For perhaps the first time in a college classroom, my #brc328 class Wednesday evening involved a lesson in branding using the most beloved higher-ed social media figure, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Todd Sanders, aka @tsand. If you work in social media or would like to, you simply must follow @tsand on Twitter. He’s entertaining, authentic, engaging and sneaky brilliant.
I asked my class to tweet (with #brc328 hashtag) what they thought was a good brand, and why, the results running the gamut from Apple to Bose to Converse to (interestingly) author James Patterson. Then I introduced them to the brand of @tsand, via his successful video submission to participate in the Mercedes-Benz Tweet Race to the Super Bowl™.
I looked at @tsand in the context of the definition of a brand which, according to Luke Sullivan’s book Hey Whipple! Squeeze This!, is “the sum total of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, possibilities and gossip that exist in the marketplace about a certain company.” As an innovative web communicator now involved in a high-profile social-media contest that could win his #MBTeamS a Mercedes-Benz and raise a lot of money for St. Jude’s Hospital, @tsand presents three traits I think successful brands share:
1. Established identity. Those who know @tsand would describe him with words like funny, creative, crazy, unpredictable and genius. His secret to success, as noted in the video, is to create great content that wins friends and influences people. That content, coupled with his larger-than-life personality, has established broad and supportive connections across the social-media community.
2. Positive association. In the video, he notes being followed back by selective accounts like the Today Show and Ellen DeGeneres, plus more than 100,000 hits to his Flickr account and 200,000 to his YouTube channel. He’s a nice guy to boot, never above responding to those who tweet him. But the biggest indication of his popularity? The loudest ovation at #heweb10 went to keynote speaker and Don’t Make Me Think author Steve Krug, but the second-loudest may have come when the absent @tsand made a surprise appearance in the video introducing Krug.
3. Ability to create action. Many of us aren’t big supporters of social-media contests, requested retweets or hashtag bombing. But we’re doing all that — apologies for all the #MBTeamS tweets that give he and co-driver @ijohnpederson “fuel” and points — for Todd, and for his ability to win this contest and support St. Jude’s. I can’t think of another person in the higher-ed Twitterverse who could rally so many people … and it’s all because of what I would term brand loyalty to @tsand.
Win or lose, the contest is proving quite the social-media promotional experience. And, unexpectedly, showing us how a person who creates great content and makes authentic connections can represent a powerful brand.