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Failure to Tweet: The Bieber Effect

Celebs should worry about what they tweet, but what about what they don’t tweet? Are they liable for this as well? We know about the benefits of social media, but has anyone considered what a monster it could be? Justin Bieber’s manager sure has.

YouTube sensation turned mini-prince of pop Justin Bieber dominates the media. If you’re unfamiliar with the 16-year-old teen heartthrob, ask any girl age 2 to 15 for a full biography and brace yourself for a squeal. Usher signed Bieber after he appeared in his hometown of Stratford, Canada’s version of “American Idol,” and his mother posted his songs on YouTube. Bieber became an instant sensation after his first single, “One Time,” hit the airwaves in 2009.

Young girls Google, YouTube, Facebook and Tweet him daily. Even girls as young as 3, which can be seen on YouTube, cry because they “love Justin Bieber so much.” My 13-year-old sister begs my mother every day for a Facebook and Twitter account only for purposes of knowing Bieber’s every move and thought.


His videos on YouTube boast tens of millions of views; “One Time” has been viewed more than 58 million times since it posted in November 2009. According to the Huffington Post, Bieber racks up 11,000 new followers a day on Twitter, where his place as a trending topic might be permanently secured. Even if you’re not a Bieber fan, it’s hard to ignore the social media sensation he creates every day.

It’s been very hard for his manager Scott “Scooter” Braun to ignore — he was arrested for refusing to send a Tweet about a canceled appearance.

When Bieber’s appearance at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Winston Park, New York, was canceled, Braun didn’t inform loyal fans about the change in plans. Police reportedly asked him to send a tweet when the crowd began to get out of control. He refused, and a teenage girl was injured in the mob. Braun was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, criminal nuisance and endangering the welfare of a child.

Has social media become so important in our lives that we could be charged for “failure to tweet”? Braun’s only real offense is refusing to send a message to fans in 140 characters or less.

I relate to every tween’s heart-felt obsession; I felt the same way about Zac Hanson from age 10 to . . . well, I’m pretty sure I still love him, and it makes my day to see a new tweet from @hansonmusic. But Zac Hanson’s lack of tweets never hurt anyone or got anyone arrested. What makes Bieber’s obsessive fans different from Hanson’s? Social media, of course.

Are we creating a new area of social media responsibility? Should we hold celebs accountable for refusing to tweet? As social media grows into a larger monster than anyone expected we might see more celebs suffering from the Bieber effect and poor managers who have to take responsibility for a failure to tweet. As PR peeps, what can we learn from the Bieber effect? Simply put: tweet, or don’t tweet, with caution.

by Allison Cook


  1. Post comment

    And they say kids don’t Tweet. I think Mr Bieber is proof otherwise.

  2. Post comment

    You both brought up some interesting points.

    There are different expectations for different tweeters. Because celebs have dedicated fans (like 3-year-old Cody in the video), refusing to tweet becomes much more serious. If I decided not to tweet about my decision to stay home instead of heading to the mall, I doubt anyone would care, and I seriously doubt anyone would get hurt.

    Reading the responses makes me wonder: If Braun had refused to post the cancellation on Bieber’s Web site, Facebook, blog, etc., would he still have been arrested? Why was his Twitter account singled out? Does social media responsibility only apply to Twitter, or should it apply to other areas as well?

    Thanks for your comments!
    -Allison Cook

  3. Post comment

    Personally, I think social media is getting out of hand. It is crazy to me that someone was arrested and charged for endangering the welfare of a child for not “tweeting” to inform fans of a concert’s cancellation.
    That said, I do think Justin Bieber’s manager should have contacted the fans some how, letting them know of the cancellation. It is ridiculous, however, that he was arrested for not doing so.

  4. Post comment

    Tweet, with caution, is how I view the social media aspect of tweeting. I view tweeting in two categories: Individually and for an organization or business. I think tweeting for an organization is essential and helps promote and keep the public up-to-date on important information occurring within the company. However, when it comes to an individual tweeting, things can get messy. A sense of privacy invasion occurs and Justin Bieber’s incident is an example of this. One should not be charged for failure of tweeting routinely about their personal life, regardless if they are a celebrity or not. It is dangerous for the public to know your every move. What happens, for an example, when predators catch on to tweeting and use this social medium, like so many others (Facebook and MySpace)? As for a celebrity, I would imagine not only the number of paparazzi would increase with the immediate knowledge of a stars location, but also fans. Overall, my answer is yes, we are creating a new area of social media responsibility if incidents like this with Justin Bieber’s continue to occur.

  5. Post comment

    I think it’s a good idea to tweet if they can help prevent incidents from happening like in Bieber’s situation.


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