I Knew You Were Trouble

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:

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 does a remarkable job of aligning her online antics with her offline self. Some iconic examples include: wearing a “no its becky” t-shirt and singing Smelly Cat with Lisa Kudrow.

Bad Blood

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.

Lucky One

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?


  1. I definitely love Taylor’s music, but agree that I go back and forth on my opinion of her as a person. Sometimes I find her amazing, while other times I find her very annoying. I think you did a great job of summarizing how she successfully is able to be both relatable yet extremely influential and powerful at the same time. I also think that one of the main reasons she has gained so much traction amongst the younger audiences is because of your final “Lucky One” point. So many young girls are obsessed with her and her kindness and hold on to the hope that they might be surprised by Taylor one day soon.

  2. I must admit, I have always been a pretty big fan of Taylor Swift, and I still am. I definitely agree with your stance about her leveraging her social media accounts so well. Although once in a while she does post photos of luxurious vacations and red carpet moments, the best part about following her is seeing the everyday moments she shares that make her more relatable. Additionally, this past summer I think she created a really effective Instagram campaign. She was on tour and had surprise guests almost every night. She always posted a picture of the next day, and I thought it was fun to see who was at each concert (especially since I was attending the concert and July and was anxious to see who the surprise guest would be when I was there!). Overall, I think she does a great job of using social media to connect with her audience, which is why she has such a strong and loyal following.

  3. I have to say I am a huge Taylor Swift fan and I have been since middle school. Taylor is a polarizing figure and people listen to her. As you said with the open letter to Apple, she was the sole reason Apple paid artists during their free trial. She is the reason people pulled away from Spotify. Her music is so catchy and the type of music you catch yourself humming while walking to class. I really like how you incorporated a lot of her fun posts that she uses to try to connect with her audience. I liked your analysis and enjoyed reading it!

  4. Great post. I agree that Taylor’s social strategy is a winning one. I think the key for her is the balance between her relatable posts and the super glamorous red carpet ones that get fans to both want to be her best friend and want to be like her at the same time. She obviously has an amazing life but spends enough time doing pretty regular, normal things and interacting with her fans that they feel like she’s one of them and she cares about them. I have no doubt that social media is integral to her success as an artist because it’s the number one way she can directly reach her fans.

  5. I really enjoyed this post. You provided an excellent overview of Taylor’s social media use for someone like me who has a somewhat limited knowledge of her online presence. It seems to me that Taylor uses her social media to simply be herself, or at least give her fans the impression that she’s just a regular person. I think this at least partly explains how she is able to connect so closely to her fans and gather such a loyal following. I think her social media use is a clear differentiator as an artist and part of the reason as to why she is so influential in the music industry in regards to Spotify and Apple Music.

  6. After reading the title of this blog post, I of course had to read more (and now I have been singing that song in my head since then!), as I am a fan of Taylor Swift, and her album was actually the first album in years that I actually paid for (I guess it was smart of her to remove her music from Spotify). I honestly didn’t know too much about her as a person up until the past year or so, and the way I found out more about her was through her social media, and I agree with you that she does a very good job of managing her accounts. To me, she comes off as very genuine, human and definitely more relatable than other celebrities out there (looking at you, Kardashians, Bieber, Kanye). While she may just be doing these social media accounts for the fun of it, it’s a great business strategy, because it definitely helps to keep her relevant and I would think it helps to increase her ticket, merchandise, album, etc. sales. And now it’s time to put on the 1989 album on repeat…

  7. Great post! I love the examples of Taylor’s tweets and other social media posts. I don’t follow her on any accounts and didn’t realize how funny and relatable she is. Even though I don’t agree with Taylor’s decision to pull her music from Spotify, I do admire her for standing up for what she believes in- thanks for all of the recent examples! I agree with the other comments that the balance of “celebrity” posts with “relatable” posts create a persona that fans aspire to be since it is in reach.

  8. I like Taylor Swift. I think she’s a great example of a quintessential Millennial celebrity. She certainly knows how to utilize social media to her benefit. I think she was justified in taking her music off of Spotify, if Spotify is unwilling to satisfy her financial needs then she has every right to sever her relationship with them just as any one business would. Also, I think “Shake it Off'” is one of the best pop songs I’ve ever heard lol.

  9. It’s been really interesting in this class that almost every time has some student doing a blog or presentation on Taylor Swift and SM. It’s fascinating to see how well she has evolved and kept up with the trends over the years. She really is good at this, which I think is no small reason for her success.

  10. Pretty stellar blog post!! I always knew T-Swift blazed an engaging and personal social media trail, but this really puts it all in perspective for me. You’re exactly right about her involvement; she’s learned each platform and each language to fit the needs of her growing user-base. Taylor is remarkable at branding herself and impacting society with that powerful brand. It’s a strange dichotomy, her revered celebrity status along with her humble one-to-one fan contact. Thank you for this!

  11. Really great post! I think it is most interesting that Taylor Swift’s relatable feel on social media is one of her main characteristics on social that makes her so successful. You would think that we follow celebrities to have a window into their high profile lives, but for the majority of people it is clearly the opposite. We most enjoy following celebrities who share their lives in ways that highlight that they’re real people too!

  12. willybbolton · ·

    I found this post very interesting as I’m an artist myself. I think Taylor’s accessibility and engagement with her fans is one of the main reasons for her continued success. Taylor is pretty amazing to her fans. I’ve heard that when she first started touring she would take down her fans phone numbers and call them to thank them for coming. Nowadays, fans are starting to see through fake and manufactured artists. Taylor swift wins in the age of social media because she shows that she is a real person, who does real relatable things. This = record sales + sustained career.

  13. Great post! I love Taylor Swift myself and think she stands out as a unique pop star who uses social media in a positive way to send powerful messages. I think she stands as a great role model for younger girls, especially when there are so many other figures in pop culture who only express shallow and negative messages. I also respect the fact that Taylor’s image on SM matches her image in real life. Actions speak louder than words and Taylor seems to keep a consistent character on and offline.

  14. Great analysis on Taylor’s media takeover! She definitely knows how to play the game on social media and strikes the balance of pop-star and “regular girl”. She surrounds herself with the right people, stays out of trouble, and (most importantly), knows when to fade-out. Her pseudo-hiatus was sparked after her world tour ended. She noted that she felt ti was time for the public to take break from her which was a crucial move on her part. Clearly taking notes from Adele, as the public is far more responsive to a popular artist after a hiatus than after being overexposed.

  15. So funny you write about this because my friends and i were just talking about this! I think the general consensus was amazing artist/businessman but shady person and real life. I think she is a great public figure and very empowering to young women. I love what she said about being selfmade when she won her grammy. But i would not want to hang out with her as a person. she seems way too concerned with her image, but i guess that comes with celebrity status?

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