How my eighth grade One Direction infatuation prepared me for a career in advertising
Updated: May 20
I used to be embarrassed to admit this, but now as a 22-year-old fresh out of college, I've learned to be proud of my idiosyncrasies.
I used to be obsessed with One Direction. And I'm not talking about a loyal fan who goes to concerts when the band is in my city. I'm talking about commitment. Like camping outside a Walmart to get tickets to an album signing. Like stalking the streets of NYC with a crowd of rabid teenage girls trying to get a glimpse of five boys in a band.
To top it all off, I used to have fan accounts. Yes, plural. I used to have a One Direction Tumblr blog with 5k+ followers and a One Direction Twitter with 3k+ followers. Both were started in 2012 when I was in eighth grade. I was 14-years-old (cringe), and I was active on these accounts until 2014.
I'm pretty proud of this, to be honest. Who can say that they built mass followings on social using One Direction as the foundation? This is where I learned to be social media savvy. Without knowing it then, this would actually help me in the future as I search for a career in advertising.
Before you think about asking me what my accounts were, they no longer exist (RIP)!
Knowing your voice and personality
If brands want to stand out and appeal to consumers, they need to be unique and appealing. What makes this brand of soda any different than that brand of soda? The same thing applied to standing out as a One Direction fan account among thousands, probably millions, of other fans.
With any brand social media account, you needed to figure out your personality. In the One Direction fandom, the possibilities were endless. You could be one of those funny meme accounts that made jokes and snarky comments. You could be the friendly account that followed everyone back. You could be one of those accounts whose sole purpose was to get a follow back from one of the members. Or you could be the fan whose undying love to One Direction was shown through endless praise and admiration.
My Twitter account was a blend of sarcasm, passion, and a desire to build community. Most of my tweets were a commentary on any news or updates with a humorous spin. I stayed true to myself and pretty much turned everything into a lighthearted joke. My Twitter handle was even a funny spin on one of the member's hometowns, and my profile picture was always a weird meme or crappy edit that I had made.
If you wanted to become known in the One Direction fan community, you had to have a unique POV that stood out or caught people's attention.
Knowing your audience
Brands could have the best personalities and stories, but if they're talking to people who aren't interested in what they have to offer, what's the point? Brands need to build bonds with their stakeholders to succeed. As a One Direction fan, I didn't want to target the wrong fan base or community. I wanted to reach likeminded people who engaged with my posts.
Once your personality was solidified, you wanted to know who you were trying to reach. In this case, it was other fans and occasionally, members of the band if you wanted to get them to follow you back or tweet you. Tweeting about The Wanted (aka the band that lowkey had a feud with One Direction) or another band isn't going to reach the right people. And are you tweeting to other teenagers or 30-year-olds? You don't want to come off as stuffy or formal if you're running a fan account meant to share in the emotional and passionate space that was the One Direction fan community.
Once you knew who was retweeting your posts and following you, then you could start to craft relevant content that people wanted to share. I built virtual friendships with other people my age because we were talking about the same things and collectively staying updated together on what the band was doing next. These relationships helped us build our presence in the community.
Staying updated with current events
Especially in advertising, brands need to know what is going on in the world. Read the room. Take COVID. If brands are running ads not relevant to a COVID world or don't use the correct tone, people will be turned off. People won't listen. As a One Direction fan, if I was tweeting about an event from a week ago, no one was going to be interested.
Keeping up with One Direction was like a 9-5 job. The members were constantly on tour traversing the world, appearing in new interviews, being seen with new people, doing what celebrities do, etc. I'm not kidding—every single little thing was something to post about. Was one of the band members seen in a new outfit? Tweet. Did one member make eye contact with another member during a concert? Tweet. Did someone follow a fan on Twitter? Tweet again. Every. Single. Thing. Was. Important.
If you wanted to continue creating relevant content that other fans wanted to see, you had to post about current events. And that means knowing everything that's going on with the band: where they are, what they're doing, who they're with, etc. No one cared about the concert that happened yesterday when there was a new one that day. I remember I used to be glued to my computer screen to constantly update my Tumblr with the freshest content.
Staying updated with social media trends
Social media has become quite the playground for brands, especially chains like Wendy's, Burger King, and McDonald's. These accounts were able to gain attention and laughs because they were keeping their pulse on what was happening on social and leveraging what people were talking about.
One Direction fan accounts that were popular were able to combine what was happening in the One Direction world and the social media landscape with great ease. What were the latest memes or joke formats? What was everyone talking about? Not only did you want to tweet about the newest thing that was happening, but you also wanted to package it in the most updated way possible, especially if you had hopes of going viral. You could have the funniest tweet but it wouldn't mean anything if it was presented in a stale way.
In the age of 24/7 social media conversation, trends come and go.
If you want to excel at any job, you have to grit your teeth and commit yourself to your responsibilities. At times, it's tedious. And boring. And grueling. But it's necessary. When you run a One Direction fan account, it's a lot of work. Remember how fans like me had to know everything single thing that was going on with the band? It was tiring and sometimes absurd. In retrospect, it was quite incomprehensible.
A lot of the times I asked myself why the hell I was running a fan account when no one knew who I was. I didn't know how much tangible impact I was having or if most of my followers cared about what I was posting. I guess when you work in an ad agency, it's a similar feeling of uncertainty around the impact of your efforts. Consumers don't know who you are. In the end, you don't 100% know if your campaign caused someone to buy the company's product.
But it's the work that brings joy. It's interesting and exciting. I loved feeling like my followers enjoyed and vibed with what I was posting when they tweeted at me or messaged me. And the dedication did work out in the end because eventually, one of the band members followed me on Twitter after I sent a billion tweets at him. Although he never replied after the many times I slid into his DMs, I was pleased by the thought that maybe one day, he would see my messages.
Just having fun
I don't care what people say. Work is supposed to be fun. If I'm spending 40+ hours a week in an office and then spending additional hours commuting (all my New Jersey folks know the struggle), then shouldn't I be enjoying what I do every day?
Finding a job that combines creativity, knowledge, and personal interests will help you thrive. Especially in the advertising world, employees churn out jaw-dropping work when they believe in the work and enjoy doing it, even when they're working long hours.
Building my online presence, even if it was for a bunch of 20-something-year-olds in a British boy band, pulled me into a world where I could leverage my personality and interests in my work. Although I controlled fan social media accounts, a band is a brand. What I was doing mirrored what social strategists do for real brands in the world: use the power of a brand's purpose and story to bring communities together.