I feel the need before I start to clarify that I am not a big One Direction fan, although I have nothing against them either. It's good to see a British band doing well in America, and my children like them. What really does interest me, though, is that a significant part of their success has been attributed by their management to social media.
One Direction came third in the X Factor in 2010. The winner was someone called Matt Cardle … remember him?
One Direction was signed by Simon Cowell’s label Syco and then in the USA by Columbia. They went on to do something that few British bands have done; they stormed the United States where they have sold more than 19 million singles and 10 million albums and topped the Billboard charts.
Justin Bieber had shown that there was a market for a clean cut, parent friendly pop artist and One Direction's management realised that there was a gap in the market for a band of a similar ilk. Bieber had also successfully embraced social media. His Twitter account currently has close to 44 million followers and his Tweets are typically Re-tweeted around 50,000 times and often break through 100,000. It is an astonishing level of engagement for content which would be fairly banal and unexceptional if associated with anyone else. 'Do what u love, love what u do' on August 27th has so far been Re-tweeted over 150,000 times.
One Direction seem to have taken a cue from this strategy. The Band’s Twitter account, managed by a social media team, has 14.6 million followers and has made 4,936 Tweets. Harry Styles, the most written about band member has more followers at 15.8 million and has made 4,392 Tweets, a not dissimilar number. This shows his allure as an individual.
Interestingly the next most popular band member is Neil Horan with 13.8 million followers. How has he achieved this? Hard work by the look of it, with 7,894 Tweets. That’s an interesting lesson in social media management.
Sonny Takhar, CEO of Syco Records, attributes the band’s tipping point to the power of social media. "Sometimes you feel the song's the star, but it's not like that here – it's the act. It's a real moment. Social media has become the new radio, it's never broken an act globally like this before."
Will Bloomfield, the group's manager, has said; "These guys live online, and so do their fans."
This is one case study where social media, backed by television and radio presence is unquestionably powerful. It's not the songs, it's the act. It's not your products, it's your story.