Social media, the internet, & the rise to pop stardom - a One Direction case study
Yes, I’m talking about One Direction. Again. On a “professional” blog.
I recently fell into a deep black hole and can’t get out.
I first heard of the band in 2012 when their pop group hits were on the radio. As a (then) 26 year old I didn’t give them a thought. The new boy band of the moment. How cute. Moving on. On a trip to London with my girlfriends in February 2013 we missed them by minutes at a local tattoo parlor. We thought “oh, that makes a cool story” then went on with our trip.
In the last few months I got turned on to their new CD - Midnight Memories, which led to buying their documentary “This is US,” which turned into hours in a YouTube vortex of interviews, performances and cheeky moments on tour.
And now I’m in deep. They’re so charming!
In the documentary you learn that their rise to boy band domination was insanely fast - originally discovered as solo artists auditioning for the UK X Factor in 2010, Simon Cowell dismissed them from the competition only to call them back and suggest they go through as a band.
By the end of the competition (after coming in 3rd) young girls everywhere were obsessed. And within the next two years they went from unknowns on a reality show to a 2013 sold out world wide stadium tour with 130 shows (with another one planned for 2014) and a number one hit in 30+ countries. Not to mention a slew of awards from the VMAs to AMAs and Brits.
Oh, and by the end of 2013 the band was estimated to be worth $1 billion. You read that right. BILLION. Making them the "first billion dollar boy band."
This had never been seen before. What did these boys have that made them so different than the boy bands before them?
My answer - social media & the internet.
I remember the days of ‘NSync. I was in deep. Writing “Mrs. Timberlake” on my notebooks and running home from school to catch their videos on TRL. Picking up issues of Tiger Beat and Teen People hoping to catch a picture of them.
Social media didn’t exist back then. When ‘NSync announced their “break” in 2002 it was years before the launches of Facebook and Twitter. There weren’t blogs dominating celebrity gossip coverage like they do today. No paparazzi taking a picture and blasting it over the world in a matter of minutes. You couldn’t tweet out Justin’s hotel location and instantly have a group of fans outside all from reading about it online.
But you can now.
One Direction was launched in the midst of a celebrity social media storm. Where everything is instantaneous. The boys all have their own Twitter feeds, blogs post their every moves, paparazzi follow them day and night and post pictures in minutes that send teen girls into a frenzy.
You can find out anything about One Direction, at any moment, with the click of a mouse. Fans read into their every post looking for subtexts and analyze what they really mean.
The ability to have a direct line via social media to the boys makes their fans feel closer to them. If you tweet, maybe they’ll answer. You can see their updates on the tour, song releases, and more all from their point of view. Even their most meaningless tweets are favorited and retweeted thousands on thousands of times. Like so:
This constant access propelled them to a fame we haven’t seen before. You couldn’t go on YouTube to look up countless videos of ‘NSync. Because YouTube didn’t even exist. Now a simple search for “One Direction” on YouTube features 11 MILLION results.
The reach of their networks is unheard of. Before a concert in Amsterdam the boys tweeted out that they wanted fans to wear orange. No explanation, no charity ties or anything that would compel people to spread the word. Just a thought.
And what happened? This:
A literal sea of fans in shades of orange all because of a few tweets.
My friends joke with me about my interest in them. Mostly because I’m 27 and apparently a fan of a boy band again (whoops). And when I started to think about why - why I know so much about them, why I feel like I need to know about them, what makes them different. It all came down to this. Social media and blogs gives you a level of access you’ve never had before. It allows you to move along the journey of music artists with them and feel a part of it every step of the way.
If other artists had had the same channels, who knows how their careers could have been different. I’m sure Justin Timberlake would have tweeted out getting his hair put into awesome corn rows, limo shots on the way to award shows with Britney, and YouTube would have been filled with ‘Bye Bye Bye’ performances and TRL spots with Carson Daly.
But there’s no use in wondering what could have been. Just looking forward to how social media and the internet will continue to play a role in the rise of pop stars for years to come.
As for me, I’ll be attending my first One Direction concert in August. One month before I turn 28.
And I’m pretty pumped.
social media case study: Warby Parker
I get asked a lot about brands that are “doing social media right” and while it’s hard to call out brands without knowing if they’re delivering on their KPIs, sales goals, etc, there are a few that I view as rockstars in the space.
Warby Parker is one of them.
For those of you who may not know, Warby Parker offers awesome eyewear at a low cost ($95 for frames including prescription) and adopts the social good way of thinking - for every pair of glasses you buy, a pair goes to someone in need (think Toms). Their website is sleek, glasses are trendy, and they’ve become increasingly popular over the last few years.
Oh, and they rock at social media.
Their Twitter handle @warbyparker boasts more than 50,000 followers and is consistently updated with great information, awesome images from their Instagram page, and news/events. They separate their customer service from the main handle with @warbyparkerhelp, which is designed to monitor brand mentions and engage with fans both positively and when issues arise.
