While pop stars’ fortunes these days are heavily dependent on building an online fan base, the reverse is even more true. Social media sites are tripping over themselves to score the one celebrity who will shower them with rabid fans.
I’m surprised to see how often the words “The Jonas Brothers” show up in my inbox. And no, it’s not because I’m signed up for their fan club alerts or anything like that. It’s because these guys are huge. Their magical combination of luscious locks and mediocre crooning have captured the hearts of young ladies everywhere. And outside of their day jobs as Hanson 2.0, they’re also the poster children for any number of social media services.
The first time I heard about the band was last October, when Justin.tv told me the brothers were by far their most popular users, helping the startup to secure venture funding from Alsop Louie. As I noted then: “Up-and-coming band the Jonas Brothers has been the biggest hit to date, with 80,000 uniques and a maximum of 14,000 simultaneous viewers turning in for a live chat last week.”
Then a couple months later I got a pitch from widget provider Nabbr: “Nabbr has delivered more than 28 million video views in two months for the Jonas Brothers and helped their first single, ‘Mandy,’ reach No. 4 on MTV’s TRL with virtually no radio airplay.” Now it’s hard to find a startup that isn’t hawking some tie-in with the band. This week I talked to Uber, which just concluded a contest for the best Jonas Brothers fan page created with its tools. I also heard from Bebo and Kyte, who are teaming up for the official Jonas Brothers UK launch with a contest that will see the winner attend a live concert held on a bus as it drives around London. It will be broadcast using Kyte on Nokia N95s.
Wait a second, doesn’t Kyte compete with Justin.tv? These guys can’t be everywhere, can they? Well, it doesn’t appear that they’ve updated their Justin.tv channel in the last 10 months (though the chat room hasn’t stopped; members there are still arguing over which brother is cuter). And they started posting actively on Kyte about three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, back at the official Jonas Brothers home page, they don’t mess around with the all the social media flavors of the month; there are only links to Flickr, MySpace and YouTube. The Jonas Brothers have made a pretty big indent on the heavyweight YouTube: Their channel is the No. 6 most-subscribed channel of all time, and the band is ranked as and the No.1 most-subscribed-to musician of all time.
Much can be attributed to the fact that the teeny-bopping superstars actually use these services. Give fresh, original content to your fans and you can bet they’ll come back for more. Live-streaming, blogging, and contest-holding is invasive and exhausting, but feeding people’s obsessions is a remarkably easy formula for success. And having young fans doesn’t hurt, either. As Uber founder Scott Sassa notes, “[The Jonas Brothers] resonate with an audience that has the aptitude and the time to spend on social media sites.”
But scoring a celebrity user is a difficult game of relationship-building, evangelizing and luck. The hottest stars will always be in the highest demand, and there’s no easy system for figuring out whether your best bet is the celebrity, or their label, manager, promoter or PR company — and if any of them will actually call you back. And celebrity fairy dust isn’t unlimited; even the Jonas Brothers (and their staff) can’t use every single service.