It didn’t hit me until I settled in for my 4th straight night of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
I know what you are thinking…”Why on Pope’s Francis’ green earth are you watching Jimmy Fallon?”
The answer was simple: JT. As in: Justin Timberlake.
Thursday marked the 5th straight night overall that I’ve settled in to see a performance from the multi-talented actor/singer/SNL host extraordinaire.
But the reality is that for the last 3 months, JT has driven a steady buzz across multiple channels, and it is fascinating insight on how to continue evolving your brand and reaching out to a diverse (and splintering) audience.
Particularly of note is JT’s use of Twitter to re-introduce himself to a fan-base that hasn’t heard a new song from him in more than 5 years.
Twitter was actually the first point of re-engagement for the singer. With more than 17 million followers, he is one of the top celebrities on Twitter.
This isn’t the first time Timberlake has tested the platform in this fashion. In September, he used Twitter in a similar fashion, when launching the new MySpace.
Its clear he finds the platform as a great place for him to quickly connect.
At this point in the news cycle, no one has heard a single note of his new song, yet EVERY news outlet covered the news. By going through Twitter and developing his own content (video), JT not only controlled the message, but set the tone for the coverage. To this point, the meat of the news (the actual song) has yet to be released.
Since that time, Timberlake has performed on a number of shows, from the Grammys to the aforementioned SNL, and even did a party during Super Bowl where he released new tracks. This week he will be performing a new song every night on Jimmy Fallon.
What’s unique in JT’s PR approach – and what makes Twitter such a useful and unique platform – is that he has yet to do an in-depth interview with a mainstream music magazine like Rolling Stone or gone through the talk show circuit. Yet his single “Suit and Tie” easily went over the 1 million download mark on iTunes, and industry analysts expect more than 500,000 copies of the album sold in the first week of its release.
Most artists look at TV appearances and cover stories in magazines as the primary vehicle to draw interest and attention. Timberlake, through social media, has garnered a similar level of media coverage just through the Twitter tactics. This will allow him to still pursue the traditional media outlets, but with an existing media cycle in place.
My sense is you will see a more traditional set of appearances after the album becomes available on March 19. If I put my money on it, a feature in Rolling Stone, followed by Esquire or GQ will be unveiled soon, with the goal of attracting the traditional audiences who read those magazines. Overall, it’s a really impressive integrated communications campaign which highlights the power of storytelling, themes and pulling the different levers of communication channels.
But the takeaway for brands is clear:
For Mr. “Suit and Tie,” Twitter offered him a platform to not only communicate directly with his audience, but convey a clear message, and control what he was offering to his fans.
The subsequent engagement led to a larger and longer news cycle than had he reached out to one or two specific outlets with the news.
Simply put: by going to Twitter he was able to give ALL OUTLETS the exclusive, instead of selecting one or two and hoping others follow. He didn’t limit himself to the traditional audiences and approaches to driving a cycle, which is often the route many established brands choose. As a result JT broadened his reach and further established his brand.
This is an approach more companies should take. For many successful, established brands, platforms like Twitter serve as a check-box exercise as part of their traditional PR approach. “We’ll post it on YouTube and call it a day,” or “here are some tweets and Facebook posts we will send out.” The smart brands are starting to understand that this approach is not only lazy, but not enough.
JT isn’t the first and won’t be the last to use clever social platforms. From Lady Gaga to Justin Bieber, its becoming clear that social platforms are increasing in reach and power for brands. As JT proves, the power of social is there for the taking, provided you understand how that audience can become not only your customers, but your advocates.