Perhaps one of the most talked about celebrities in both good and bad is Taylor Swift. For many millennials and Gen Z-ers in particular, her various albums represent memorable milestones that are tied to a certain period of time– from her very first release in 2006 up to her most recent sweeping success in 2014. I personally remember the majority of these album releases like they were holidays. I borrowed the first CD from a friend, and soon after when iTunes took the music industry by storm, her albums were one of very few things I would actually buy on iTunes.
But even though people my age more or less grew up with Taylor Swift, her impact has been far from limited and her skill throughout the digital revolution in particular has grabbed the attention of many and set an enviable example of managing personal brand and marketing in a digital age.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t go back and forth on my opinion of Taylor on a regular basis, but that she’s brilliantly managed her celebrity throughout her rise and reign is undeniable.
All too Well
The thing that I think really sets Taylor apart is her outstanding understanding of the playing field and how she fits in. First and foremost, Taylor knows how to be “one of us” despite having one of the most massive social media followings. (For the record, it’s actually Selena Gomez with the highest Instagram following, not Taylor or Kim K.) She does a truly artful job of sharing her thoughts and the happenings of her life in a way that doesn’t at all mask her high profile or celebrity, but still maintains a relatable feel. She masterfully achieves the tone of just another friend you follow, that just so happens to be one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2015.
Here are some recent examples (that honestly took me all of 30 seconds to round up) on Twitter:
Me: Please love me. Kangaroo: No. https://t.co/9CLnECzgF1—
Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 06, 2015
I feel like we achieved our goal of looking like we're in a new primetime drama series called Family Secrets. https://t.co/O33kRm8VJH—
Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) February 29, 2016
You used to call me on my elf phone. https://t.co/nMgUI0Igp6—
Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 24, 2015
Today I begin my 26th year of freaking out over stuff. https://t.co/HjWAE7sluQ—
Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 13, 2015
Taylor also has a uniquely strong understanding of the nuances and value of every social media platform and interaction (something that others often lack), and leverages the hell out of that golden nugget of knowledge. Her well-known presence on Twitter and Instagram is a testament to this, but in particular, her use of Tumblr is standout. It’s not necessarily that she’s some kind of social media savant; in fact, when she first created a Tumblr, she had no idea what was going on. Quickly, though, she came to master colloquial phrases like “shipping” a couple and using hashtags for commentary– practices that are specific to the Tumblr platform.
Taylor also uses her reach to stand up for and make noise about what she believes in. Some of the most notable and well-known examples include her pulling her music from Spotify, and her open note to Apple which led to an instant reversal in terms for artists on Apple Music. An even more recent example was her decision to financially support and stand behind Ke$ha in her lawsuit against Dr. Luke. Taylor’s ability to adeptly navigate the haywire of the broken music industry and defend artists as well as women in today’s society speaks volumes for her personal brand, humanize her, and give her audience even more reason to support her.
Her well-balanced use of her celebrity to both express herself and create meaningful impact reminds me of Tim Cook and everything he has done with his position for social justices.
Finally, Taylor is also well known for frequently surprising fans and connecting directly with them in a variety of ways. Some of the better known examples include: her Gift of Giving in which she hand-picked and wrapped holiday gifts for fans during the 2014 Christmas season, giving a fan $1989 to help pay off student loans, and asking fans to star in the Shake it Off music video. Taylor also does many more low-profile things like secret listening sessions, T-party/Club Red, and Loft ‘89 in addition to her frequent random acts of kindness.
It’s these things that contribute to the ever so valuable feeling of accessibility around her persona which exists in spite of her far-reaching impact and soaring status.
So, what do you think about Taylor?