Updated: Oct 19, 2020
The 7 boys of BTS (방탄소년단) have taken the world by storm these past few years, with hit songs like "DNA", "Idol", "Fake Love" & their latest track, "Boy With Luv" topping multiple music charts in Korea and all over the world. Very recently, BTS became the very first Korean group to win Top Social Artist for the third year running and claimed Top Duo / Group at the Billboard Music Award 2019 (BBMAs) - Congratulations boys!
But besides their music which has struck chords with their audience, Big Hit Entertainment and BTS have made 7 (ha, see what we did there?) very important moves that have kept their Army going, whilst also attracting new fans. Let’s take a look.
#1 Being Very Active on Social Media
Communicating with fans via social media might be all the rage now, but BTS was truly one of the first bands that started this in 2012 when others were still heavily restricted by their company. Solidifying their presence in the social media realm during a growth period for consumption, it’s no wonder many have cited social media as the success of BTS. ICYMI, BTS currently has 19.6M Twitter followers, and have a Guinness World Records for “having the world’s most Twitter engagements for a music group”.
Their social media activity fronted the start to many collaborations. BTS first tweeted Charlie Puth in 2015 with Jungkook’s cover of his song ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’, which he later retweeted. This mutual interest subsequently led to a collaboration at the MGA Awards 2018 in Korea, where Jungkook joined Charlie Puth in a special song medley performance.
Before BTS & Ed Sheeran announced the collaboration of the song, ‘Make It Right’, Suga cleverly tweeted out a screencap of his workspace to Ed Sheeran, saying “hmm… this is for you” - a very subtle hint that something was in the works. Ed Sheeran also mentioned afterwards in a Heat video interview that ‘I actually wrote a song that I think they might be messing with.”
Their success on social media brought BTS the Top Social Artist Award at the 2017, 2018 and now 2019 BBMAs, making them the only K-pop group who has brought home an award from the prestigious ceremony. Psy took home the Best Streaming Award for ‘Gangnam Style’ in 2013.
#2 Constantly feeding their fans with content
According to an interview with Maeil Finance News, newly coined co-CEO Yoon Seok Joon said “The company established the principle of content being the most important. We don’t just provide music - we are constantly thinking about what our customers want and how we can provide new experiences for them while considering the thoughts and concerns of today’s youth.”
You can find vlogs, fun live videos and a weekly variety program, Run! BTS (highly recommended) on BTS’s Vlive and Youtube. These candid content allow fans to feel closer to the band, effectively bridging the spatial gap. Despite the lack of English subs, their Youtube channel is currently standing at 18 million subscribers. According to Yoon, “There was no need to translate the communication with these fans. As the fan base grew and more fans participated and started translating the content into various languages and spread it.” Army, their fans, are in fact BTS’s greatest marketers.
You can also find BTS’s self written tracks and covers on Soundcloud, ranging from hiphop to ballads to mashups. According to Soundcloud, Jimin’s ‘Promise’ was streamed 8.5 million times within the first day of release, beating Drake’s ‘Duddy Freestyle’ at 4.9 million streams. V’s ‘Scenery’ also broke Soundcloud history by hitting 100 million streams within 15 days.
#3 Making The Right Collaborations
BTS has worked with an amazing line-up of singer-songwriters - Steve Aoki, Ed Sheeran, Halsey, Honne, Nicki Minaj, Charlie Puth & The Chainsmokers. With their advancement into US, their partnership with these artists have definitely put them in the limelight.
Collaboration aside, the timing of promotions were on point. News of BTS’s collaboration with The Chainsmokers on the song ‘Best of Me’ was released on the exact day that Chainsmokers was set to perform in Busan, Korea. BTS also made an appearance at The Chainsmokers’ Seoul concert, where they performed ‘Closer’, garnering even more excitement for their upcoming collaboration.
BTS’s latest collaboration with Halsey on ‘Boy With Luv’ has been amazing, and it started off by meeting BTS at the 2017 BBMAs. In an interview with Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio, RM said “We talked about, like, 'We should collaborate. We should work on something.' We got this track for this album and thought that Halsey would be the best voice for this track."
Halsey also made her debut performance of ‘Boy With Luv’ live with BTS at the BBMAs 2019, which according to Variety, was “one of the telecast’s highlights, largely for the sheer charm that came with Halsey gamely interjecting herself as the boy band’s first girl member”.
#4 Being Approachable
“I think the fact that we let fans approach our artists a little more easily had a big impact.” said Yoon in the interview with Maeil Finance Times. Besides social media, BTS frequently goes on Vlive, the Naver based platform, and “fans could watch those videos real time, leave comments, and even chat with members, making BTS feel like a friend, oppa, younger brother or hyung to them.”
Recently, a video uploaded on BTS’s Youtube channel showed RM and Jin frantically trying to apply for a pass to enter BTS’s music show pre-recording - an activity that many fans struggle with. Fans were tickled and related with the moment when the 2 members struggled with the application and failed. RM said “I have respect for the fans who manage to come to our recording”.
Besides being approachable to fans, the band has also made a lot of close celebrity friends who speak highly of them. Recently, Park Seo Joon & Park Hyung Sik, whom V knows from the Korean drama ‘Hwarang’, also took to promoting the ‘Map of the Soul: Persona’ album on their Instagram accounts. Although it was a candid request from V to promote their album, it also gave the actors’ fans a chance to discover BTS and their music!
