Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vive le Twitter

For a few lessons on Twitter this afternoon, let's look to the Tour de France, where we're just a few days away from that famous ride down the Champs-Elysees.

Austin is Lance Armstrong country. From his bike shop, Mellow Johnny's and the coffee shop, Juan Pelota, to SIX, his bar/nightclub and the new Lance Armstrong Bikeway, icons of Lance's success are a part of our city's landscape. Look down, you're even likely to see one of the many faded "Go Lance" street paintings reminding us of his 1st, 2nd, 3rd...7th win. When he won the last TDF, he threw a free concert at Auditorium Shores featuring his then-girlfriend Sheryl Crow (and played drums). So you got the picture - cancer advocacy, community investment and athletic talent aside, Lance is steeped in Austin's culture.

But Lance's celebrity status reaches far beyond Austin City Limits, thanks in part to social media. On Twitter, @lancearmstrong has more than a million and a half followers. The seven-time TDF champion is clearly passionate about social media and it's easy to see why it's working for him. Just take a look at his loyal fan base and his booming nonprofit organization, LIVESTRONG, with which Lance uses the 140 character updates to connect with us in such a way that just by following him, we feel an exclusive part of his inner circle.

Lance is a great example of the power and possibilities of Twitter. He uses it frequently (at least a dozen updates a day) to break stories related to racing, the bike industry, and cancer research. He tweets video and snapshots from his "office" (usually something along the lines of a mountain road out of Aspen - jealous!) and allows all of us to peer into his world. From news of his new son Max [6 week old @maxarmstrong1 has almost 7,000 Twitter followers - WHAT??!] - to his favorite training routes to post TDF-stage thoughts, his Tweets make us that much more endeared to him.

Following yesterday's tour stage, Lance mentioned an upcoming 'announcement' about next year's Tour de France lineup, so you can imagine the buzz that brewed until today's big reveal. We all scoured the web to investigate. And by last night, the crafty Twitterati had it nailed - Lance would announce a 2010 team sponsor - RadioShack Corporation. It wasn't until 11am today that Capitol Sports & Entertainment with RadioShack made the official announcement with a release on the wire. Acting on their game, CSE rolled out the Team RadioShack website and Twitter account right on cue. Four hours later, the team already had almost 5,000 Twitter followers. If Lance's 2010 teammates are as fast as his behind-the-scenes entourage, we'll be looking at another Maillot Jaune.

Allez Lance!

So there are two things that we in publishing and publicity can take away from Twitter, Lance and the Tour de France. Today, twitter is a legitimate source (and the fastest news-spreading tool) for breaking headlines, and more than ever, it is an invaluable when it comes to building and maintaining a personal brand.

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