*Disclaimer: this post may be a little longer than normal*
After a year of being M.I.A. from the Twitterverse, Kanye West has finally made his return. In honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to take a look back at the evolution of Kanye West on Twitter, as I think he is the perfect example to showcase how music artists have increasingly used Twitter to build their brand.
2010-2011: Trying to be relatable but not actually relatable Kanye
Kanye joins Twitter and tweets random thoughts. His use of Twitter was pretty interesting if you ask me, and you have to admit he was pretty funny to follow. I have decided that he was trying to be relatable to his loyal followers in order to connect with us, even though that is pretty difficult for someone with his fame and fortune.
Artists often attempt to be relatable on their social media accounts as a better way to connect with their fans. The ability to communicate with your favorite artists directly on the platform provides the opportunity to spark conversations that might otherwise not occur.
Early 2012: Kanye loves Kanye
I would say that the tweets from this era are the most Kanye tweets of all time. You hear the phrase “Nobody loves Kanye like Kanye” and he wasn’t afraid to show it. He wasn’t the most humble celebrity on social media, but that’s what made Kanye who he is. He is known for his arrogance. Maybe he was just trying to be a role model and teach us about confidence?
And let’s not forget the 86-tweet monologue addressing all sorts of different topics. This was the first of a few long Twitter threads by the celebrity, as I will discuss.
This version of Kanye on Twitter is an example of how some celebrities try to build their brand by being known for something. Kanye is known for being self-centered and never smiling, which gets people talking about him. Another example of this is DJ Khaled, who is known for using phrases like “major key” and “bless up” via Snapchat.
Late 2012: Kanye the Disappearing Act
So, Kanye tweets about random things, tweets about how great he is, tweets 86 times in a row, then…deletes everything? Interesting timeline, Kanye. On October 4, 2012, he tweeted “BE BACK SOON,” which also happened to be around the time when he and Kim Kardashian started dating. We never truly found out if this was actually the reason he deleted everything, but I found it to be the most logical explanation. We’ve seen several celebrities go dark on social media and it always grabs our attention. It’s an interesting tactic and has happened a lot in the past five years for a variety of reasons. Examples range from the case of Taylor Swift and the announcement of Reputation to the case of Rihanna when she went dark just because she “felt like it.” Overall, in most cases, going dark allows celebrities the opportunity to begin a new era of their brand or take a break from the craziness of social media. That may be why Kanye has done it a few times.
2013: Jimmy Kimmel vs. Kanye
In 2013, Kanye had an interview on BBC where – surprise surprise – he was very confident in his own image. Not soon after, Jimmy Kimmel spoofed the interview with two children, causing Kanye to go off on another rant, in all caps, aimed towards Kimmel. The entire rant is even on Genius, completely annotated. I would recommend checking it out here.
We all know that Twitter fights are huge for publicity. It gets people talking and turns everyone’s attention to the people involved. Kanye has been in a few fights, and the annotation of this one just proves that people love to talk about it.
2014: Kim and Kanye say “I do”
Have you ever noticed that Kim Kardashian is the only person Kanye follows on Twitter? That’s pretty much all you need to know.
There are actually several celebrities that only follow one person. I think that usually, the one person is the person that best embodies their brand. An example is Conan O’Brien, who only follows a random girl named Sarah Killen. He decided to pick one random follower to follow back and he picked this girl who mostly tweeted about peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs, making her semi-famous. Conan is known for his ability to be random and funny, so I think this makes sense.
Kim and Kanye are married and Kanye talks less praise about himself and more about his lovely wife. He does so in a unique way, posting…intimate photos of his wife with captions like “I’m so lucky” and “SWISH.” The Kanye loves Kanye vibes still underlie, but now it mostly involves bragging about the beauty of his lady. Kim has turned out to be not only a wife but a partner in business for him. So yes, it makes sense that she is the only one Kanye follows.
2016: TLOP and West vs. Wiz
Kanye teases his new album with the following tweet:
He offered free tickets and Yeezy’s to anyone who guessed what the album name was, which sparked a long few days of fan speculation on what the letters could possibly stand for. This builds up the excitement for the album’s release and gets people talking about it before it even exists to them. We’ve also seen this recently with the announcement of J Cole’s new album K.O.D., which turned out to have three different meanings.
Also in 2016, Kanye got into yet another Twitter fight involving the naming of the aforementioned album, The Life of Pablo. If you didn’t know, before the release of this album he changed the name three times. It started as So Help Me God, then changed to Swish, then Waves. Wiz Khalifa subtweeted Kanye about how the Waves title was disrespectful toward Max B, who refers to himself as the Silver Surfer and is known for changing the meaning of the word “wavy” to mean “cool” in hip-hop. Kanye struck back and subtweeted in the same way. This fight built up even more discussion about the album itself. Also, if you haven’t gotten the lesson yet, here it is: don’t publicly talk bad about Kanye.
2017: Kanye goes dark, again
If there any fans out there reading this blog, you know that Kanye has been laying low since around May 2017, when he deleted his social media once again. This happened right before Kimye released their toddler clothing line, which seemed odd to his fans. He also didn’t show up to the Met Gala with Kim shortly after. My guess was that Kanye had been taking the hiatus to work on his music and relax without the distraction that Twitter can bring. It could also have to do with the fact that he was hospitalized for exhaustion in late 2016. As I mentioned before, artists often do this before a big announcement or as an indication of rebranding.
2018: Kanye’s Return
He’s back! After almost a year of little to no activity on social media Kanye returned to Twitter a few days ago and was greeted by the CEO of Twitter himself.
Kanye returned by posting a few photos of tattoo mock-ups, followed by a series of tweets which he ended up explaining was him live-tweeting his book.
It’s safe to say that Kanye has had a lot on his mind and is now willing to share it with the world. I’m going to go ahead guess the hiatus could have to do with the fact that he has been posting tons of pictures of shoes and just announced not one but several new albums coming this summer. Ye’s been busy and his disappearance built up to these announcements, which I think fans really appreciate.
Kanye West’s use of social media has changed a lot over the years, and people have taken notice. He certainly is a huge personality both in real life and on Twitter and that’s part of the reason why people continue to follow him. There’s no telling how long his return will last, so I’d recommend following and reading his tweets before they are deleted.
Artists’ release of new brands and music are taking shape on Twitter now more than ever, which is why fans feel so connected to their favorite artists and vice versa. I’m sure many of you have felt that Twitter has connected them to celebrities and their fanbase in this way, and I’d love to hear what you think about it.