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The Truth Behind Arctic Monkeys Buzz -- They Are SO January!

If you get all your information from the mainstream media, you might think the Arctic Monkeys will be the next big thing. But there is evidence that even though there is plenty of excitement among journalists, the thrill appears to be gone among insiders.

It''s a story that should interest public relations practitioners looking to help their companies and their clients strike PR gold. It''s also a story that might prompt some in the public relations community to rethink where the mass media fits into the buzz-building equation.

By now, I hope you''ve read The Tipping Point, the excellent overview of how products, services, brands and ideas catch fire and zoom into the public''s consciousness. Author Malcolm Gladwell identifies two primary drivers of the buzz that every brand covets: connectors and mavens.

Connectors are people who just seem to know everybody. They may not be the most knowledgable people on any given subject; their core equity is their abilty to establish and build personal relationships.

Mavens are people who know a great deal about a particular subject. We all know someone who we know can answer a question that stumps us. It''s the concept behind "phone a friend." For instance, I know a fair amount about baseball and a lot about baseball in the late 1970s and I suspect I could pass for maven status when it comes to information about the Yankees in the late 1970s.

Typically, mavens are the first to know about something and they enjoy telling those they know about it. Only problem is, a maven usually doesn''t know that many people. It''s not what they''re all about.

So it''s when a passionately excited maven gets his or her message to a connector that buzz can really explode.

Now let''s examine what''s happening in the mainstream media with the Arctic Monkeys, which is being labeled the "it band" going into the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. Many of the articles have questioned why the band is so red hot.

The answer is clear: mavens who passionately follow emerging music trends (Remember the characters played by John Cusack and Jack Black in the movie, "High Fidelity?") began spreading the word about the band last August. True to form, nobody heard them because mavens don''t know anybody. In October, the next level of mavens caught wind of the band, but still the excitement stayed contained to a relatively small number of music geeks. 

But in mid-January, something happened that helped the Arctic Monkeys absolutely explode. The connectors finally were exposed to the band. The mavens were finally being heard. Thanks to Technorati.com, public relations practitioners can now easily track the dynamics of buzz in real time. After all, the ultimate mavens of this decade most surely are blogging about their passions and interests. They may have a relatively tiny sphere of influence compared to a columnist with a daily newspaper, but the blogging maven is far more likely to identify trends within their area of expertise.

Here is the 6-month chart tracking the number of daily blog mentions of "Arctic Monkeys." 

You can plainly see the long period leading up to the January discovery and the tipping point that came at the start of February. This coincides with the "discovery" of the band by the ultimate connectors: the mass media. The revelation to me as I look at this is that the mavens began to lose interest as soon as the mass media began to get a clue. Once discovered, the Arctic Monkeys lost their sizzle. They were no longer the next big thing, they were the big thing.

The lesson for the public relations community is that it is extremely difficult to have a breakthrough product, brand or idea without fostering the support of the small, typically insoluated and not particularly social group of mavens who are the experts in your marketplace. Only by earning their passionate support will you gain the credibility needed to convince the connectors -- the mainstream media -- that you''re for real.

And the amazing thing is that you can easily track these trends for free at Technorati.com. Type the name of your brand, company or even your category to track the hum. And better yet, find compelling and authentic ways to capture the attention of the blogging community. They are the ultimate mavens of this era.

How quickly a buzz explosion happens is always a mystery. There are plenty of companies and products that never reach a tipping point. They hum along steadily for generations. Others burst onto the scene in months or even weeks. Still others (Pabst Blue Ribbon comes to mind) experience sudden, almost unexplainable booms after long periods of decline.

All these ebs and flows are driven by a combination of maven passion and connector confidence. Unfortunately for the Arctic Monkeys, the Technorati graph clearly indicates the mavens have moved on to the next big thing. They have deemed the Monkeys to be mainstream even before most of America has heard of them and in the midst of intense media interest painting them as the breakthrough band of 2006.

Oh well, it was a good six weeks while it lasted.

Dan Keeney
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Author: Dan Keeney
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