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March 31, 2011 / assembled

A Case Study in Social Media: @BronxZoosCobra

The case of the missing Cobra from the Bronx Zoo, more commonly known to his followers as @BronxZoosCobra, has finally been solved, according to this report from the Huffington Post.

Following the announcement that the dangerous cobra went missing, someone (or an organization, yet to be named) created a Twitter account to chronicle the adventures of the missing Cobra around New York City. The Tweeting started on March 28th, 2011 with the following serving as the first of many humorous tweets: “I want to thank those animals from the movie “Madagascar.” They were a real inspiration.”

Over the course of the next few days, the snake drew a significant following, with 210,034 followers as of March 31st, 2011. Just to give you some perspective, the Bronx Zoo Twitter account (home to the infamous cobra) only has 9,519 followers.

By reading through the snake’s Twitter diary, we can see that he takes in a Broadway show, Ray’s Pizza, The Museum of Natural History, Equinox Gym, the High Line, Rockefeller Plaza, Wall Street, Union Square, and Ellis Island, amongst others. He adds humor to the mix, a personal favorite being one from the morning of March 30th, 2011 that read: “Getting my morning coffee at the Mudtruck. Don’t even talk to me until I’ve had my morning coffee. Seriously, don’t. I’m venomous.”

Other people and companies were quick to jump into the conversation, talk show host Ellen Degeneres tweeted: “Hey @BronxZoosCobra check the Guggenheim They’ve a great Kandinsky exhibit, also don’t have any stairs.” The Hilton New York tweeted: “@bronxzooscobra Do you have a place to stay in NYC tonight? We can offer you the Penthouse ssssuite.” Even Mayor Bloomberg of New York tweeted: “Today President Obama and I toured NYC’s Museum of Natural History. We saw a 94 foot whale, but not @BronxZoosCobra.”

So why did this work? How was someone able to take a Twitter account from 0 to 210,034 followers in a matter of days? And better yet, what does it tell us about the power (and importance) of a strategic social media strategy? In this case, we should look at the best practices of the person (or organization) behind the Cobra’s Twitter account. We should also look at the team behind the social media for the Bronx Zoo, who only Tweeted twice during this entire ordeal- once to tell their followers that they understood the “interest in this story” and second, to let people know that the snake had been found. I would argue for them, that active and strategic participation in this situation could have driven interest in the museum, therefore driving visits and sales. All of this reiterates the importance of a social media strategy and team in place to capitalize on situations that may or may not be expected.

It will be interesting to continue to follow the situation, even now that the cobra has been captured. The creator of this Twitter account was able to combine a bit of the harsh reality (the actual news) with some fun and humour in cyberspace, which created the perfect environment for lighthearted dialogue that included locales around New York as well as various celebrities. Both confirming the power of the internet and social media to engage and entertain, as well as the importance of a strategic social media strategy, the @BronxZoosCobra will be a case study for years to come.

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