On August 18th, 2017 Taylor Swift vanished from social media, deleting all of her previous posts on her Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. And people noticed. It sparked conversation and freak outs, depending on the crowd, of speculation of her new album and though she may have never fell off the radar, she brought herself back into the spotlight before actually releasing anything she produced.
While millions of young women and girls across the world may have lost it over this sudden disappearance in anticipation of what’s to come, it was a strategic business move done by Swift. In fact, I argue that businesses of all kinds can learn a great deal by following what Taylor Swift does with her brand, especially on social media.
The success of Taylor Swift essentially lies on her fans and the strength of her fanbase, and she does not ignore this truth. She takes extra effort to take care of her fans, keep them engaged, and begging to hear what’s next. With her latest album, she took a different direction, both artistically, and in terms of her social media strategy. By deleting everything and starting from scratch, Swift is boldly reinventing her image and her brand.
It is not a new phenomenon for celebrities to thrive on social media, using the platform to engage with fans, promote shows or sales, and build brand image. Taylor Swift excels in all three of these areas. Utilizing different social media platforms is a cost-efficient strategy to access a large number of followers or fans and celebrities have been doing it for years.
Anything Taylor Swift posts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr is automatically exposed to millions of followers, so she cannot afford to not be extremely strategic about her course of action on them. Her brand image across the platform is identical, though she uses each a little differently.
Taylor Swift’s engagements with fans is what separates her from the rest. She knows her fans and her fans feel as they know her, to perhaps an obsessive state. There are accounts that track Taylor Swift’s engagements with fans, whether it be comments or responses to posts or comments from fans. There are numerous fan accounts just tracking her interactions, that have accumulated hundreds of thousands of followers. She is often spotted encouraging girls to remain strong against bullies and “shake [it] off” the haters. While Taylor Swift is a beautiful, thin, wealthy supermodel celebrity, many of her fans see her as one of them and a role model.
While she cannot monetize this strong following, she does strengthen her business through other strategies, capitalizing on the strong foundation laid by her fans, which she created. She provides devoted fans with exclusive experiences, which results in a cycle of increased devotion. One of my friends, who happens to be a huge “Swifty” as they call themselves, was invited down to Taylor’s parents’ home in Nashville last week, to hangout for a few hours then experience a highly sought-after “secret session”. This session included listening to Swift’s latest album in full before its release, photo-ops, and one-on-one time with Taylor Swift herself. A relatively easy event to put together and hold for Taylor pays huge dividends in terms of improving her already strong fanbase, which results in increased revenue when her supporters buy her album, memorabilia, and tickets. Social media allows this particularly devoted group of fans to be obsessive and then get recognized by Taylor Swift and her team. Those who engage more compensated with exclusive perks, which sparks a cycle of active participation.
While many other established artists may quickly reach top charts upon releasing new music, many of the listeners use streaming systems and do not pay for the content directly. Taylor Swift has released three singles off her new album so far over the past few weeks available on Spotify, Apple Music and more, but offers a pre-sale for the full album, which many actually pay directly for in addition to their monthly subscriptions.
Another example of the artist’s social media savvyness is tied directly to concert ticket sales. She has the power to generate revenue in anticipation of concert date releases through the use of her social media platform. Taylor Swift has not even released the whole album yet but has teamed up with Ticketmaster to create a platform for verified fans that she promotes through social media for fans to build their report in order to gain priority in purchasing concert tickets, over less devoted fans or what she states, “robots”. This whole concept is genius in terms of marketing and sales. Fans are able to sign up as a “verified fan” and prove their fandom by purchasing the album, watching videos, engaging on social media, shopping on the site, and more. The more engagement and money spent, the higher on the priority list the fan becomes.
Taylor Swift has created buzz about not only her album, but anticipated tour almost strictly through the use of social media. This guarantees success of album sales and tickets sales, as I emphasize again, BEFORE they are even available to consumers.
While you may disagree on the quality of her music, it is undeniable that Taylor Swift is an incredible businesswoman, playing to her strengths and taking care of her fans, resulting in success for her brand.