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If you’ve ever wondered why brands and mega-corporations pursuing top influencers on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube, this is going to blow your mind: Two YouTube influencers – the Williams twins from Gary, Indiana – listened to the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” for the first time and sent the early 80’s hit back up the charts with a single video. Within a week, the song charted as high as #2 on iTunes, and the YouTube reaction video is now up to 6.5 million total views. The Williams twins even got the attention of mainstream media stalwart CNN, which featured the work of the two influencers and wondered aloud at the power of social media. So what can you learn from this brilliant example of social media at work?
#1: You don’t have to go big to get a big payback from influencers
Until the Phil Collins reaction video, most people had never heard of the Williams twins. Yes, @TwinsthenewTrend YouTube account has nearly half a million subscribers, but that’s a full order of magnitude lower than what you’d typically find with an A-list social media influencer, who can have upwards of several million fans. But what the Williams twins may lack in sheer volume, they more than make up for with their sheer passion for music. Watch the full 7-minute video, and you’ll see them bobbing their heads, bumping their chests, wagging their hands, and looking absolutely astonished when “In the Air Tonight” breaks into a rousing drum solo nearly 3 minutes into the song. “Let’s wake ‘em up!” they explode in joy, as they see what the song has been building to for the whole time.
The lesson for brands is clear: you don’t have to choose an A-list influencer to move the needle for your brand. A couple of unknown kids had the power to send a nearly 40-years-old song back up the chart with a single reaction video. Choose wisely, however, when you pick your influencers. Stop focusing on sheer numbers (as in followers and subscribers), and instead, focus on influencers who have a true passion for a certain niche or product.
#2: You don’t have to create your own original content to go viral
The success of the viral Phil Collins video shows that you don’t have to create your own original content to go viral. Reaction videos are very much a thing, and fans love to see how their favorite influencers react to things. (in this case, music) The Indiana twin influencers, in fact, have built their entire brand recognition around the concept of the “First Time Listen.” They ask their fans to recommend some famous musician to listen to the first time, and they then react in real-time to hearing that music. Prior to Phil Collins, the twins had listened to Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill and, yes, Dolly Parton.
To build on this idea, any brand can use the same concept to come up with a content strategy. Think about reaction videos for any news in your industry or vertical. Or re-examine the “classics” of your business. An advertising agency, for example, might take a look back at some of the most successful ads of a certain decade and explain how and why they worked.
#3: You need to understand how new social media platforms are changing tastes and preferences
Maybe it’s the impact of the TikTok generation, which is into lip sync impersonations and dance routines set to popular music, but it’s clear that there has been a resurgence of interest around mixing and re-mixing popular culture. Music, of course, is just one great example here. With the ability of 20/20 hindsight, it’s possible to see why a certain song “worked” at a certain time in history, and the Williams twins offered their own play-by-play analysis of what made “In the Air Tonight” so great. At one point, for example, they were talking about why it could become a WWE entrance song, and at another point, they discussed the musical genius of waiting a full 3 minutes for that legendary drum solo.
So be aware of how the emergence of new social media platforms can change tastes and preferences online. You need to be building content around what people actually want to consume, not what you think they want to consume. Spend some time on TikTok or Twitch, and see how the experience changes from what you’d expect on Facebook or Twitter.
The power of social media is that you never know what can happen once you entrust your brand, product or service to social media influencers. In this case, social media influencers were able to send a 40-year-old song back up the charts. So what can social media influencers do for your business?