Today, I was tweeting with my former boss about my love of the brand and got a great response:
On Facebook, they have more than 200,000 “likes” and utilize the same strategy of engaging their community through awesome content and great visuals. They actively monitor the page and engage with the community multiple times throughout the day.
On Instagram they take product shots to a whole new level, making product shots engaging. They also had their team members post artsy pictures of the glasses around the country - as a result of their Warby Parker Class Trip initiative - which was also able to use social media to take an offline event online. Here’s a product post that they used to promote their new Winter line:
They also find organic ways to introduce the brand into major events, media moments, and pop culture without intruding or not staying true to their brand. During the series finale of Breaking Bad I tweeted that brands should shy away from jumping on the media and fan frenzy unless their message was totally in-line with their brand and the show. WP posted this image a few minutes later:
The caption read “We’d like to see Walt of Breaking Bad wearing the Ames in Whiskey Tortoise: http://warby.me/walt-ames#breakingbad”
It was perfectly executed. The image was interesting, included the Breaking Bad hashtag, was true to their brand style, included a product and fit in perfectly with the show - Walter White is famous for wearing his glasses with his Heisenberg hat. I tweeted that I thought they were great and got a response on Twitter thanking me.
In the paid space, they are on their game with advertising in social as well. I was visiting the site earlier today checking out what new glasses I wanted to order then returned to Facebook and was hit with FBx retargeting ads in both the right hand rail and newsfeed:
Overall, I think Warby Parker is a brand that gets it. They hire great social media people, they bring offline events online, they manage their pages to be engaging and also drive sales. They use the platforms as they were designed while staying true to their brand.
And I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Twitter Expands Look of Photos and Videos
If you’ve been on Twitter in the last day or so, you’ve probably seen a noticeable change to your timeline - photos and videos are fully displayed within a tweet instead of having to click a link to view.
Quite frankly, I’m surprised it took Twitter so long to make this update. Clicking a link to view a photo and then clicking back to your stream, while it seems relatively painless, adds an extra step in the scrolling process that makes going through your feed simple and painless. By removing the extra step to click through, I believe more people will see images and view videos than before.
This is also important for social media marketers. By removing an additional step, or barrier, for viewing photos and videos, marketers can get even more creative with what they put in their timelines to engage with followers. Mashable noted in an article that by allowing photos to be displayed within the timeline, Twitter is in essence giving that real estate to brands as if it was a display ad. I have to agree and hope that brands don’t take advantage.
Like any other social media change, there will be people who are annoyed with it. People will complain that they are inundated with photos and that their choice to view or not to view something posted on Twitter was taken away. But I believe that will blow over in the coming weeks and the updates will make Twitter an overall better experience.
Here are two looks at what the new photos look like on desktop and mobile (iPhone). Remember, no action was taken to open the images, this is how they appeared directly in the timeline:
What do you think of the new update? Love it? Hate it?
The Changing World of Facebook Ads
If you’ve worked in Facebook advertising, you may have seen/heard about the many changes the platform is making to make ad buying/serving more simple, straight forward, visually appealing, and engaging.
As Facebook continues to change their offerings almost daily, here is a summary of some of the recent developments in the Facebook ad world:
Existing ad formats have been updated to have:
- Bigger images to give more room for your brand
- The same aspect ratio on desktop and mobile to make formatting images easier
- Consistent elements across ad formats to provide a better experience including standard text truncation, character and image recommendations, etc
Facebook has also removed some ad formats in an effort to streamline advertising within the platform and minimize the number of options advertisers have. This process will continue early next year.
To provide an even better experience, Facebook is working to ensure all ad units regardless of type have social overlays. Within ads you will be able to see if any of your friends “like” the brand without having to run separate page like sponsored stories. Thus, making ads even more personal. Here is an example from All Facebook:
Finally, earlier this month the platform updated their ad buying platforms (Ads Manager and Power Editor) to streamline buying options and focus on the results you want to achieve before selecting an ad type. By focusing on your ultimate goal (clicks, conversions, likes, etc) Facebook will suggest ads to use to accomplish that. Read more on Mashable here.
The future of Facebook advertising is looking bright. Personally, I’m excited to see them continue to condense ad offerings and make the buying and bidding process simpler for advertisers. Condensing options will allow marketers to provide strategic offerings for clients that will deliver on goals at cost.
For even more information on Facebook advertising, visit their Ad Product Guide.
let’s talk about automating social media engagement, shall we?
I mentioned in my “social media management in times of national crisis” post my dislike of automating social media engagement and that we’d touch on that topic at another time.
Well, the time has come.
I understand the allure of scheduling social media posts. I get it. People are busy and crafting witty messages and uploading in real time takes a lot of effort. It’s simple to think that pre-crafting updates and setting them up to post automatically would be an easy solution.
But doing so opens the door for your brand to seem stale, your updates to reek of lacking humanity, and leaves you vulnerable to miss out on key opportunities.
