article

09.09.10

Meet the Beliebers: Justin Bieber's Insane Twitter Fans

Justin Bieber's diehard fans take up 3 percent of Twitter's traffic, have launched a campaign to score him a VMA—and sometimes even turn on each other. Brian Ries braves their world.

Jessica, a 14-year-old girl from Australia, sat at her computer with one thought in mind: “I wonder what if feels like for @JustinBieber to notice you?"

A few hours later, she was lucky enough to find out.

"Like this...," @ JustinBieber replied. "i notice u. thanks for the love."

When Jessica saw the star’s response, she did what any Belieber would do: She freaked. Then hers was a tweet that launched a thousand others.

"justin bieber noticed me today. its the best day of my life. :DDDD," she tweeted, followed by a response to another fan: "it is amazing. i can't stop smiling. or shaking. or screaming. hahaah."

What followed was a three-hour flurry of messages and tweets. Some fans were jealous, others congratulatory of her personal interaction. All were hoping to get virtually closer to the 16-year-old star.

To enter the world of the Beliebers—the name obsessive fans of Justin Bieber call themselves—all one needs to do is look at the star's Twitter account.

The Canadian pop singer interacts multiple times a day with his legion of 5.1 million devoted followers, asking them to vote on various awards and nominations, updating them with news from inside the Bieber bubble, and, when they're oh-so-lucky, replying to the occasional fan’s message.

For this tech-savvy generation, being followed or retweeted by @ JustinBieber is more exciting than sitting in a nosebleed concert seat, and stamping the date of their interaction on their profiles is a badge of honor, a way of displaying their life’s apex to the masses.

The pop superstar, who’s sold 4 million albums and 7.7 million songs via digital download, is in the running for Best New Artist at this Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards for his hit music video “Baby.” This is the same video that’s racked up over 317 million views on YouTube since its premiere. In July, it overtook Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” as the most-watched video of all time.

Gallery: Justin Bieber and His Die-Hard Fans

All of this happened because Justin Bieber turned out to be his own best publicist. It’s hard to imagine a VMAs where he won’t win. Beliebers have been furiously reminding each other to vote for the singer since the Best New Artist nominees were announced in August.

They’re constantly egged on by Bieber through Twitter, where he retweets fan messages telling each other to vote each day. The other competitors in the category—including Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha, Jason Derulo, and Broken Bells—have a combined follower count of 2,228,652, nowhere near the reach of Bieber’s. Nicki Minaj is the closest, with a little over 1 million followers, while poor Broken Bells, a band with a measly 8,071 followers, barely stands a chance.

Depending on how you view them, the Beliebers are either an obsessive metrics-driven community, or an endless popularity contest.

Success for a Belieber is measured in three categories: by your number of Bieber-related followers, the date @ JustinBieber began following your account, and the number of times you’ve been listed as a “True Belieber.” Heeding a call to arms—in this case to vote on MTV.com—is in their second nature.

According to statistics provided by Lori Dolinger of Attention, the Beliebers sent over 2 million tweets containing the singer's username @ JustinBieber during the first week of September. Another 1.2 million tweets contained the phrase "Justin Bieber."

Popular phrases embedded in these tweets include "PLEASE FOLLOW," "Hey Justin," "OMGOSH," "vote," and "OMG OMG."

According to a recent statistical meme that flew around the Web this week, Justin Bieber uses 3 percent of Twitter's infrastructure at any given time. Imagine racks of servers dedicated to delivering his every word to 5.1 million users. They exist. When Mashable reached out to Twitter to confirm the percentage, a spokesperson said, “While we don’t break out metrics like this, everything around and about Justin Bieber is consistently popular on Twitter." No kidding.

Despite his young age, Bieber’s quite cunning in his interactions with fans—now he’s even bribing them. Over the past 48 hours, he’s been pushing his fans to follow his musical director and guitarist, @ dankanter, urging them to break the 100,000 mark, with the promise of a previously unreleased song should they get there. They hit 100K early Thursday afternoon, but Bieber has yet to release that song.

