Scaling your business with Susan Boyle

The rapid rise to superstardom of Susan Boyle shows how social media can supercharge growth.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In the space of a fortnight, Britain’s Got Talent's Scottish warbler Susan Boyle appears to have become one of the most famous people in the Western world (if only for fifteen figurative minutes, probably). And it’s all happened via social media: the clip of her appearing on the show has now been viewed on YouTube about 100m times around the world, thanks partly to the likes of Demi Moore banging on about her performance on Twitter. It just goes to show how quickly a tiny local story can go global these days – which represents a big opportunity for all British entrepreneurs, not just Simon Cowell...

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, Susan Boyle is the frumpy 48-year-old ‘hairy angel’ whose rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ earned a standing ovation on ITV show Britain’s Got Talent. After the audition aired a fortnight ago, Boyle became a rather unlikely overnight sensation – and not just with the show’s 12m viewers and the British press. She was the talk of Facebook and Twitter, where even Hollywood stars Ashton Kutcher and his wife Demi Moore (who have 1.5m followers) tweeted about her, while the clip on YouTube was emailed around the world, shooting to the top of the rankings on sites like Digg and Reddit. Within days she was a superstar – particularly in the US, where Oprah Winfrey, Jay Leno and Larry King all clamoured to speak to her.

What’s remarkable is how globally her fame has spread, and how quickly. 100m views in two weeks – and according to the Times, over half of the people viewing her clip have been from outside the UK and the US. Even a couple of years ago, this just wouldn’t have happened – the rise of social media sites have made the world (or the rich world, at least) a much more interconnected place, which means trends and ideas are propagated much more quickly than ever before.

Commercially speaking, you’d think this would represent a big opportunity for the ailing ITV – but in practice, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to monetise her popularity. Although the ‘Got Talent’ format has been sold around the world, ITV apparently hasn’t flogged the rights to the British show yet – nor has it been able to strike a deal with YouTube about carrying pre-roll adverts on the clips. (Though we’re sure Simon Cowell will still end up laughing all the way to the bank)

But what entrepreneurs will read into the Susan Boyle story is that their big new idea can spread around the world in days, if they manage to tap into the power of social media. So taking a start-up global may be easier than ever before...



In today's bulletin:

UK economy suffers biggest slump since records began
Microsoft sales fail to compute
Scaling your business with Susan Boyle
Editor's blog: Can the new connectedness save us?
Tightening the purse strings, with YouTube

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