Look What You Made Her Do | What companies can learn from Taylor Swift’s social media marketing

By in Views
On October 26, 2017

Social media marketing

The music business is heading into its most lucrative time of the year – yes, Christmas (sorry, I know it’s October!).  New music from some of the biggest contemporary artists on the planet will be released just in time for the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ – and don’t forget to stick Michael Bublé on defrost now for your yearly dose of everyone’s favourite Christmas crooner!

In an age when technology and social media has engulfed almost every aspect of life, it’s fascinating to see how the music business has also become a ‘slave to the algorithm.’ Music makers are shifting tactics to get seen, heard, and most importantly – generate profit. The dawn of social media marketing is upon us, and continually growing more sophisticated.

And it’s not just in the consumer world of music and entertainment. Social media marketing is fast becoming a must-have component of successful b2b marketing. B2b companies across virtually every sector are exploring social media and digital marketing to varying degrees of sophistication and success. Whether it’s to promote content like case studies, white papers and thought leadership articles, build awareness of new products and events, or drive lead generation social media marketing is a key part of reaching audiences and influencing buyers.

So let’s see what the b2b world might learn from the cutting edge of entertainment – or more accurately a savvy young artist who has deftly learned to use social media to a tremendous advantage. Companies—large and small, b2b and b2c—across all sectors should be taking notes.

For any musician, starting out ‘in the biz’ has always been tough. For unsigned artists and bands, there was a time when they relied simply on getting their demo in front of a label big wig and hoped for the best. Times have moved on dramatically, and the power of the internet has broken barriers to the discovery of new artists.

Platforms like YouTube have brought some of the biggest acts of the past decade from singing in their bedrooms to the global main stage. Names like Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, DJ Khaled, Jessie J, and many more who’ve yet to be discovered.

One of the biggest artists in the world harnessing modern marketing technology and the social influence of millions of followers is Taylor Swift. With 103 million followers on Instagram and over 85 million on Twitter, Swift has created one of the most interesting promotional trails ever for her upcoming album – a true first of its kind.

In August, Swift’s internet presence suddenly diminished, as all of her social platforms were completely wiped. The rumours grew fervent. Was she dropping a single, an album, a docu-movie? The world watched in anticipation. A brilliant marketing move.

Slithering into social consciousness

Over the course of a week, three short videos of a snake were uploaded to her Instagram. Now for those who aren’t up to speed on pop culture, Swift’s association with the snake and its accompanying emoji dates back to July 2016, when three of her public feuds reached dramatic climaxes. Following her fallouts with Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry, and ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris, the comment sections of Swift’s social media pages were flooded with an onslaught of snake emoji sent from her rivals’ fans.

The ‘snake-debate’ became a big talking point, touching on issues of cyber-bullying and how social platforms are obliged to help control it. According to Wired, Swift’s Instagram account became the first testing ground for a filter, developed by Instagram, which automatically deletes specific words and emoji from users’ feeds and posts. Swift’s very public attack, combined with the noise made by her huge social presence, helped raise the discussion around the sensitive issue of unsolicited comments, whether on a public or private profile, and is still the biggest defect in the world of social media.

The first cut from Swift’s new album dropped a few days later, and with it came a very evident shift in musical direction – sparking another huge social media debate around the globe. With millions of comments, posts, shares and likes, Look What You Made Me Do’ is very different from Swift’s vast pop catalogue of songs about turning 22 and finding Prince Charming.

The controversial video accompanying the song that was released a few days later, clocking up 43.2 million streams on YouTube in less than 24 hours, made it the biggest debut for any video in history. The visual depiction of the song also set tongues wagging, with Swift accepting, and almost mocking, her newfound position as something of a villain in the world of pop music.

This launch was a meticulously planned and primed PR operation, cooked up by some very savvy music marketers – and let’s remember, this is just the first single; the album doesn’t hit shelves for another month. Creating such colossal social hype makes Swift herself a talking point, and a very ‘marmite’ one at that – you either love her or hate her.

But what’s really interesting is the incredible ripples this release has made in marketing, making the industry pull its head out the ground and think big. Labels and artists alike are already taking notes, and will need to begin to think outside the box when it comes to the rollout of a new album cycle. Various aspects of social media marketing are a given.

With any new music usually comes live shows and tours, another huge element of the music industry. And with artists more engrained in our lives than ever thanks to their dominating social media presence, show attendance figures are at an all-time high. And there are stats to prove it. In the UK, touring and venue promoters, AEG Presents, posted a surge in revenues to £127.1 million for 2016 – an increase of 326% on the 2015 figure of £29.8m.

Taylor-ed ticketing

Swift’s global domination continues. In preparation for her 2018 world tour, Swift has teamed with Ticketmaster to form her own ticketing agency – Taylor Swift Tix. Technology to beat ticket touts and ‘BOTS’ that invade systems and snap up the best seats has been around now for some time now. But Swift is taking this one step further.

Combining the powerful ticketing technology with ID protocols like having names printed on tickets, fans are required to register for an account. In the run up to the album launch in November, they can improve their place in line for tickets by participating in ‘boost activities.’ These include social follows and sharing content posted by Swift to earn the opportunity to buy the best seats in the house. It also involves buying merchandise – much of which is snake themed!

Some may see this as artist manipulation of the masses, especially of her younger, more social-savvy fan base. But it’s also a complete stroke of genius. Swift has now created her own online user community – making a somewhat safe haven for her biggest fans, and encouraging them to combine forces to help achieve the goal of securing the best tickets to her shows.

Other big-name artists have used various methods to beat ticket touts, but very few have ever created their own online community where fans are rewarded with better tickets for loyalty to the artist – which can only be a good thing. It’s taken the rise, the fall, and the somewhat epic comeback of one of pop music’s most famed young starlets to bring so many prevalent issues of online and social media power and responsibility into the spotlight for everyone to ponder and discuss.

At the same time, we can all learn from her success and the potential pitfalls. These methods, while perhaps extreme for B2B companies, serve as potent examples of successful content sharing, community building and consumer influencing – something all marketers today hope to achieve.

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