The BronxZoosCobra IS Dead

Okay, not really. But even if the Bronx Zoo’s cobra isn’t actually dead, the buzz about her is.

If you work in the NYC area or read the news, chances are you’ve heard about of the escape and capture of the Bronx Zoo’s Cobra. If you have, it’s as likely that you’ve also heard her voice as @BronxZoosCobra when she slithered onto the social networks. Not only did the “snake who tweets” become a hot topic and easy news peg for major news sites such as The Wall Street Journal and NYTimes, but she sparked many a conversation about social media in our own circles, including raising the question of whether the person behind the reptile would make a good communications hire.

But is obtaining 240K Twitter followers in seven days a tell-tale sign of social media prowess? No, it’s not and here’s why:

Being witty is fun and engaging, I’ll give you that. What it’s not is sustainable. In order to stay relevant, strategies and tactics must  be used to accomplish specific goals. Examples of properly focused strategies run the gamut from something as complex as creating on-the-fly videos to engage with your followers à la Old Spice or as simple as holding a Twitter contest to increase your engagement. In the end, the voice behind the Cobra was just doing what everyone already knows (or should know) to do: be conversational, tap into relevant topics and engage. Tweeting isn’t brain surgery, folks.

When it’s all said and done, the voice behind @BronxZoosCobra got a lucky break because of good timing. But now that the real cobra is back in captivity, her time has run out. It’s only a matter of time before @BronxZoosCobra starts auditioning for reality TV shows along with the rest of the washed up starlets and one-hit wonders.

But this tail (pun intended) has a happy ending: the Bronx Zoo got free publicity and the chance to capitalize on the buzz, the person behind the @bronxzooscobra got their 15 minutes of fame and the rest of us got a few cheap chuckles for a few weeks.

However, here’s the real take-away that makes this billable time:

1) Just because you know how to type 140 characters doesn’t make you qualified for a salary + benefits gig at any organization.

Too many self-proclaimed “social media professionals” think that just because they open or manage a Twitter account makes them qualified to conduct a social media campaign for a brand. News flash: it’s not. Tweeting is easy. But marketing? Now that’s the real slippery stuff.  Before you claim to have digital expertise, be honest with yourself: Do you have an understanding of major communications platforms? Have you ever been involved in the creative thinking and strategic planning processes for a brand? Have you demonstrated problem solving skills? And the million dollar questi0n: Can you show it on paper?

2) If anything, the novel lesson here is not how to engage or get tons of followers, but rather how to take advantage of a situation when opportunity strikes.

In the case of @BronxZoosCobra, it was the escapee’s news hook. In reality, it really doesn’t take much skill to open a Twitter account. But the real genius? That lies with the Bronx Zoo’s marketing team. They let @BronxZoosCobra bask in the glow and do the heavy lifting for them while they sat back and waited. When the opportunity was right and the cobra was found, they struck by giving their actual audience – the people in the greater NYC area – the chance to name the celebrity serpent for continued buzz. A sly move which garnering more than 33,000 nominations. Not too shabby for a plain, old marketing team, eh?

Would YOU hire the person behind @BronxZoosCobra? Why or why not?

Mikinzie Stuart is a Midwesterner turned fast-walking New Yorker who works at Peppercom specializing in digital communications for B2B and B2C clients. When she’s not tweeting from @Mikinzie about social media, music and her future kitten, she enjoys exploring her new city in good company. You can read more of her stuff at, PR Geek Speak, her personal blog, and apparently win her heart with a good ol’ NYC bagel.

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