Social Media makes the Christmas number one

4 minute read

It has been an extremely interesting week for not only the British music industry, but also for the internet and social media. The battle for the UK Christmas number one single has been fought on many topics. I won’t hide my point of view here: I thought the X-Factor’s offering was painful at best, and I am delighted to have such an entertaining song at number one from RATM, but I would like to focus on how it happened.

Tracy and Jon Morter, a couple that I’d never heard of before, started a Facebook group originally titled “Rage against the x-factor“. It strived to get members to buy RATM’s “Killing In The Name“, in the hope that it might outsell the X-Factor’s single. Given that the power of traditional broadcast media and interruption marketing has meant that every X-Factor winner from 2005-2008 had been number one, this seemed like quite a task. Yet, although it was close, that campaign succeeded.

As I write, that group has just shy of 1,000,000 members. The initial growth was completely viral. Tracy and Jon invited their friends, who invited their friends, et cetera. This wave swept through my Facebook account. I can’t remember which of my friends appeared in my news feed as having joined the group, but it was enough to convince me, which means my other friends may have also seen it in their news feed, and so on.

Twitter became a vital key, attracting the attention of the likes of Stephen Fry and Bill Bailey. With retweets from celebrities came a massive following, with #ratm4xmas trending, and eventually crunch point: media attention.

Suddenly Jon Morter was being interviewed live by Jo Whiley on Radio One. Rage Against The Machine were interviewed and played live on Radio 5 – predictably ignoring their promise to keep the version clean – which of course attracted yet more attention.

Zach de la Rocha, Rage Against The Machine’s lead singer, was interviewed when their number one success was announced, and said something quite inoffensive that raised my eyebrows. He referred to the “UK kids” having “spoken”.

Here, I think he’s got it all wrong. Facebook’s insights would be able to confirm. If we consider kids to be those under 18, I wonder how many of them changed their usual music buying patterns as a result of this campaign. Aged 30, I am confident that I and my peers changed ours a lot. Prior to this week, I hadn’t bought a music single in over a decade. Why would I? Albums, yes. Yet for everything else there’s the likes of Spotify and Last FM.

Social Media has torn traditional marketing apart. It has reached to all ages. It got people’s attention when it suited them – when they checked Facebook or their Twitter feed. Traditional marketing relies on people observing bus shelter adverts, wanting to listen to radio DJs, wanting to buy a magazine or newspaper to see the adverts. In this case, it also relied, heaven forbid, on people wanting to spend their Saturday evening watching the X-Factor.

Yet Social Media marketing arrives as a message from your friends, when you decide you want to see it. Your friends have already done the research, they’ve shown an interest, and maybe you would like to as well. Simon Cowell and the X-Factor will be back – presumably at number one next week. This campaign has of course been a flash in the pan, but for Social Media, it is perhaps a coming of age. It’s a marketing tool that can be ignored no longer.