3 Social Media Lessons from U2


Its a Twitterful Day.

It's a Twitterful Day.

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.

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7 Responses to “3 Social Media Lessons from U2”

  1. Hi George,
    I wasn’t there and haven’t enjoyed U2 since Patriots first Super Bowl win & “End of the World” soundtrack, but please allow a bit of removed cynicism in your post-show:

    “Tens of thousands of phones appeared in the night creating a tapestry of stars across Gillette Stadium. It was a beautiful – and wondrous sight.”

    Umm, did Bono ask for folks to raise their BlackBerry’s or previous product tie in – iPod? ;).

    I salute Bono for his constant care and work for causes in Africa, Amnesty International, Ireland, etc. I just wonder how many fans actually get involved in charitable giving or political activism because of concert attendance.

    I hope you liked the show more than the social media lessons learned – that’s what the real rock stars do, not the social media imposter rock stars.

    Rawk on!

  2. Hi Adam:
    You are cynical this morning! No, Bono asked for every to take out their mobile phones. He did it before as well – when I saw them in 2005. There were Blackberry signs around the stadium tying in with U2, but he didn’t mention Blackberry as far as I can remember.

    As far as involvement – there seemed to be long lines at the One.org and Amnesty booths. I don’t think going to show makes one join – but if one had the inkling to do so before U2 now made it easy to sign up.

    It isn’t only about direct involvement either – U2 is providing people with information. I don’t know how many people knew about the Burma situation beforehand, but 60,000 more know about it this morning because of Bono and U2 last night.

  3. I’m just glad they played “New Year’s Day” for the Jewish holiday ;).

  4. George,

    I was at the show last night and had a similar reaction. Bono knows what his customers want and he does a great job of presenting it in new and creative ways.

    Bono didn’t preach and tell people what to do. He talked about results – the number of people who signed up for the cause and the millions of children saved by “your” efforts.

    The last time I saw Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder lectured the audience on his political beliefs. That’s why it was the LAST time I’ll ever spend any money to see Pearl Jam.

    BTW the MLK intro to Walk On blew me away!

  5. Hi John:
    It was a terrific show. Thanks for the observations and the difference between Eddie and Bono. You’re right. Bono never stoops to the level of a lecture – and that really does work.

    On a side note, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Pearl Jam twice – and since I agree with Eddie’s politics – I’d never miss a chance to see them a third time!

  6. Thanks for your post! I wrote a similar post last week about Bono and social media and I was pleasantly surprised to find your blog this morning. I suppose U2 fans think alike? And by the way, The U2 concert I attended in Phoenix was PHENOMENAL!

    http://www.bluehelm.com/2009/10/what-can-bono-teach-you-about-social-media/

  7. Nice post, Emory.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the show – because the concert in Boston was excellent as well.

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