Guest Posts, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Marketing

7 Social Media Lessons From Phil Collins

Margie ClaymanGuest post by Marjorie Clayman, resident blogger at She works at Clayman Advertising, Inc., her family-owned full-service marketing firm.

Recently, Phil Collins, drummer for Genesis and soft rock superstar, announced that he was retiring from the rock music industry after an illustrious 40-year career. Whether this will be like Michael Jordan’s 2-3 retirement announcements has yet to be seen, though Phil Collins certainly added a “milk it for all it’s worth” touch by noting that he will not be missed and that everyone hates him.

Regardless of how you feel about Phil Collins and his various contributions to the rock music canon, there are a lot of lessons for Social Media that we can glean from his career and subsequent retirement. There are seven, in fact, that came to my mind. Here they are.

1. Develop as many different skills as you can

Collins first made a name for himself as a great drummer. He didn’t stop there, however. Instead, he honed his skills as a front man and spent another twenty years or so singing. In Social Media, you can’t place all your corporate eggs into one social network’s basket. If you are succeeding on Twitter, try to concentrate on getting your blog to the same level. This allows you to increase the number of touch points you have with customers and prospects, and provides insurance against a MySpace style flameout of your preferred venue.

2. Don’t tie yourself to one genre

When Collins was the drummer for Genesis, the band was mostly “prog rock” and was considered to be pretty “out there” on the musical scale. He then evolved Genesis to be more of a mainstream act, and he ultimately went solo and found considerable success in the soft rock world. Don’t be afraid to mix it up online. Don’t feel like all of your tweets have to be serious and business-related. Don’t feel like your blog posts all have to carry the exact same tonality or subject. Show your prog and pop and soft sides.

3. Be prepared to lose control

Author David Meerman Scott talks about this a lot. In the case of Phil Collins, he couldn’t control the fact that his soft rock hits were being played 27 times a minute on the radio, to the point where people grew completely tired of his biggest songs. Online, you will lose control of your company’s message. You will lose control of your content and your great intentions. That’s a given. How will you respond to those scenarios?

4. Be prepared for your weaknesses to be revealed

As we found out during Collins’ retirement announcement, his hands have been too weak to hold drumsticks for years. His choice was first to become a singer, and now to leave the industry altogether. What weaknesses and challenges might you encounter when you dive into social media for business? Make sure you have ways to cope with those, because “retiring” from social media is not a viable option.

5. Never apologize for or deny your success

The thing that really irked me about the retirement announcement was that Phil said, “I never meant to be so successful.” Not only does this appear to be a blatant lie but it also spits in the face of everyone who helped him get there. The same thing can happen online. If you find success in the online world, it’s because people helped you get there. There’s no other way to do it. If you treat your success as a curse at any point (for example, “This PR nightmare would never have happened if we hadn’t been so successful”), you are only making yourself look disingenuous and unappreciative. Bad combination.

6. Change it up

One thing at the core of success for current rock stars is that they know how to read the tides and change their music to meet what the fans want (most of the time). Phil Collins, for all of his complaining now about how people got tired of him, didn’t really venture too far from his core kind of music in his later years. His songs all bear a strong resemblance to each other. It’s extremely easy to fall into this trap online. If all you do is hit the retweet button on Twitter, people will block you out. If all you do is try to sell on Facebook, people will block you out. If your blog is just a series of news releases, people will block you out. Make sure you are offering a variety of content to keep people interested and to ensure them that you are a valuable and useful resource.

7. Behave yourself even when you’re not “on”

Perhaps one of the biggest blunders Phil Collins made was calling it quits with his wife via fax machine. This had nothing to do with his music career, but the news spread like wildfire. It seems safe to say that a lot of fans questioned whether they wanted to support a guy who would do something that gutless and mean. Similarly, if your company does something to anger your customers and prospects offline, you will need to deal with the repercussions online, and perhaps instantly. News and opinion are liquid, and the “online” vs. “offline” distinction is irrelevant now.

What other Social Media lessons can we learn from examining Phil Collins, his career, and his retirement? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. says

    Excellent! Treat people online like you would in the real world (granted you actually treat people well in real life). There’s no hiding behind the walls of the world wide web. Note: I downloaded Sussudio on iTunes after reading this post….love that song.

