Building and maintaining a brand is tough. A quick glance through any marketing publication will provide you with 10, 20, even 30 tips on how to make your brand stick and engage consumers. But what about when your brand is a person? What about when your brand is you? What happens when you function in one of the most competitive and cannibalistic industries in the world? Ask Taylor Swift. Yes, that Taylor Swift, the multi platinum artist who has managed to make it to the top in not one, but two genres and stay there. Love her, hate her, think she’s annoying but secretly rock out when “Shake It Off” comes on the radio, there is no denying that TSwift has built an impressive brand. This is particularly true in the digital space: 65 million Twitter followers, 53 million on Instagram, and 73 million on Facebook. Sure, it is much easier to create buzz and loyalty when your product is a catchy song rather than toilet paper, (very few people are tweeting “I love you Charmin”), but beyond that, Taylor has made a concentrated effort to connect with her fans in meaningful ways, using a multitude of platforms. What makes her exceptionally successful in this area, and the reason why she is the center of this post, is her understanding that each of these platforms is unique and thus demands a unique approach. Brands looking to expand or enhance their digital footprint could take a few notes.
One of the greatest examples is her foray into Tumblr. While the platform is classified as a social network, it functions much differently than Facebook or Twitter, with an emphasis on a collaborative community rather than individual sharing and news. The interface is also quite different. With little knowledge of how to use the platform, Taylor turned to her fans on the site to help her build her profile and start sharing and collaborating. She went to fans directly, reblogging their answers to her questions and then asking more. Most importantly, once she had a profile, she used the platform not as an international star, but as a member of the community. In addition to posting her own content, she regularly reblogs, likes, and comments on other posts, in particular those of her fans. By doing this, she is connecting with fans in a new, authentic way and humanizing the star power. As a rule, when utilizing any platform it is paramount to keep your audience and how the platform is used in mind. Doing otherwise will make your content seem out of place and disingenuous.
While taking a unique approach is great, effective outreach does not need to be groundbreaking. To build buzz around the release of her “Bad Blood” video, Taylor capitalized on Instagram’s visual dominance to release movie posters featuring the video’s exotic characters played by Taylor’s famous friends and collaborators. The results: 20 images generated 18.3 million likes and 329k comments. Not too bad. Creating a story and a curiosity of what will come next gave fans a reason to come back every day to see what would be revealed. Keeping consumers interested and focused on your brand can be tough, capturing their imagination is a great way to keep them coming back for more.
It isn’t just the content she creates, Taylor is also conscious of the offline connections that can be initiated and nurtured via the digital realm. It is well documented that she will “stalk” her fans on social media and find ways to surprise them. A fan tweets that she has waited outside a venue for 20 hours for a glimpse of Taylor, Taylor tracks said fan down outside the venue to take a selfie with her. Fans tweet and post about how much they love her, Taylor sends Christmas presents to some of her biggest fans. Surprise and delight campaigns are an easy but effective technique to nurture consumer relationships. The brand may not remember every customer they sent something to, but the customer will remember which brand did something special for them.
Now, you can argue that these efforts by Taylor are staged or calculated, and maybe they are, who knows? But that is not what this post is about. The key here is that she recognizes the power of social and capitalizes on it in a way that further endears her to her fan base. She has built a lasting brand in an industry where few last more than a few years or even a few months. From a brand perspective, that is an attractive seat to possess.