If you haven’t heard of Rebecca Black over the past few weeks you’ve probably been hiding under a rock. The 13 year old girl from California has become an overnight pop sensation after her music video went viral on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. 

Once again the phenomenal power of social media reigns supreme.

Across the world the video has gained masses of negative comments and insults from internet users. But interestingly, she has been trending for weeks on and her video has been viewed over 29m times on YouTube. So like they say; all publicity is good publicity.

The whole Rebecca Black thing got me thinking; not because I’m a fan, more out of intrigue. (Honest!)  How does an unknown teenage popstar wannabe, and not a hugely talented one, get to be one of the most mentioned people on social media?

So I asked one of our analysts to do a quick social media monitoring study using some simple criteria:

  •     The keyword ‘Rebecca Black’.
  •     Date range of 20.02.11 to 21.03.11.
  •     Across all countries.
  •     Any language.

How the buzz developed

So we started with daily volumes. The first video was posted around the 10th of February, and, looking at volumes it was quite an uneventful launch on YouTube with relatively few views, as you can see in the chart below.

The real viral effect of the video came near on a month later when mentions containing ‘Rebecca Black’ soared from 0 to 180,000 in the space of just a week!

Rebecca Black1

So what caused this spike? 11th March saw two key posts, one by a Twitter user and a link posted by the Comedy Central series Tosh.0. We can then see some other key influencers who contribute to the following spikes, such as Perez Hilton.

In the first instance we focused on Twitter users only, and measured influence purely by the number of followers a Twitter user had.

Rebecca Black2

Secondly we looked at influencers by comment count. Here we indentify the top three:

Rebecca Black3


To complete our quick snapshot we looked at sentiment, which we found to be not wholly negative, with many people congratulating her and enjoying the irony of comments which keep her trending.

But congratulating her on trending is not the same as liking her music, so sentiment always needs to be tracked and assessed with a human eye. If Rebecca and her label were simply looking at this report then they would be celebrating their future sales, and potentially imagining her as the next Justin Bieber internet sensation.

In the social media sphere this is arguably the most ambiguous measurement as the judgement is based on technology. These two examples show that sentiment tracking is inaccurate, and must always be manually assessed.

Rebecca Black4

But is it good publicity? Should your brand aspire to be a Rebecca Black?

Just because a buzz is created, it does not necessarily represent something positive. If you’re offering a product, in this case a song, then you need to make sure that people are talking the product and not the mechanism or gimmick that surrounds the product.

Your social media activity needs to offer something of interest and of value, in line with your brand and positioning

Why listen?

This isn’t any type official or sophisticated research but it does show, on a simple level, the insight you can gather from through social media monitoring:

  • Identify and amplify positive word of mouth: find out the good things consumers are saying about your brand (or content they are creating) and amplify it through direct and indirect channels.
  • Handle customer complaints: respond to complaints promptly, honestly and transparently can prevent a crisis emerging.
  • Gather competitor intelligence: what good and bad things customers are saying about your competitors.
  • Identify topics that attract crowds: create content that will genuinely be of interest to significant volumes of customers.
  • Find influencers: and influence them.
  • Identify unfulfilled customer needs: identify opportunities for leveraging points of competitive differentiation, or identifying potential areas for innovation or product development
  • Audit your social media presence: what is your social media share of voice and how does it compare to your share of market (or share of paid media).
Richard Lees

Published 6 April, 2011 by Richard Lees

Richard Lees is Chairman at dbg and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

11 more posts from this author

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Comments (4)


Nick Stamoulis

Rebecca Black will get her 15 minutes of fame and live forever in the halls of viral sensations. But is there real staying power in the brand of Rebecca Black? Yes, she has gotten a lot of attention, although most of it is using her as the punchline. Is that what you really want for your brand? Is a huge spike in attention, for whatever reason, worth it?

over 7 years ago



Good stuff, can't help but wonder if you manually went through all 180,000 comments in Radian 6 to analyse their sentiment?

...Because Radian 6 isn't so great at that. Unless you discounted neutral of course

over 7 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

"Should your brand aspire to be a Rebecca Black?"

Ridiculous question really. Rebecca Black falls into the category of "it's so bad it's good" formula that turns something that wasn't intended to be comedy into great comedy.

Only works if you are in entertainment and your product is actually a song or movie that "is so bad it's good".

Remember this one from Microsoft?

The WIndows 7 party. Now many people feel that MS intentionally made it "so bad, that it's good" to make it viral. I am not so sure otherwise they wouldn't disable comments - it's the negative comments that often fuel these videos.

By the way some viral video marketers have many fake accounts and post negative comments on their clients video to fuel the viral controversy effect.

BTW regarding music videos, I think it's highly possible that pros are sometimes behind so called amateur music videos. Just saying.

over 7 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

Laughing my ass off at the spoof videos!

over 7 years ago

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