Part 1 – Role and Impact of Social Media in PR
Review the Case “Don’t Mess with the Queen of Social Media” on page 221 in The Practice of Public Relations, Ch. 10, and use the questions at the end of the chapter as a basis of your discussion.
Describe what PR recommendations you would have for Taylor Swift if you were her Public Relations Consultant.
Incorporate the principles of PR that you have learned to date.
Develop a 700- to 1,050-word recommendation as part of your response.
Use two outside references to support your points.
Case Study Don’t Mess with the Queen of Social Media
In the 21st century, record sales are depressed. Yet her albums sell by the millions. She has 60 million followers on Twitter and another 100 million friends and subscribers among Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
She is pop singer Taylor Swift, and in the second decade of the 21st century, she is the undisputed queen of social media.
How she has mastered the social medium should serve as a primer for any individual or organization eager to understand and penetrate the world’s most potent communications force. Here’s how she’s done it.
Public relations begins with building relationships, and here Taylor Swift is a master. The singer may be a millionaire many times over, but she never loses sight of her “Swifties.”
Answering the appeals of the Swift fan base appears to be the singer’s number one interest. She builds a relationship with her audience by responding to random appeals on Twitter and Instagram. For example:
A girl named Hannah wrote to the singer that she was being bullied, so Swift decided to send a heartfelt message encouraging her to “keep walking in the sunlight.” The Instagram comment Swift posted on the girl’s fan account went viral.
Another fan told the singer of her heartbreak over a lost boy friend, and Swift told her to, “Hang in there.” Again, the Instagram went viral.
Swift used Instagram to wish another fan a happy 16th birthday, congratulated another on her engagement, and another on earning her driver’s license. She even commended the “sense of humor” of another teenage follower.
Such interactions occasionally open Swift to attack from the some of the more cynical denizens of the Internet, but the more Swift embraces the hate, the more popular she gets. With strategic social media messages like these to individual fans, Swift has developed a reputation for caring that transcends that of any other superstar. Indeed, one Swiftie even devotes a Tumblr account to follow Swift’s likes and comments on Instagram.
Keeping It Real
In the 21st century, everyone from corporate CEOs to entertainers to the President of the United States to the Queen of England communicate via social media. But how many of them have ghost writers, i.e. public relations assistants who draft the missives for them? Answer: Nearly all of them. Except for . . . Taylor Swift!
While most celebrities, like Britney Spears whose manager tweets from her client’s account to the 39 million Britney followers, have social media experts writing for them round-the-clock, Swift, by all accounts, engages with fans in a raw and natural way, personalizing her social media communications.
When a Swift fan tweeted her how she went “bonkers” over a particular song at a concert, the singer retweeted that the girl had “made her day!!!!” When another fan tweeted about a local dance party with all Swift songs, the singer tweeted back, “Wish I was there!!!!”
The Swift social media “touch,” including the multiple!!!! exclamation marks, adds to the singer’s authenticity as a social media presence and, by extension, as a “real” person. Indeed, in her interviews and personal appearances—including the time she threw a private concert for a six-year-old Leukemia patient and her two-hour lunch with a 17-year-old girl battling cancer—Swift comes across as confident, enthusiastic, and the “real deal.”
The fact that everybody uses social media means that just like any other medium, to really score with the new technology, one must use it creatively. Here again, Taylor Swift excels.
In 2014, when the singer was about ready to drop her new album, “1989,” she enticed a larger audience by dropping clues on Instagram. In the video, an unseen person presses the 18th floor button of an elevator, followed by a screen shot of her phone, showing the time, 5 p.m. Another screen shot mysteriously showed Yahoo!’s search engine.
This creative gamification strategy gave her audience an additional reason to care about what the singer was leading up to. The outgrowth: Swift would debut the album with a live stream on Yahoo at 5 p.m. on August 18.
Not only did the singer leave the social media clues to entice interest in the new album, but she also proceeded to comment, favor, and retweet individual fan posts about the campaign.
And beyond the social media games, Taylor Swift also is canny enough to avail herself of social media’s most fetching commodity—the cat. So when the singer walks her cats or goes shopping with them, she makes a point of posting the photo for her adoring fans. Predictably, those fans have awarded Swift’s cats, Meredith and Olivia, with numerous social profiles (Figure 10-8).
Such are the initiatives that separate celebrities who merely understand and use social media from those who are true social media prodigies.
Standing for Something
Taylor Swift also distinguishes herself from other social media users by demonstrating, through social media postings, that she stands for something.
This gutsiness was amply demonstrated in the summer of 2015 when Apple announced that it didn’t plan to pay artists royalties during a free, three-month trial of its new streaming music service.
Immediately after the Apple announcement, Swift posted an online announcement of her own, saying she would withhold her latest album from the service because Apple wasn’t planning to pay artists and labels directly for the use of their music. In part, the singer posted on her Tumblr page:
To Apple, Love Taylor
“We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
She closed by expressing hope that the company might change its policy and “change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this.”
And within hours, that’s exactly what the most powerful tech company in the world decided to do. Said Apple’s senior vice president, “When I woke up this morning and I saw Taylor’s note that she had written, it really solidified that we needed to make a change.” And so Apple did, gently brought to its knees by the Queen of Social Media (Figure 10-8)*.
- What distinguishes Taylor Swift’s social media strategy from that of other celebrities?
- How does Taylor Swift benefit from her social media strategy?
- What other public relations options did Taylor Swift have with respect to the Apple streaming music decision?
Part 11 – Discussion Question
How do you think social media has impacted the practices of PR?
How do you think it will in the coming decade?
How do you think the practices of PR changes as we cross borders or cultures? How can it be similar and how can it be different?
Analyze the impact of technology and globalization on public relations.
Analyze the role and impact of social media on news and public opinion.