I’ve been hearing random snorts of laughter around the office all week. It’s generally because someone’s just spotted the latest from #snakeonthetown on Twitter.
For those who haven’t heard about New York’s most intrepid snake, an adolescent Egyptian Cobra escaped from Bronx Zoo’s reptile enclosure last Friday and has yet to be found. The Zoo released a statement on 26 March, all as one might expect. However, by Monday the dastardly cobra popped up! only on Twitter.
For the last few days, @bronxzooscobra has been slithering around the big apple and tweeting about her experiences along the way. Within about 24 hours, she had almost 40,000 followers and #snakeonthetown was busy. As of this morning, she’s got over 185,000 followers, @BronxZookeeper, @bronx_mongoose, and @bronxzoocobrany (can Twitter please verify the correct fake account soon?) are tweeting away creating a huge amount of buzz and entertaining thousands of people.
Strangely, the Bronx Zoo is not capitalising on this PR bonanza at all. This must be the biggest story they have had in years, but they’ve only tweeted twice since Monday, only one of those acknowledging the story. Other brands, however are making the most of things; @HiltonNewYork has offered the cobra use of its Penthouse Sssssuite, @sesamestreet has asked someone to give the snake directions to Sesame Street, and on our side of the Atlantic, @BristolOldVic has recommended a play she might see.
At Headstream, we call this meme riding, when brands capitalise on social currency that has already gained momentum by adopting the concept for a campaign. When done well it can work to great advantage for brands and it’s a shame the Bronx Zoo hasn’t grabbed this opportunity with both, um, fangs.