July 05, 2017
Remember "Chocolate Rain," the YouTube hit from Adam Nyerere Bahner, who you might know a bit better as Tay Zonday?
It's July, which means it's officially been 10 years since the song became one of the Internet's early viral videos that now has more than 113 million views. To celebrate, Zonday released his 10th anniversary acoustic cover of "Chocolate Rain" in April and even appeared on the Steve Harvey Show in June to sing out the show's credits.
But his name may have come to your attention recently for some for entirely different reason – a seemingly random Twitter follow.
He's certainly not the first person with some celebrity status to follow many fans on the social media platform, but for some reason, it's been getting quite the reaction as of late, something that Zonday has noticed, too. PhillyVoice reached out to Zonday after Culture editor Jenny DeHuff, staff writer Brian Hickey and a few friends of this reporter got a follow in the last month, leaving each wondering the same question – Why?
Tay Zonday I noticed you started following me, so I wanted to say thanks :)— Sorin Muchi (@SorinMuchi) June 17, 2017
Okay but why did Tay Zonday just follow me— Barack Yobama (@Yobi1Kenobi) June 16, 2017
I just got followed by Tay Zonday aka chocolate rain guy, this might be the happiest moment of my life— Jack Ingle (@jingledapenguin) June 16, 2017
Tay Zonday just followed me y'all I'm bumping chocolate rain 1000 times today in his honor— Silence (@silencexmusic) June 24, 2017
Though, he gets criticism too.
It's impersonal at the end of it all and it gives hard working content creators a bad name. Some of us work very hard to build our community— Glitter✨ (@xoGlitter_) June 25, 2017
Zonday, whose profile notes "follows/RTs are NOT personal," said he began following thousands of people in December 2015 using Fanbase.net, a company that "helps you grow a massive, high-quality, targeted audience of all real people on social media," according to its website.
"I would like to build a stronger connection with an audience who enjoys my work and my brand," Zonday said during a phone interview this week.
Zonday is hardly the first celebrity using a website like Fanbase.net to build brands on social media. Even President Donald Trump's personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, uses Twitter bots. New York Magazine reported on the subject in May, noting Trump had gained more than five million followers over the course of one weekend.
Glitches caused about 560,000 users to follow the @POTUS account in January, too, even if they hadn't necessarily wanted to.
And there also are other high-profile Twitter users who follow thousands of users from their accounts. Yoko Ono follows 940,000 Twitter users while former President Barack Obama follows 629,000, but based on a quick Twitter search, neither of those elicited the same responses as Zonday's follows.
He's gone from following just 820 people in August 2015 with a little more than 86,000 followers according to an internet archive website, to following more than 494,000 people with 664,000 followers now. In March, he followed 480,000.
"To fans, to the people who are having this baptismal experience like, 'Oh my God, Tay Zonday followed me,' – part of it is if we are able to direct message each other on Twitter, then I can have a greater insight and great connection to what makes them tick," he said. "It's a little bit like a mailing list in that regard."
Zonday noted the positive experience and describes the social media interaction as a "handshake" and "friendly gesture."
"I see other people that do the same thing, and they do not on any level, or any way, get the same type of reaction," he said. "Did I anticipate this type of reaction? No."
Ten years after from "Chocolate Rain," Zonday is still making YouTube videos. He is a singer, actor and has a voiceover career. Check out his YouTube page here.