The thrill of the concert was hearing my favorite U2 song “New Year’s Day” played live. Yes, I was one of the lucky thousands to score a ticket to the U2 360 Tour in Foxborough last night. It was a beautiful evening for a show – a dash of autumn cool, clear dark skies, and a festive environment.
It was difficult to avoid the ubiquitous presence of social media at the show. It was – literally – everywhere. Fans around me were updating their Facebook pages with concert photos. Others were text messaging friends or providing the playlist on Twitter. One rather grumpy guy next to me sat down and typed out what appeared to be a business email halfway through the show.
This is how much social media has changed the way we work and play. So social media was on my mind as the concert kicked off. Here are three lessons about social networking and social media that became reinforced as I watched U2 give another fantastic concert last night.
#1 – It’s more than just the music
U2 isn’t only interested in getting people to buy their music or concert t-shirts. They want to get their fans involved. Brands can learn a lot about social responsibility and harnessing the passions of its customers (or in U2′s case it’s fans). So while last night’s concert featured the band’s rock standards like “New Year’s Day” and “Vertigo,” U2 also carved out ways to integrate its progressive political views into the show.
Integration is the real key here. U2 isn’t giving lip-service to the causes it supports. They are passionate about it. And that’s important. Brands shouldn’t adopt a cause to sell more shoes or hamburgers. They need to believe. And u2 believes. That’s why the concert was able to showcase the human rights abuses at the recent Iranian elections and call for the release of Burma’s only democratically elected president (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Aung San Suu Kyi.
U2 also sets up kiosks and booths around the venue so fans can join One.org and Amnesty International. U2 cares about these issues, but understands that so do its fans. By providing access and information to these causes, U2 is able to create a stronger bond with their fans – and spread goodwill and charity around the world. A powerful combination.
#2 – The world is connected – so network
Near the end of the concert, Bono asked fans to take out their cell phones. As the lights went dark, he wanted to recreate the Milky Way using the lights from the cell phone screens. Tens of thousands of phones appeared in the night creating a tapestry of stars across Gillette Stadium. It was a beautiful – and wondrous sight.
It illustrated today’s technology reality. Everyone is connected. All the time. U2 understands this and uses the connectivity of its fans to its advantage. At the end of the show, the concert screen displayed the URL for One.org and urged mobile users to text “Kiss” to the address provided.
Throughout the show, U2 used technology – especially amazing video technology – to entertain its fans. Other brands should be doing the same thing. The social web is teaming with legions of customers, prospects, fans, detractors, partners and investors. Brands should be using the power of the web to tell its stories – to showcase its products and ideas – its people. Consumers are connected – so is U2 – and so should brands – all brands.
#3 – Be human
Consumers like the idea of people behind the brand. They want human connections. Bono is a master of providing a human face to U2. He spends a lot of time during a concert creating a connection with the crowd. Last night, the band plucked a young woman from the crowd and had her walk around the stage with Bono as he sang. They also culled dozens of volunteers to walk onto the stage wearing Aung San Suu Kyi masks.
If you give them a chance – or if you even just ask them – people will get involved.
Bono also just talked. He gave the crowd insights into what the band found important – called them to action and gave them next steps (and web address for those next steps). All brands could learn from this simple lesson – be human, be real. Good things always happen when you do that.