    • says

      Haha :) My favorite when I was a kid was Invisible Touch. I always thought it was fun. And yes, the Golden Rule works most especially well if you assume that you want to be treated well and thus treat others well. But- there are some quirky people out there :)

    • says

      That’s where having a Social Media plan comes in super handy. You can create a strategy whereby you are emphasizing different platforms more at different times so that you don’t wear yourself ragged :)

  2. says

    Loved this post! Extremely clever & funny angle drew me in; true insights within it were supremely useful. Just noticed the easter egg at the end- ‘Convince & Convert Runs on the GENESIS Framework.” That’s gold !!! :-)

  3. says

    Reading through this, great stuff. But seeing the pic of him shirtless prompted one more:

    The internet never forgets. How old is that photo? But here you are using it in 2011 (for purely illustrative purposes, of course!). If you’re naked once on the internet, you’re naked forever on the internet. It’s really hard to think that way, but you have to consider the fact that anything you put out there might be dredged up 20 years from now.

    Splendid read as always, Margie!

    • says

      haha, I hadn’t even thought of that, Amy. Good point :) That was back when people could pick up fax messages and put them in newspapers. Goodness…:O

      Glad you liked the article. I like getting inspiration from unexpected sources – especially if other people see the connections too :)

  4. Sarah Tebbe says

    Great Insight! I could not agree more with number 2. I understand a company’s need to be professional, but when the post, tweet, blog, etc is not so business-related you get a great feel for the company culture.

  5. Sarah Tebbe says

    Great Insight! I could not agree more with number 2. I understand a company’s need to be professional, but when the post, tweet, blog, etc is not so business-related you get a great feel for the company culture.

  6. says

    I’d add “Don’t Please Everybody”. You will have people that don’t like what you post, how often you post, what channels you use, etc. They’ll criticize and unfollow you. If you stay true to the core of people that resonate with your message, you’ll be better off in the long run.

  7. says

    This post particularly drew my attention because I’m a big fan of the music metaphor. I used TLC’s song ‘Waterfalls’ in a post last March to highlight three core social media concepts that businesses can use to break through all the industry-generated buzz/noise (

    I appreciate the spirit of the concept (and like the direct, personal tone), but I was missing the practical application of these concepts as a methodology (perhaps that’s not was intended).

    Continuing with your Collins metaphor, his diversity wasn’t that dramatic…it was well within a reasonable universe of possible outcomes (progressive/new wave to pop, drummer to frontman, etc.). The social media situations that organizations are often faced with are much more dramatic; often times challenging their long-held concepts of core competencies/culture. Amidst those complexities are the expectations of audiences which often demand consistent tonality and messaging; especially in B2C markets where brand affinity and identification are such powerful determiners in purchase decisions.

    Given the complex realities individuals/organizations face, how do you see blending (or how do you blend them in your client engagements) these seven concepts into a successful social media methodology?

  8. says

    Hello Marjorie,

    Thank you for this article! Well written and very true!

    I have been a Genesis’ fan for two decades now. However, for some reason, Phil Collins never really appealed to me. Ok, he had a few hits, he made a name for himself. And yes, he used to be an amazing drummer. However, I have always found him cocky and ungrateful. In social media, these two words don’t go well in my opinion.

    Your approach is wonderful, Marjorie. Can I be like you when I grow up? 😉

  9. says

    Clever blog post. It’s extremely important to diversify your social media approach. The social networks are always changing and being updated. It’s entirely possible that a change could be made that disrupts your approach. In addition to the big networks, it’s always a good idea to see if there are any social sites that pertain to your industry specifically.

  10. says

    I loved Phil Collins. He was one of my favorite artists growing up. He was an amazing performer and he will be missed. He made some good and bad choices and we can learn from some of his blunders. We can also be thankful our mistakes are plastered all over the news like his were.

  11. says

    Wow, good article with interesting insight. There’s so much we can learn from Phil, I had no idea! (Secretly, his music is a little bit of a guilty pleasure.) I do agree that it’s good to “mix it up online” – don’t be afraid to show some personality in your “business tweets”. Cheers

  12. Anonymous says

    ‘Change it up’ is exciting and challenge too but if you can’t you won’t survive on SM. Thanks Marjorie for the lovely post. makes me think more now :)

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