The Taylor Swift guide to social media marketing

Joshua Swanson is chairman of interactive marketing agency Razz Interactive and CEO of Go To My Apartment

Last year, Taylor Swift showed that her true genius is not in song writing but in how she uses social media. Her album “1989” sold more copies in its opening week than any album in the previous 12 years making Swift the first and only performer to have three albums sell more than 1 million copies in a week.

So she sold a lot of music. Cool. But more important than her sales figures is her unparalleled social media savvy. Between Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, Swift has more than 140 million followers or subscribers. Here are five lessons brands can learn from her social media success.

#Taylurking, or, it’s not always about you
Too many brands and celebrities do nothing but talk about themselves on social. But T. Swift understands her millennial audience grew up in the “sharing” culture — some were on Facebook even before they were born (shout-out to whoever invented the Ultrasound). As such, her Twitter feed is full of retweets of undiscovered artists covering her songs, of wedding videos using her songs and lots of fan collages doing what fans do. On Instagram, she comments constantly on her fans’ posts, and this past Christmas (sorry, #Swiftmas) she sought out lucky fans and randomly sent gifts, which, of course, was documented on video.

#Bae, or, treating your fans like friends
The more brands and celebrities understand the personal and casual nature of social, the more their story-driven content will perform well. As Lindsey Weber of wrote, “Taylor understands and enjoys putting herself and her work ‘out there.’ And she is savvy — or maybe emotionally open? — enough to know that if she treats her fans as friends, they’ll want to support her back.” Swift has gone so far as to tell Tumblr, which she joined in 2014, that she deliberately does weird stuff just so her fans can make GIFs of her.

This frankness may open her 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. If brands could have a sense of humor and be a bit more vulnerable, they would find more social media success.

#EachSocialNetworkIsDifferent, or, learn the difference between platforms
The audience on Twitter is different than the audience on Tumblr, which is different than the audience on Facebook. This truism is regurgitated over and over in countless articles on how to achieve social media success for your brand, and yet we continually see the same content cross-promoted on brands’ social networks. If your social team isn’t creative enough to take one piece of content and craft that story differently on each platform, then you need a new social team.

With each social network that Taylor Swift joins, she finds new and unique ways to engage with her fans. She strategically uses social to report sentimental stories about how her fans’ lives intertwine with her own, thereby growing her social media empire and her bank account.

#WhatsTrending, or, use social media to make important announcements
Recently, the Grammys took over Twitter to announce their nominees. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, used Facebook to disclose company information causing their stock price to soar. Both brands used social to reveal consequential information.

Taylor Swift employed this same technique back in August by giving clues to fans on Instagram about her album’s release. This gamification strategy works great for brands and celebrities as it gives the audience an additional reason to tune in and follow. We all may not have millions of followers, but those followers we do have care about our brands or they wouldn’t follow. Give that audience an additional reason to care by only distributing big-event announcements, product launches, specials and great stories on social media.

#Catitude, or, your brand probably needs a feline
There’s no denying the viral power of a good cat post. They’re by far the most popular animals on social, and Taylor isn’t naïve to the fact that when she walks her cats, shops with them or posts a picture of them around the house, she’s utilizing her not-so-secret social media superpower. Ask a paparazzo how much a picture of Taylor Swift is worth with cat versus without. Olivia and Meredith (her cats) both have numerous social profiles created by fans thereby again increasing the reach of the Taylor Swift brand. #Genius

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