What We Can Learn About Social Media, Disruptive Innovation & Marketing From U2’s Biggest Album Launch of All Time.

U2’s Songs of Innocence has not had a very innocent launch. It has been quite disruptive. Disruptive innovation is a term that has been very popular in the technological economy. Clayton Christensen first introduced this theory that holds established companies, acting rationally and carefully to stay on top, leave themselves vulnerable to upstarts who find ways to do things more cheaply, often with a new technology. To stay on top for a technology company or even a rock band, they must disrupt the market improving a product in ways that the market does not expect.

U2 front man, Bono said in a recent interview, “Part of the DNA of this band has always been the desire to get our music to as many people as possible.” How does a band in their 38th year continue to live up to that goal when more current acts like Maroon Five, One Direction and Taylor Swift are topping the charts and drawing traditional and social media attention? You creative a disruptive innovation.

Unless you were off the grid, you know that U2 launched a surprise new album at the Apple live event on Tuesday September 9th. More surprising was the fact that it was gifted to all iTunes users as a free download. U2’s manager Guy Oseary says the band wanted to reach as many people as possible. Apple reportedly paid the band an undisclosed direct payment for the exclusive iTunes release and will be running a 100 million dollar ad campaign to promote the album. That is a big promotion budget for a single album, but for Apple, the campaign also ties into promoting iTunes and their new iPhone 6 and iWatch. Apple is no stranger to disruptive innovation when it comes to the music industry and the wireless phone industry turning disruption into profits.

Ben Popper from the The Verge says this may be the future of music promotion, “Time was, the recipe for a superstar artist to create a Big Event Album was well known—a few teaser ads in the music mags, a lead single for radio, some late-night talk show appearances, then sit back and watch the fans line up at the record store on release day. But now that basically every entity in that sentence has been culturally marginalized, and the propeller churn of social media refuses to tolerate slow-burn marketing, the best—and, perhaps, only—way to get everyone talking about your record at once is to release it with no warning.” Popper goes on to say U2 crossed the line by inserting their new album into our libraries without consent. True, but the definition of disruption is “to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something).” Isn’t that exactly why we are all writing these articles, and posts and updates and tweets about U2? To be honest, no one outside of their preexisting fan base would notice a regular album release by four Dubliner’s in the 38 year of their music careers.

U2 beat people to the punch by uploading their own full album to YouTube for free.

U2 beat people to the punch by uploading their own full album to YouTube for free.

Why is this release so disruptive? Apple is giving the album away for free to 500 million iTunes users around the world. On one day 7% of the planet had one button access to the songs instantly. But the band is also thumbing its nose at traditional music industry signs of success. Because Songs of Innocence has been released free at first, it is ineligible to appear on the Billboard 200. Also, because of the delay of the commercial release it will not be eligible for this year’s Grammys. It is also disruptive because a lot of iTunes users are angry that they got a free album. People are talking all over social media about getting the album off their playlist– free or not. But doing something that people don’t expect (causing a disruption) always causes a stir and a big stir is exactly what U2 and Apple wanted.

SMU2What kind of stir or buzz? SocialMention reports a 45% strength, 43% reach and 34% passion in the term “U2.” At the time of this writing sentiment is running 6:1 positive versus negative. Some top keywords are “album,” “iTunes,” “Songs,” and “Innocence.” Top Hashtags related to U2 are “Apple,” “U2songsofinnocence,” “applelive,” and “U2tour.” I saw a big spike in #U2 on Twitter from the site hastags.org and Google reports “U2” was the 7th hottest trending topic in search on Tuesday, September 9th.

Is this free, surprise album launch meeting business goals? Not even a week since the launch the data says yes. The album was downloaded over 2 million times in 3 days. And most likely, an even larger number of people have sampled some of the album by streaming it from iTunes or iTunes Radio. What’s more, the band’s back catalog is selling

17 of U2’s old albums have suddenly jumped up on the iTunes top 100 charts; including The Joshua Tree, their 1987 release, which is at number 12. There are also a lot of tweets out there from kids who are 14-18 saying this is really good and are discovering the band for the first time. But didn’t they mess up the commercial release? Why buy it after October 13? The record company promises a deluxe version with 4 new songs and up to 5 acoustic versions of released songs.

Still many critics say giving away an album is bad business. Before agreeing, consider that U2’s last album release lead to the 360° Tour which is the highest grossing concert tour of all time – netting over $736 million. To put that in perspective, One Direction’s 2014 tour grossed $230 million. With those numbers, giving away some albums for extra social media buzz and exposing the band to new listeners for an upcoming concert tour doesn’t seem like it will disrupt the band’s earnings.

Do you agree? How can you too disrupt your industry to build social media buzz and exceed business goals?

TV Is A “Live” With Social Media And Marketers Benefit.

eMarketer projects MTV to have a global social-media audience of 2.55 billion active users by 2017. This was featured in a recent Variety article that caught my eye. Nick Vivarelli noticed that the power of live television with social media is helping MTV to add viewers, drive reach, increase engagement and is maximizing opportunities for advertisers. He makes a good case.

social media marketing TV

Television is becoming a live with social media.

For marketers trying to reach young consumers, connecting their brands through live shows like live concerts and awards shows with Twitter, Instagram and other social media can produce amazing results. These events are a must-see in real time for fans that can now connect across social platforms. How much?

