In college, about the time that Tuesdays with Morrie came out, Megan and I set a standing meeting to have breakfast at every opportunity. We called it Breakfast with Canon – her last name is Canon. We bonded over campus politics, love of pancakes, and embracing the fun and laughter in every moment. Last fall, Megan responded to a craigslist ad seeking a new roommate to join a group of young women in San Francisco on their journey to embrace the city. The ad said that there was one single make or break rule about their potential roommate: Must LOVE Justin Bieber. For the record, these young women are in their mid-twenties and I have NEVER seen anyone more committed to this rule as die hard fans than them. Megan, having caught Bieber Fever, responded with the passion that only Bieber fans can.
Last October I headed out to San Francisco to visit Megan and a few other friends staying a couple days with her and her roommates, which included Luna the Klee Kai puppy dog (totally my favorite roommate, sorry Jenni).
I was warned of the Bieber rule in the house and was made well aware that if I professed anything other than utter love for Justin Bieber in anyone’s presence I would be sleeping on the street. When getting ready in the morning, I found myself in the bathroom staring at the door and walls, which were covered with Bieber pictures and posters, a sink that had multiple Justin Bieber tooth brushes, and the album basically playing on repeat in someone’s room. Below is a photo of what the bathroom door looks like:
Now, I am not die-hard like Megan, Jenni, Natalie, and Megan (yeah there are two Megans), but I had a respect for Justin Bieber. This didn’t necessarily come from an appreciation for his music, or even his fame or status – it came from his story, the journey he took from street performer, to staged competition, to YouTube performer, YouTube Star, and eventually the global fever that is Bieber. His journey is traceable and with a little digging its easy to see why he is where he is today and why his fans love him so much.
The approach I am about to tell you about isn’t new, Bieber was not the first to implement it, and he wont be the last, I can tell you plenty of examples of people who have executed the same formula to make an impact on others, but I am calling this The Bieber Rule.
Like many before him Justin began his music career in the privacy of his own heart and mind. He was like any other kid growing up, except he taught himself to play instruments, to sing, and to compose music. When he was twelve he competed in a local singing competition in Canada and placed second. As a way to share his performance with those in his family and friends who were not able to attend, he posted the videos on YouTube.
A few views, a few shares, a few comments. Most of which came from Justin’s inner circle. Friends and family commented like the ones below:
“Hey Justin, I knew when i met ya with your dad in the summer that you were a very talented young man. Keep it up buddy and you’ll go far. Take Care sherri”
“justin bieber, you are amazing, i miss hearing you sing, such an incredible voice, we should do a duet some time, miss you, keep singing”
Justin would respond in batches:
“thank u very much. i hope to get some better videos up with better light soon.”
“thx. my mom keeps me pretty grounded. she tells me all the time that what you do doesn’t make you who you are. NO one is better than anyone else. Who we are inside is the most important. We are all unique and all have something to offer and not everyone will like me. that’s life :)”
At the young age of twelve, Justin understood something few big celebrities, brands, organizations, startups, most people for that matter – do. Justin understood that if you do what you love and share it with others they’d support you. Furthermore, you need to be thankful for the fans and support you have and show them what their support means to you. He did this over and over and over for years, he still does it to this day. Only Lady Gaga matches his appreciation for his fans.
Justin kept posting videos with bad lighting, maybe poor sound quality and in everyday settings like the hallway or kitchen of his family home. The fans didn’t care, they didn’t care what camera it was made with, that there was no editing, that the video was shaky – none of that mattered. What mattered was this boy putting his best foot forward over and over again and being extremely appreciative of his fans and the small group of people who followed his work in the beginning. When Scooter Braun discovered Bieber by accident, he saw a kid with a history of videos that all showed the same thing, Justin was passionate about singing, he loved what he did, and he had a spark and a talent that people seemed to enjoy. By this time many of his videos had gone “viral” and even with all the Internet stardom, Braun had a hard time pitching Justin to executives in the states. When Justin did finally sign a record deal and began playing pop up shows in water parks, public squares, and in radio station studios, there were crowds that were so small they wouldn’t even qualify as crowds.
Justin went back to his fans telling him where he was going to be, and low and behold they showed up for him. They showed up for him over and over again all across the country shutting down malls and streets because they loved him so much. They felt an ownership over “discovering” him and felt a personal connection and relationship with him because Justin treated every single one of them as if they mattered the most to him, whether it was online or in person.
i really love all of u out there. you seriously are great people. much love no lie. we have alot of fun together. the bond is #REAL— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) July 24, 2012
To the rest of the Bieber nation it seemed as though Justin came out of nowhere because he sang to Usher and Usher pushed him and promoted him around the country. While this is partly true, it leaves out the part of the story people seem to forget, or never saw, except for the fans that know. Justin put in sweat equity with every single fan he had – since he was twelve years-old – no wonder now that he is eighteen and STILL hasn’t stopped caring about the people who care about him – he is an even bigger star.
The Bieber Rule isn’t about becoming a star on the internet, it’s not about hoping you are discovered by someone who will do the work for you, its about caring about the people who care about you.
I don’t care if these people are your family, friends, customers, clients, fans, or a support group of some kind. Care about them, as much or more than they care about you – because to be honest, they don’t have to care about you, they aren’t forced to. They do it because you are adding some sort of value to them and they are giving you the respect and love that is out of their own generosity, whether that is in feeling or in paying for your service. The companies and people who think they are too big to care, or that it is impossible to reach everyone, or that it is too hard to engage with everyone and take everyone for granted instead – they are going to lose long term.
The reason we can point to Justin Bieber is because the internet has a memory, you can go back to his tweets his comments, his interviews, his videos and its all there – the care he has for everyone. Just as we can see the love he has for his fans, the Internet also catalogues what isn’t there. When companies or people don’t care about those who are engaging with them and care about them, then we see nothing in their actions. The stories told of them do not include engagement but disregard for consumers.
You never know who is watching, who is listening who is caring about what you have to say that you never see.
@bieberlighters i care— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) July 28, 2012
They will come out of the woodwork like Scooter Braun did and help you become what you truly want to be, or take your business to the next level, open a door, and take a chance on you. You just have keep caring, keep giving, and keep engaging – be patient, the people who stop – because its not immediately working – and try to go back to inauthentic ways that everyone else is doing to promote themselves or their company – will get lost in the crowded space.
Trust me I have seen this play out over and over in my life from when I was very young, to today – it is the reason I am where I am today, and the reason I will be where I am working towards in the future. I am grateful for everyone who has ever helped me, even when I didn’t deserve it. I go out of my way to help them get to where they want, be who they want, and do what they want every day – because they do the same for me. Just because we have the Internet doesn’t mean you can be lazy – it means you have to be more authentic, the expectations are higher. Take a page out of Justin Bieber’s book and be a Belieber.
The Bieber Rule: Invest in people; the equity you build in others will never go away.