the recent media nightmare associated with the Debbie Shank lawsuit. Wal-Mart learned the hard way that suing a former employee with brain-damage over medical coverage is not the best way to win a popularity contest.

A quick google search yields countless websites dedicated to the defamation of Wal-Mart - check out Wal-Mart Watch, Wake-up Wal-Mart!, and the always classy Wal-Mart Blows! for some pleasure-reading. Or, if you have any questions about why Wal-Mart is the worse for America than No Child Left Behind, just ask any college student - it's actually cool to hate Wal-Mart when you're in much for the pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment.

But corporations like Wal-Mart will always be the subject of hyper-liberal criticism, regardless of how much money they pump into non-profits ($402 million) and green initiatives ($500 million) every year.

Everyone is too busy whining about Wal-Mart to notice Exxon Mobil stealing the shirts off our backs.

Exxon recorded the largest profits in history last year ($40.6 billion), shattering the previous record of 39.5 billion set by:


A year earlier.

I'm not a math major but,

a) Exxon gave $79 million to U.S.-based non-profits in 2006 (compared to $39.5 billion in profits)

b) Wal-Mart gave $402 million to U.S.-based non-profits in 2007 (compared to 4.1 billion in profits)

c) 79m : 39.5b vs. 402m : 4.1b = Wal-Mart aint so bad after all.

But it's always good to have a healthy cynicism of big business - Wal-Mart's quest for public approval will ensure that more and more money goes to local communities.

But now, the moral of the story -

Wal-Mart is a well-oiled business machine. Without a doubt.

Its distribution network is arguably the most sophisticated in the world. Algorithms remove any human error associated with ordering and replenishing stock, while strategically placed distribution centers and varying store formats guarantee efficiency and protect against cannibalism. Whoa.

We decided to grill some burgers at the Bradley house tonight. But unfortunately, we were out of propane.

My dad gave a list of about 4 or 5 gas stations where I could swap the tank for a full one.

Every single gas station (and Hannaford) was out of propane. Apparently, grilling is popular when it's nice out. One clerk (at the Exxon station, ironically enough) told me that I was the "twenty-fifth guy to come in and ask."

Wal-Mart was the only place with propane in stock.

Think it was an accident that Wal-Mart stocked up on propane as soon as the weather got warmer?

Nope. Neither do I.

Hit Me.