5 Social Media Lessons Jeremy Lin Can Teach Marketers


This article was updated on 10/12/2012.

The basketball loving world has gone crazy over Jeremy Lin, an Asian American, Harvard-educated and undrafted point guard, who has sparked a mini-winning streak for the previously hapless New York Knicks.

In China this week, Lin’s name was among the top 10 search terms on Sina Weibo, that nation’s equivalent to Twitter. And here in the United States’ Lin’s seemingly mundane exploits (he’s only started in four games!)  gave us ‘Linsanity’ – the top global trending topic on Twitter.

The kid is blowing up and his spin move from benchwarmer to phenom could only have happened in 2012 and beyond, where social media is more and more intertwined with everyday life.

Below are some social media lessons to be learned from all this Linsanity

1. Powerful forces are at work (old school media takes their cues from social media).

This Linsanity is not a new phenomena but rather a continuation of social media, digital publishing tools and smartphone forces continuing to converge, creating a tidal wave of instant information anywhere, anytime. Consider the similarity of these recent events:

  • The social storm stirred up online over the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation flap.
  • Financial activists blow up Bank of America’s plan to charge a $5 fee for debit card use.
  • Organized through social media, the Occupy Wall Street movement gets its legs on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Imagine Tebow Tebowing pre-social media – nobody would notice.

What each has in common is an over-amplification cause by social media. This amplification strikes a  point where the mainstream media  adapts its coverage of events just because  it’s abuzz on social media.

– “Just want everyone to know that I wrote about #linsanity this morning long before it became “hip” this afternoon”: bit.ly/Apjdq4

Lin has only played in four games but in a world with 24-hour social networking accessed by just about everybody on the planet instantly, his exploits have been bounced about in realtime among people not even watching the game.

Lesson: If you do something good, share it. Your base will do the  marketing for you.  Also, make sure the message finds its way across numerous  platforms. The more locations it is seen in, the more likely it will spread. Maybe someone will make a video about your awesomeness.

2. Stick to your game plan.

When Jeremy Lin joined the Knicks a few short weeks ago, he’d already been cut by two different NBA teams. However, the 23-year-old remained true to his game and didn’t try to become anyone else. Once he was given an opportunity to play (because of several injuries to key players) he stuck with what he knew best – an unselfish style of play that included dishing the ball to teammates more often than heaving up poor percentage shots (Yes, I mean you Carmelo!) himself. Once this proved successful it opened up other, more dynamic aspects of his game. This sparked a solid, all-around team game the Knicks sorely lacked and a winning streak that led to all this Linsanity.

Lesson: Sure, you’ve got some wild ideas about how to make your brand go viral across the net, but chances are if you stick with what you know best and continue to execute your game plan, success will follow.

3. The Bounce effect (in this case the dribble effect).

In one 12 hour period, Lin’s on court heroics spawned more than 3,000 tweets, according to social media analytics tool Topsy.

In four days the number of people following @JLin7 surpassed 190,000 and is projected to net more than 400,000 within 15 days.

However, not every tweet was centered around his basketball prowess. Naturally, considering the Twitter community’s varied interests, the topics veered away from the Knicks toward Ivy League basketball, Harvard, stereotypes of Asian  males in American  society, and even Tawianese nationalism. In other words: the subject bounced around to almost every and any topic Jeremy Lin can be identified with.

Lesson: Just because it starts out as one thing doesn’t mean its going to end there. Sure, you may want to let the world know about your widgets, but there is a wide range of ancillary subjects that may also resonate within your organization and social media followers. Nurture this ‘bounce’ and help expand the dialogue about your company whether it is talking  up corporate culture, employee benefits or how your new environmental initiatives are helping your community. Your product or service isn’t the only story you have to tell.

4. Share the wealth.
Sure, Jeremy Lin was the one making all those buckets and fancy passes, but he understands that without teammates he’s not going to accomplish very much. Seemingly at every opportunity he takes time to  acknowledge their efforts and considerable skills.

Lesson: Let your partners and customers know how much they mean to your success. Share their stories with others and they in turn will pass your message along to another crowd you may not have known existed. That is practically is the definition of social media marketing.

5. Avoid the personal fouls.

Jeremy’s Twitter stats are impressive. A few weeks ago he was hovering around 4,000 followers and today’ he’s at 191,000 and counting.

However, he didn’t set out to conquer the social media universe for the sake of conquering it. He began by broadcasting small accomplishments – “Thankful to God for the opportunity to be a New York Knick!! Time to find my winter coats from college lol” –  that snowballed into bigger ones and ultimately lead to this huge following.

Lesson: Share your success stories with followers, but remember these netizines are a savvy bunch. They know when you are snowing them. Don’t start conversations for the sake of talking. Make sure you have something to say, and then share those thoughts, accomplishments and conversations with the world.