True Beliebers mash the singer’s last name into their own usernames—such as miiskbiebs, LaurenBieber789, and sweetbiebercake—and have cheesily customized Bieber backgrounds to match.

Their days might be spent networking with fellow fans, engaging in "RT if you're a real Belieber" campaigns, and tweeting at the singer himself—all in the hope that the singer will follow back, retweet, or reply.

For 15-year-old Shannon B., a fan from New Jersey, it took a year, but when Bieber finally acknowledged her with a retweet, her follower count skyrocketed from 122 to nearly 800 in a little over an hour. How'd she feel during that magic moment?

"I literally was looking at my phone like NO WAY did this really happen? I almost died, haha, i ran in my mom's room crying :)."

Within the millions-strong community of Beliebers, there exists a small, exclusive club of more than 83,000 fans who Bieber actually follows back. It's a club where, once you're in, you’d better make sure the world knows. The best way to do this is by updating your profile with a "Justin Bieber followed me on [insert date here]!" A Google search revealed there are about 23,100 fans who have recorded the day Justin Bieber followed their Twitter accounts.

Comparing Bieber’s numbers to those of other pop icons— Selena Gomez, 2,860,000 followers but only following 155; Demetria Lovato, 2,463,000 followers and following 157; and Joe Jonas, 1,090,835 followers but only following 204—he’s clearly the most accessible of the tweenage stars.

A Twitter search of fans asking Justin Bieber to follow them reveals a steady stream of begging: "@ JustinBieber follow me please, I know you're online," "@ JustinBieber pleease follow me! This brings me trying to follow me six months! please! would you do me the happiest girl in the world!!," and "I think if you follow me, my heart will stop one second @ JustinBieber"

But despite all the positive feedback and interaction that powers the community, they're not all merrily tweeting along. As Jezebel's Irin Carmon reported, the Beliebers are capable of transforming their fever-pitched fanaticism into a global army of hate.

Earlier this summer, 15-year-old Bieber fan Sydney Dalton posted a YouTube video of her and two friends ripping down their Justin Bieber posters. When the Beliebers found the video, they attacked Dalton, calling her a slut, a bitch, and a whore. She was on the receiving end of a number of response videos, including one in which a girl promises to hit Sydney “in the fucking face with a full wine bottle." The girl later admitted she went "a little too far," but that she still hates Dalton "a little bit."

It’s clear the mop-haired teen sits at the helm of a fanatical community of hyperactive teens. But can Bieber harness the power of his army of Beliebers into his own revolution and take home for the award for Best New Artist? When the VMAs air Sunday night on MTV, the only thing you can count on is his fans will be watching, tweeting, and hoping that he’ll look away from the cameras, pick up his phone, and notice them.

And to all the Beliebers out there: Prove your power! If you’re a true fan, share this story with your friends, add your favorite Belieber words to the dictionary, and shoot us your VMA predictions @ thedailybeast on Twitter.

The Justin Bieber Dictionary:

Bieber Blast—The act of fans storming Apple’s iTunes store all at once to download Justin Bieber songs, thereby catapulting him to No. 1.

Biebergasm—The nearly indescribable feeling one gets when looking at pictures of Justin Bieber.

Bieberlicious—An adjective describing something that either resembles Justin Bieber, or is quite simply good-looking.

Belieb—To believe in the boy, the myth, the ethos that is Justin Bieber.

Non-Belieber—The lepers in a Bieber fan’s life, these people should be strictly avoided, as they aren’t fans of Justin Bieber.

OMB—An acronym for the excitable expression, “Oh my Bieber!”

Plus: Check out more of the latest entertainment, fashion, and culture coverage on Sexy Beast—photos, videos, features, and Tweets.

Brian Ries is a Philly-born senior editor at FREEwilliamsburg.com and tech and social media editor at The Daily Beast. He lives in Brooklyn.