The MTV Africa Music Awards (known as the Mamas) aired live in 48 countries and trended on Twitter globally, including in the U.S. The Mamas generated more than 1 million page views on the MTV website, a 192% increase. MTV’s Facebook community increased by 80,000, a 79% increase. And its Twitter followers rose by 11,550, a 38% improvement.

These massive results are comparable to last summer’s U.K. MTV event, “Hottest Summer Superstar.” #MTVHottest was used for fans to vote for their favorite artist of the season. #MTVHottest generated 166 million tweets, and led to a 22% increase in viewers of MTV U.K.’s music channels.

The Hollywood Reporter found that “of those who post about TV shows, 76% do so live and 51% do so to feel connected to others who might also be watching.” Hub Entertainment Research found that consumers who report engaging with their favorite shows through Facebook or Twitter said they are more likely to watch shows live. And of the social networks, Twitter is more associated with show engagement. Some 67% of consumers who engage in Twitter related to a show report that it causes them to care more about the show.

Mike Mikco from Advertising Age adds the marketer perspective saying more brands are using social as a megaphone to bolster broadcast campaigns and drive earned media to lower cost per impression. And since people are always talking on social, it allows a brand to monitor and impact the conversation taking TV’s short-term benefits and seeding long-term advocacy.

    Snapple is benefiting from the extra engagement of live voting for America's Got Talent.

Snapple is benefiting from the extra engagement of live voting for America’s Got Talent.

Barbara Liss, director of digital/social media at Quaker Foods says,With the advent of social, brands now have strong loyalty-building opportunities to complement the messages on TV. And if done right, TV can enhance conversation.”

Remember when Oreo took advantage of live TV viewing and social media?

Remember when Oreo took advantage of live TV viewing and social media?

Whether you are seeking a global audience or U.S. social media is turning TV viewing back into a live event with an increased and engaged audience. Have you considered ways to leverage “live” TV through social media?

Leap of Faith? Boardrooms and C-Suite Still Skeptical of Social Media’s Value.

The Guardian reports results of a recent poll of global senior marketers that found only half of all boardrooms are convinced about social media’s value.

Graph via Useful Social Media (USM): 2014 State of Corporate Social Media Briefing - See more at: http://www.evolve24.com/blog/technology/rethink-social-roi-gain-c-suite-buy-in/#sthash.L1umiGVB.dpuf

Graph via Useful Social Media (USM): 2014 State of Corporate Social Media Briefing.

Why? It’s hard to see the value of social if you are not there yourself. According to another survey 64% of CEOs do not use social media at all, with only 5% of all Fortune 500 company CEOs on Twitter. So many marketers, advertising and PR pros are running into road blocks with their social pitches when they reach the executive level.

But those executives said they would use social media more if it were helpful to their business (90%) and if they better understood the benefits (60%). In other words, not understanding the  return on investment (ROI)  is a main barrier to social media adoption in the boardroom.

However, it may useful to put ROI into the context of other marketing communications with which executives are already comfortable. I can see this ROI question from the perspective of advertising. As an advertising agency, even when we ran TV ads for a client, unless it was a direct response commercial (think infomercial) we couldn’t directly prove ROI.

For example, we would run commercials for a fast food client to generate awareness. Sales of their sandwiches either went up or they went down. Perhaps it was the commercial but there are many other factors that could have caused it. What we did know is reach – how many eyeballs we bought based on TV ratings.

Today we may have a Facebook page and post pictures of the sandwiches. Showing up in the newsfeed of consumers generates awareness. Reach in social can be measured by number of fans, shares, etc. passing the branded sandwich pictures on further. But if some see the post, get hungry and go to the restaurant to buy the sandwich we still don’t have a direct measure of ROI.

I think there is a higher standard of ROI in digital because we have been told and sold on “everything” being measurable online. Yet this simply is not true and we forget that many of the traditional marketing we take for granted doesn’t have a direct line of ROI either.

Marketers and the C-Suite and boardrooms make leaps of faith with traditional advertising all the time. How many millions of dollars were spent by Fortune 500s for 30 seconds during the Super Bowl last year? I think it is just harder with social media because it is so new. That said, there is a lot that is provable like the data in the graph below that shows social media drives more leads than traditional advertising.

A recent Hubspot report indicates social media drives more leads than traditional marketing.

A recent Hubspot report indicates social media drives more leads than traditional marketing.

Again, It might simply come down to the C-Suite’s lack of personal involvement. It’s easier to understand the influence of a TV commercial on purchase decisions when you watch TV, but harder to see how Facebook could influence a purchase decision when you don’t use it yourself. The bottom line is social media marketing works not because executives are using it, but because the customer is using it.

So in addition to social media strategist, we must also be social media educators. Our job is to help executives understand that the rest of the world is embracing social media to make purchase decisions with consumer products and in business-to-business.

As John Andrews of Collective Bias says, “Recent studies have shown that more consumers are relying on social media to help determine what products to buy. They are using social to research, find inspiration, search for coupons, read reviews, etc. Connecting with potential customers via channels they use and trust most, allows brands to find out pertinent information about their target audience as well as themselves.”

Let’s all start building a case for social media marketing acceptance. How do you combat C-Suite Skepticism of social media?