Social Media Lessons from Bieber Fever

Justin BieberUnless you’re living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of Justin Bieber, the latest singing sensation that has teens and preteens around the world screaming and sobbing just for a quick, but memorable, glimpse of his dashing smile and famous hair. Last Sunday afternoon, I took my seven (going on 17)-year old daughter to see the new Justin Bieber movie “Never Say Never,” which came in second place at the box office.  As I sat there watching this surprisingly inspiring movie, I noticed my little girl get a twinkle in her eye and I began to understand the intriguing phenomenon known as “Bieber Fever.”

Later that evening, I tuned into the Grammy Awards and watched this young talent share the stage with well-known singer Usher and new-comer Jaden Smith. Though he didn’t win, he did get an amazing outpouring of support on Twitter – leading to his name being a trending topic, yet again.  Some of us love him, while others are tired of his constant media attention. Two things we can all agree on is that he’s captured the mind share of teens and tweens everywhere, and he could certainly teach us all a thing or two about the power of social marketing.

For anyone outside of his core demographic, it may be tough to understand just how this young boy has gained such popularity in a relatively short period of time.  Is it simply luck?  Some say it has something to do with his celebrity backings, from influential artists like Usher.  Or, could it be the impressionable age of his audience or his constant and hectic schedule of personal appearances and performances.

I think the real answer here is that this kid is “ahead of his time” and is an absolute marketing whiz!  When Justin was discovered by talent agent Scooter Braun in 2008, he had five videos on YouTube, with the most popular one generating an impressive 70,000 views—all of this with just the direction of his mother, who video taped all of his performances, including his first appearance at a local singing competition. By sharing his YouTube videos with friends and family (who in turn shared these videos with their networks and so on) and through some honest to goodness hard work, Justin’s celebrity status sky-rocketed and his music career took off. In a matter of a year, girls everywhere were screaming his name.

Bieber Fever

So how did he do it? Justin’s favorite and most-effective social media tool has been Twitter. He was one of the earliest artists to start using Twitter to reach and build his fan base and now just roughly three years later, he’s got 7.2 million dedicated followers hanging on his every word.  He uses Twitter to promote his music, videos, personal appearances and boost ticket and album sales.  A quick glance at his Twitter page and you will notice that he responds to each fan and retweets their messages, further proving to his fan base that he truly is “listening.” In addition to promoting his own videos, movie and other tour news, Justin also wisely takes the time to engage with other celebrities (with huge followings) while promoting his appearances on shows like Ellen and Lopez Tonight.

As a result of his hard work and creative social marketing tactics, the Biebster has the world’s most viewed YouTube video, has over 21 million fans on Facebook and is holding strong on AdAge’s list of Top 10 Twitter “Trending Topics” list with other important world figures and topics such as Egypt’s revolution, the Superbowl and fellow break-through artist Lady Gaga. His Twitter statistics are pretty impressive as well, with his readers’ reach at 146,362,484 and 118% of his tweets being Re-Tweeted.

So, what is next for this marketing sensation and what can we learn from him?

Listen and Engage With Your Audience.

He continuously taps into social media to obtain feedback from his fans and gain more insight into his target audience, their wants and needs.  He “listens” and “engages” with his audience just like any master marketer.

Understand Your Target Audience.

He takes the time to understand his fans and he is always pushing the envelope, trying new ways to promote himself. Because of all of this, he gains the hearts and minds of his fans and thousands of new Twitter followers each week and continues to gain on Britney Spears.

Get Creative and Give Back.

Justin is well-known for offering free concert tickets and pulling off surprise visits to fans, such as his recent Valentine’s Day visit to Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA

After the visit, Justin tweeted: “Just finished seeing some amazing kids who couldn’t get to see #NSN3D …so we surprised them and brought the movie to them.” Bieber ended the tweet with the hashtag #makeachange.

All in all, Justin Bieber and “Bieber Fever” is a classic example of putting social media to work for you in the ultra-competitive music industry. However, the lesson here goes far beyond the entertainment world.  Justin’s use of social media throughout his rise to stardom can be translated to almost any industry or small business.  Maybe all of us can’t reap as much reward from social media as Justin has, but we can definitely try by learning from his best practices. Justin was just ahead of his time in this area — but then again, having great hair can’t hurt either.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun and

Persuasive Picks for the week of 02/07/11

Facebook's New Page Layout Facebook Launches Pages Redesign
Get the lowdown on this week’s rollout of Facebook‘s new layout for Pages via this Mashable post from Ben Parr. What does it mean for your brand?

Facebook Page redesign: 10 things admins should do RIGHT NOW
Since this week’s first pick filled you in about all the Facebook Page changes, this post from David Griner on will guide page Admins in the right direction on what key things they should change first.

