Monday, April 14, 2008

The value of a brand is in its conversations

It didn't take long. Twitter accounts are now going up for sale. Via Jonathan Macdonald and David Armano.
AndrewBaron is up for sale on eBay. Last time I looked bidding had reached $1125! @andrewbaron has just 1400 followers.
This phenomenom isn't particularly new - but it is new to twitter. MySpace accounts have sold on eBay before.
This essentially treats user accounts as media properties. Think about that for a moment. A user creating an account on someone else's platform is creating value (in real live dollars) simply from using themselves as a media property.
The fact that bidding has risen so high so fast for AndrewBaron indicates there are those who see the value of highly focused niche communities of interest.
However, the risk is that they are also seeing this as a way of purchasing some eyeballs. And eyeballs, no matter how focused and dedicated, are of less value than ears and mouths. In other words, by purchasing someone else's account you have access to audience, not access to conversation. The dynamic changes. Have you bought the conversation? Do you own it now?
That's contrary to the distributed micro-blogging nature of twitter. The conversation can and does start from anywhere within your self-formed group.
Note, it is a self-formed group. It isn't owned by AndrewBaron, he has no control over it.
All you have bought is access to audience - an audience who, by the way, are more like a community and may disappear if you broadcast at it.
Of course there are plenty of companies and commercial concerns moving into twitter in the hope of extending reach by broadcasting into a niche. Most fail to understand that the value derives from the conversations - not from the broadcast of the message.

And this I believe reveals a truth about how brand values and the value in a brand are now created. The value of a brand comes from conversation about it and with it.

Shoe firm zappo have understood this. @zappos is active in twitter, at least its CEO Tony is (ie a human being rather than 'a brand'.
Tony doesn't just use it to create a buzz (with regular prizes for random followers) he is careful to follow everyone who follows him - enabling the conversation (you have to be matched to see eachothers tweets in twitter).

Tony doesn't just tweet about zappo promotions, he reveals his life and his personality to you in every tweet. He presents a very human face of a company - and he does it in a way that is open to real live human conversation. Marketing without the fog.

I'd never heard of zappo before I found the fuzzy edge of their self-forming group on twitter. Now I have and so have you. And I for one have a warm feeling about it. The value of the brand and the brand's values are being created right before your very eyes - and shaped by your interactions with it.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?