How the King of Pop brought down the Internet

Michael Jackson died on Thursday. Within a matter of hours, millions of people flooded the internet posting information and opinions on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. His death interested me not only because he was one of my childhood icons, but the way the news spread.

I first heard of it from a text message my dad sent around 4:30 pm on Thursday. Immediately I checked the Twitter stream (#michaeljackson), Facebook and CNN mobile to get the latest information. By the time I got home about 5:30 pm, it was one of the only trending topics on Twitter, plus many of my friends on Facebook had posted status updates about the news.

Twitter went down twice during the next hour, due to the large volume of users. According to, 30% of all tweets were about Michael Jackson, a conservative estimate. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and YouTube also saw a major increase in activity, all related to his death.

As I am writing this on a late Friday night, it is still a trending topic and coverage is high on all news stations. His video views on YouTube are in the millions with new comments posted frequently. All the major news websites continued coverage and updates. A picture and status update I posted via Twitter on Thursday has received more than 800 hits. I only have 266 followers, so somehow it’s made it’s way to more than 550 MORE people (previous pictures I posted have received only 25-45 hits).

His death also signifies the death of a brand. Michael Jackson was undeniably one of the most familiar brand icons in the world. Everyone knew his eccentric style: wearing only one white glove, black highwater pants with white socks and black shoes. His high pitched “woo hoo” voice was instantly recognizable and the moonwalk became his signature move.

Don’t think this happened by accident. MJ was a savvy marketer, and turned himself into the King of Pop. This blog post How Michael Jackson Became a Brand Icon by John Quelch outlines 10 lessons that detail MJ’s rise to success. I encourage you to read this post, as it offers valuable lessons that all pr and marketing professionals can use.

It will be interesting to see what coverage his funeral brings. My prediction is it will not have the impact on the web as his untimely death did, but it will be a major story. His videos and website will continue to attract visitors, and it will be a long time before Michael Jackson fades from the internet.

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