Marketers use social media for Valentine promotions
Valentine’s Day is upon us and many marketers have turned to social media in order to promote their related brands. USAToday‘s Bruce Horovitz share examples of six brands who are vying for your Valentine’s Day attention in the social space. On a related note, our client Corey McPherson Nash asks your opinion of the new “romantic” messaging from Teleflora, in this “Tired or Tacky Hearts” post.

Top Ten Things That Get You Unfollowed/Unfriended
Are you still trying to learn the ins and outs of proper etiquette when navigating the social landscape? This post from Peter Shankman provides a good list of DON’Ts to keep you on the right track.

Cyber graffiti with WiFi network names as advertising
Author David Meerman Scott shares this entertaining post on how brands can potentially cash in on some free advertising by leveraging the publicly-broadcast name of their WiFi access points with some creativity.

To Double Space or Not to Double Space?

Lately there have been a lot of writers up in arms over nothing.

No really – an article by Slate’s Farhad Manjoo over the overuse of the double space after the period has sparked a heated debate between the “One Space” and “Two Space” camps. In “Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period,” Manjoo goes on a tirade against people who use the two-space rule, saying that their “ugly error cross[es] every social boundary of class, education, and taste.”

And rightfully so; Manjoo says that it seems like every third email he gets – whether from readers, writers or (yes) even those in the PR profession – includes the two-space error. While people range from adamant to indifferent in their defense of the added void, what Majoo finds infuriating is that the overwhelming majority believes they are correct in taking the extra pause after each sentence – and the remainder go out of their way to use two spaces in formal situations because they believe it’s standard procedure. Not so, he says, and he has proof.

Because typewriters used monospaced type (every letter given an equal amount of space) the resulting lines of text looked “looser,” and people began double spacing after sentences to show some separation between thoughts and to make it easier to read. The only issue is that this behavior carried over to the modern PC, which now uses proportional typeface, and the double space actually chops up the flow of a paragraph, lessening readability.

As a PR professional and a one-space convert (12 years and counting!), I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Manjoo. Call me a Word Nerd or blame it on being beaten down by style manuals while in j-school, but I’m borderline-obsessive about not giving the period that extra space worth of breathing room. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but I also think it makes press releases, emails – you name it – easier to read. I just can’t help myself from following behind two-spacers and tightening everything up when I review documents.

Which side of the debate do you fall on – one space or two?

Thanks for the Free Taco – Five Things Taco Bell Did Right

Taco Bell

Big companies with deep pockets are notorious targets for lawsuits. So when the news broke surrounding the truth in advertising of Taco Bell’s ground beef mixture, I wasn’t quick to make assumptions. Yet, nor was I surprised to learn that said kibble was a mix of beef and other things. In response to the crisis, did Taco Bell bring it? I, for one, think so. We welcome your opinions, too.

Five Things Taco Bell Did Right

1. Delivered a rapid response – The company took immediate steps to address the allegations. Taco Bell was able to quickly realize that anything other than a direct and swift response would have appeared dodgy and run the risk of lending credence to the claims. This is not to say it’s not appropriate to take pause and assess your crisis. But remember the operative words are “pause” – then take action.

2. Harnessed key resources – If you’re a brand with big financial resources, there is no better time to call in the big communications guns then during a crisis. Taco Bell used their deep pockets to produce and run full page ads in major daily newspapers, launch a YouTube video and an online campaign on Google, Yahoo, video and other search engines and social media networks. Even without beefy finances, you should still have a go-to list of resources you can tap when in crisis – whether it’s an emergency fund, industry experts, colleagues and/or clients.


3. Disclosed details – The touchstone of the company’s ad campaign was “setting the record straight,” starting with an attention-getting, tongue-in-cheek headline, Thank You for Suing Us. The ad copy aimed to answer the questions on everyone’s minds, starting with, WHERE’S THE BEEF? By sharing the information that everyone wanted to know, Taco Bell succeeded in getting the public’s attention and, for many, erasing any doubts over the company’s integrity.


4. Avoided spin – As communications professionals, we have a keen awareness of the spin cycle. Amidst digital media and social networks, current generations are quicker to question corporate propaganda – they actually expect transparency. Taco Bell didn’t try to dress up, distract from or skirt the issue. They put their middle-aged, native Australian CEO on video to “set the record straight.” So when you’re faced with a crisis, big or small, think of this example as you consider the merits of authenticity.


5. Showed R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Although I’m not a long-time Taco Bell watcher, I can see from their website, Twitter feed, and Facebook page that the company is proficient and prolific in their public communiqués. The myriad exchanges on these social networks capture a balance of brand and product promotions and one-on-one discourse with customers and fans. Providing a link to a Spanish language translation of the website is another proof point for thoughtful communications. And, just today, the company put icing on the cake (ahem, or toppings on the taco) by thanking fans for their support with a goal of rewarding 10 million free tacos to its Facebook community. Lessons learned here? This should be an easy one – after all, the customer is – unequivocally – king.