At times, social media can make you feel like you’re swimming in a sewer. But when the space is used properly, it can make an incredible impact for a brand and its followers.
Some of you may be familiar with Mary Klym, but I’m guessing most of you aren’t. Mary is a teenage girl from Ohio who like most kids loves music and social media. Her favorite band is Weezer. Her favorite song is “Africa” by the 1980’s band Toto.
In late 2017, Mary took to Twitter to ask Weezer to consider covering her favorite song. She created a twitter account, @WeezerAfrica, and started using the hashtag #WeezerCoverAfrica. Each day she’d tweet promoting the idea, thinking there’s no way the band would ever respond.
Her persistence eventually caught the attention of Weezer frontman and guitarist Rivers Cuomo, who played along, liking a number of her tweets and responses from other fans. But there’s a big difference between being nice on social media and actually recording a song and releasing it.
Media outlets then became aware of Mary’s social media push, further highlighting it. When VICE published a story about the teenager’s determination to have the band cover her favorite song, it reached Toto keyboardist David Paich. He then took to Facebook, and posted the article, tagging Cuomo in his post.
Then in the ultimate troll move, Weezer released a Toto cover on May 24th except it wasn’t “Africa” but the band’s other big hit “Rosanna.”
The song showed that Weezer had received Mary’s message but wanted to have some fun and create a little more noise. Articles were written about the band’s response, music stations aired the Rosanna cover, and fans flocked to social media upset that the group hadn’t recorded “Africa”.
Finally, five days later, social media exploded when Weezer rewarded Mary’s efforts by posting the link to their new cover song “Africa.” The video on YouTube, has since amassed over 6 million views, and contains one image, Mary’s original tweet.
Media outlets once again jumped all over the story. Fans invaded Twitter praising the group for covering the song, earning likes and retweets from Weezer in the process. Toto also shared the news and song with their fans too.
As Mary enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame, Weezer were right there every step of the way. They shared her story thru their social media accounts to let fans and new followers know that they can make an impact by connecting with their favorite artists.
Because of Weezer’s willingness to acknowledge and reward the efforts of a passionate fan who just wanted to hear them cover the classic Toto hit, they’ve reaped the ultimate benefit. Their rendition of “Africa” shot up to #1 in US sales on iTunes, #8 on Billboard’s Hot Rock chart, and #8 on YouTube’s US Trending chart. It was the band’s biggest hit sing 2009.
As I brushed up on my knowledge of this campaign it reminded me of how valuable and powerful social media can be for sports radio brands and their personalities. Whether it’s something as simple as following back a fan, rewarding a listener with a prize for sending in a good tweet or making a call, or connecting them to a once in a lifetime experience, social media helps you build lasting relationships with your audience.
I’ve suggested before to program directors to takeover their brand’s twitter accounts once per quarter to do a public Q&A with fans. You’ll learn what your audience likes/dislikes, it becomes on-air and online content for your hosts, but most importantly, it tells your listeners you’re accessible and open to feedback. Fans want to feel empowered and like they have an influence in the radio station. This gives them a little bit of access and it requires minimal effort.
If you’re a talent, how about putting the power of one segment of content in the listener’s hands? MTV used to allow fans to vote up one of two videos and whichever received better response became the next song played. I piggybacked off that idea in San Francisco with a featured called “The Switch” where John Lund and Greg Papa gave listeners a choice of three things they could hear discussed at 1pm each day. Whichever option received the most votes, became the subject we talked about.
This is also something teams and musical acts can take further advantage of.
Imagine if a band was coming to your city and gave you a chance to vote on social media which song they started or closed the show with. Or maybe they put up a poll question with four choices asking which cover song you’d like to hear them play at the show that they’ve never performed live before? It’d make the audience feel they were receiving something special.
Teams can do it too. Wouldn’t you be more likely to get to the stadium or arena earlier if the team utilized social media to give a select number of fans who arrived early an opportunity to meet a player before the game? Or if they rewarded a fan with a chance to gain entry to the field for batting practice or taken to the broadcast booth and a pre-game tour of the locker room?
These may not be revolutionary concepts but they make fans feel closer to the brands they love. Most of these things are in your possession and part of your daily plan. Leveraging your access, and people, to put the power in the hands of the audience is smart business.
A few other ways I’ve seen social media utilized in smart ways include Matt Nahigian’s creation at his former spot 97.5 The Fanatic when his promotion “Celebrity Week” led to notable figures calling into The Fanatic on behalf of listeners who had sought them out on Twitter. Listeners would ask the celebrities to call into the station to try and help them win Eagles and Phillies season tickets. The list of names who dialed in was impressive.
Spike Eskin shared in a recent conversation with BSM’s Brandon Contes how WIP’s audience was given a chance to name Joe Giglio’s podcast. Once they were asked to get involved, listeners showcased their creativity by coming up with the incredible title “Me and Giglio Down by the Schoolyard.”
Among musicians, Taylor Swift has become one of the best at using social platforms to increase connections with her loyal fans. In the NFL, J.J Watt reminded us how powerful the social space can be when Hurricane Harvey impacted Houston. Thanks to Watt’s efforts over 37 million dollars was raised to affect those in need.
When Mike and Mike signed off at ESPN and ESPN Radio, the hashtag #MMSayThanks was used to give fans a chance to submit their comments and favorite memories of the show. Many of those audience submissions were personally addressed by the Mike’s and their production team thru video on Twitter.
The point of this is to remind you that in the eyes of the audience, your brand and its hosts are viewed the same way that Weezer are by their fans. People love what you do, and invest a large amount of time each day listening and responding to what you create. When you take the time to acknowledge them and treat them to special moments, they become fans for life.
Sometimes when you go above and beyond, as Weezer did covering Toto’s classic hit ‘Africa’, it’ll help you enjoy a surge in buzz, ratings, and revenue. Anytime you can hit the trifecta with one simple decision, that’s the ultimate payoff which every brand strives for.