Mickey Nall, 2013 PRSA Chair & CEO agrees. And he’s written about it at length. Nall goes as far as to call receiving automated responses “disingenuous, painful to read and, frankly, a bit insulting.”
And I have to agree.
Social media is, in its very nature and by its name, social. People expect that when engaging with people, organizations, brands, etc in social media they are talking to a person. There is another human on the other side of the iPhone, laptop, or tablet reading and responding to posts. Automating this process takes the social out of social media and replaces it with a robotic process that can harm your brand in more ways than I can count.
We’ve addressed in my previous post how automated tweets can backfire during a time of crisis and make your brand seem detached and insensitive. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
When the personal process of crafting unique content and updating by hand is removed, it’s very easy to become detached from the monitoring and responding aspect of social media as well. Without a need to visit the page to update, engagement can go down and interactions become stale. Nall’s example of the Progressive debacle hits this right on the nose. You can’t respond to everyone with the same canned content. You are not a robot. Or at least, you shouldn’t be.
Canned content leaves little room for capitalizing on what is happening in the world and using this for your brand. Keeping an eye on the social media conversations happening is a great way to see what is popular in the moment and relevant to your community. These are opportunities for you to insert your brand into the conversation that is already happening. And this is missed if you are auto-populating posts weeks in advance.
Not to mention the fact that many services that allow you to auto-update your social media sites tend to be buggy - leading to updates disappearing, not posting, or posting more than once. Which makes the entire brand look sloppy.
My advice is this. Social Media needs to stay social. Removing the human element to respond in real time, capitalize on the news, and monitor/respond to your community changes the conversation from two-way dialogue to one-way message dissemination. You can’t just talk to your community, you need to talk with them.
And you can’t talk with them if a service is doing the talking for you.
social media management in times of national crisis
The events yesterday in Boston were horrible. As has been the case the last few years, I received more news via Twitter and Facebook than anything else. The news media ran late and, a good portion of the time, was inaccurate. I relied on first hand experiences and retweets from people on the ground for most of my information.
Many of my social media strategist friends immediately began posting messages about how brands should be responding, engaging and posting during the tragedy. In light of what happened, here is my opinion on what brands and organizations should do in social media when a national crisis occurs.
1. Check your automatic updates scheduled for the day and edit/reevaluate. I’ll save my hatred of automatic updates on social media for another day, but if you do use these services, check and make sure that you are not scheduled to post something that would be offensive, out of line, or appear that you’re not informed. Many brands utilize national events (i.e. the marathon) to attach their brand to trending topics online. You don’t want to be the brand that offers marathon runners free pizza after the tragedy because you didn’t turn off your auto posts.
2. Post a message that acknowledges the event and offers your condolences and support. If you’re active in social media with a large following, they will be expecting you to address the major event somehow. Posting a message that acknowledges that you know whats going on and your hearts are with the people affected shows you are on top of the news, aware of what’s happening and the importance that it has on your communities’ lives. But…
3. Don’t lose your voice. Make sure the message that you post is still in your brand voice, to your brand community. This is not to say to make the event about you, but don’t forget who you are posting for and to. A great example of this was from my blog friend Charlsie at Elf on the Shelf. She posted the following on the brand’s Facebook page:
The post perfectly addressed the issue, in the brand’s voice and the community responded positively. She was able to make sure people know that the brand was paying attention without saying something out of character.
4. Don’t become an authority, a news source, a crisis center or speculator. Unless you’re actively associated with these types of situations (emergency preparedness, crisis counseling, etc) there is no need to be the voice of news for your community. Your community members will look to other sources for updates and information. And if they’re asking questions you aren’t qualified to answer, direct them somewhere else.
5. Determine your next steps & push pause. This is where opinions differ in terms of where to go from here. You’ve addressed the situation, protected yourself from putting your foot in your mouth, but what now? My personal opinion is to hold on your social media activities for the rest of the day. Not weeks, not until someone is brought to justice, but for the day. It’s insensitive to have a Twitter party 2 hours after people were killed. There’s no need to have people “like” a photo of your product when families are still searching for their loved ones. You can take the afternoon off just this once.
Many people will disagree with me on step 5. I’ve seen a lot of posts saying that brands should continue on like normal, that life shouldn’t stop because of these events, that we sensationalize them and let them take over.
But my thought is this.
I don’t want to live in a world where these events are “normal.” I don’t want to be completely desensitized to shootings and planes flying into buildings and kids dying and bombings. I don’t want to shrug, post a simple message from my brand then continue talking about what Kim Kardashian is wearing, encourage people to buy a hamburger and post cat gifs.
I want to live in a place where we pause and reflect. Where making money and spreading brand messages takes a backseat to rallying around each other. Where we pause for just a moment and acknowledge that the world sucks sometimes.
We can pick up our social media strategy where we left off the next day. But on day’s like yesterday, we can take a break.
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