What a dead singer can tell us about the power of social media

The biggest social media story of this week is the extraordinary to get Jeff Buckley’s version of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah to the Christmas number one spot in the singles chart.

“Extraordinary” because it’s a fair bet that most people haven’t even heard of Buckley, who died in 1997, made only one studio album, Grace, and whose cover of Hallelujah was recorded fourteen years ago. 

Yet there is every sign that the Buckley version, which has had thousands of downloads since Monday, will reach at least number 2 by Christmas.

The Facebook campaign, which has been covered extensively in the media, was launched after the X Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, released her crowd-pleasing  version of Hallelujah – on the face of it a shoo-in for the Christmas number one spot. In a spirit of protest against the manufactured nature of the X Factor single, a few people banded together to launch the Facebook group, arguing that the Buckley version has greater integrity. As the group now has 90,000 members, most of whom have joined in the last five days, it seems a lot of people agree.

So what can we learn from this? Simply that by harnessing the power of social media, it is possible to mobilise vast numbers of people very quickly in a common cause. Even three years ago, there would have been no chance at all of a campaign like this working – while a few solitary individuals might have had a grumble about the X Factor, the idea that they could, in a few days, find, let alone organise, 90,000 others who thought the same way, would have been laughable. 

This week, when we saw massive tv, radio and newspaper coverage of a Facebook campaign launched by a handful of previously unknown people, we can pause and reflect that social media really is changing the world.

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