#5 Sending The Right Messages
Following the win of their 2018 BBMAS Top Social Artist Award, leader RM said “This time we had a chance to think about what ‘social’ really means for us and some of our fans told us that our music really changed their lives. And now, we realize that our words truly carry weight thanks to you guys.” With that in mind and their huge social influence, BTS used that to their advantage to spread the right and important messages.
BTS embarked on the #LoveMyself campaign with UNICEF in November 2017, an extension of the #ENDviolence campaign which is aimed at the protection of young people so they can live without the fear of violence. The campaign also promoted the use of the hashtag #BTSLoveMyself, asking supporters to post photos of self love on their social media, which made it to #1 on Worldwide Trends.
The 2 year long campaign saw BTS and Big Hit Entertainment pledging 500 million KRW to the campaign and 3% of the Love Yourself series’ physical album sales to the campaign. According to Billboard, “It's the latest in a long line of partnerships that Korean celebrities and UN organization have worked on.” As of July 2018, BTS has raised more than $1 million for the UNICEF campaign.
BTS, as UNICEF’s goodwill ambassadors, “made history with their appearance” (Metro) and became the first K-pop group to speak at the United Nations in September 2018. Their leader RM gave a 6.5 minute long speech in English, using BTS’s personal examples to bring across the message of self acceptance and self love. The speech went viral and according to Forbes, “the hashtag #BTSxUnitedNations trended worldwide on Twitter for several hours.”
BTS’s song lyrics have always aimed to spread positivity and self love amongst their fans. With the addition of this successful campaign, BTS truly deserves their spot on Time Magazine’s Top 25 Most Influential People on the Internet.
#6 Being Relevant Yet Fresh
Big Hit Entertainment has been praised amongst fans for their creative marketing methods and mind-blowing concepts for BTS’s songs. Part of the reason is also because Big Hit and BTS monitor the fans’ comments very closely.
In 2013, BTS put a special performance for a year end program, but due to the poor camera angles, fans took to social media to complain. Later on, BTS released three studio recorded versions of the performance on Youtube, much to the surprise of the pleased fans.
In 2017, with the increasing international recognition, Big Hit released the news of BTS’s rebranding. BTS, which were the English acronyms for their group name in Korean (방탄소년단), had been rebranded to Beyond The Scene.
Although it could be for easier recognition in foreign countries, Big Hit Entertainment explained that ‘Beyond The Scene’ symbolizes youths who don’t settle for their current reality and instead open the door and go forward to achieve growth. This meaning of “Beyond the Scene” merges both the past and future for BTS and adds to the definition of the group’s name in Korean that has been described since their debut as “boys who protect teenagers from oppression and prejudice” (Soompi)
Co-CEO Yoon mentions this in his interview with Maeil Finance Times, “We often plan high-quality free content and events that fans can be excited about.” Because of this, fans are worried about the profitability/losses, but Big Hit earned its nickname of “fan-jal-al” (a shortening of the phrase “someone knows fans”).
In February 2019, Big Hit dropped a new campaign titled Armypedia, a mishmash of the words ARMY and Wikipedia. It is essentially a digital memory archive for BTS’s fans to upload any memories that they had with BTS on any particular day, by scanning QR codes that Big Hit had hidden in locations around the world. By the end of the month long campaign, Forbes said a reported 540,000 fans had participated in this campaign.
This innovative idea is fresh, new to the market and angled in a way that definitely made the fans feel like their time and memories with the band were cherished. In an exclusive interview with Forbes, Big Hit Entertainment said "From the very, very beginning, we wanted to create a campaign that's only possible at this moment for BTS as well as all the ARMYs in the world,"
#7 Making The Right Moves in United States
With predecessors like Rain, Wonder Girls, BIGBANG, CL & more who attempted to pursue a bigger career in Korea, it is the dream of many groups to make it to the #1 music market in the world. BTS is one of many groups who tried, fought and eventually made it as the top selling Korean act in US (Page 11 of BuzzAngle’s 2018 Year End Report on US’s music industry consumption).
BTS was off to a humble start after their first concert tour ‘Episode II: The Red Bullet’ tour in 2015, but filmed a live performance with Billboard, which to date is one of their most loved videos. BTS persevered and made it to KCON 2016 with several Billboard chart listings to their name as the headlining act. With the help of Army, they were then nominated for Top Social Artist at the BBMAs in 2017 and also became the very first Korean artists to perform at the American Music Awards in 2018.
Billboard said “The guys spent this U.S. trip doing a nearly unheard of amount of press, appearing on huge shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Late Show, chatting with magazines like Vogue and Rolling Stone, and making themselves as known as possible -- all leading to their next U.S. visit to be all the more major.”
A quote from Forbes - “If 2017 was the year BTS burst onto the American scene, 2018 is the year they flaunted their staying power.” True enough, in 2018 BTS went on to dominate with their 2 year winning streak of the BBMAs’ Top Social Artist Award, their performance on America’s Got Talent, performing at Citi Field and Staples Center, breaking One Direction’s record for the highest grossing musical production movie with ‘Burn The Stage: The Movie’, hitting #8 on the Billboard Top Artist Chart and according to Sportskhan, sold 5 million albums in that year.
Meanwhile, BTS is set to perform their highly anticipated ‘Love Yourself: Speak Yourself’ tour at the Wembley Stadium, which sold out in 90 minutes. (The stadium seats an amazing 90,000). With a prestigious Grammy nomination already in their pocket and constantly smashing Youtube records this year, we can’t wait to see where this band will go in the future!
We’d love to hear your comments on whether you agree with these points, and let us know which group you’d like to see us cover next!
Image resources: All images are screen captures taken from BTS' Official YouTube Channel, Twitter and V-live channels.