Business 501

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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.

Format your paper consistent with APA guidelines

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.

Building Relationships

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.”

Promoting Creatively

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

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