[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”70″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″][vc_column_text]The first edition of a weekly roundup of articles gathered by our Chief Strategy Officer, Eddy Badrina.
Read, skim, or just tweet these to your followers.
Two Internet domain stories about high-profile people came out this week. In one, Sen. Ted Cruz, who had just announced he was running for president, had to face the reality that tedcruz.com is owned by somebody who is using it to support President Barack Obama. (Cruz’s campaign uses tedcruz.org.) In the other, Taylor Swift made news by proactively buying up “TaylorSwift.porn” and “TaylorSwift.adult,” domains that would otherwise become available for anyone to purchase come June 1.
The contrast between the two stories highlights how politicians like Cruz, who are in the business of promoting their personal brands, could learn a few things from the tech-savvy marketing of Swift and other young celebrities. In particular, there are three basic principles that public figures should follow:
Whether you intend to run for city council or you’re content with being a voting citizen, you should have your own domain name. Think about it: For just the price of three lattes, you can secure insertyourownnamehere.com for one year. Even if you never intend to put a blog or website on it, about $14 a year is a pittance to pay to ensure no one else can own your name online.
If you’re a politician, you shouldn’t limit your URL buying to just one domain. See if you can get your last name .com, if it is available, along with your first name. Buy up the .org, .net, and .info domains as well. Look to claim common political slogans, too, such as yourname2016.com, yournameforamerica.com, etc. With more than 1,000 new top-level domains coming out, the older .coms and .nets are likely going to be even more valuable and authoritative in the eyes of end users.
And don’t forget your social outposts. Social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are already crucial ways of communicating with voters, and they will only get more important as the platforms mature. In addition, these platforms almost always pop up in the first page of search-engine results. As people search for your personal brand, you want to own as much real estate as you can in those search results. Swift has done a great job of the “land grab” game on social media, not only because her fans are on the cutting edge of new platforms, but also because she and her team are actively promoting her there.
Pick your battles.
Politicians need to identify the platforms where they want to talk to potential voters and constituents, and where it is an uphill battle that is not worth the effort. For example, one Canadian would-be politician made the mistake of doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything, and it turned into a miserable PR failure. Open forums are essential to public debate, but politicians need to be fully prepared to give honest answers without getting defensive and divisive.
By contrast, Taylor Swift says she doesn’t even read articles that she knows will upset her. “Is it important to my life?” she asks. “If the answer is no, then I just don’t click.” As a celebrity or politician, there are going to always be people, news media, or commenters that say things just for attention, or who will never change their minds. And they just aren’t worth engaging.
Politicians need to be thinking strategically about these reputation-management and online-identity issues. For everyone else, it’s never too late, or too trivial a task, to establish your online presence.
This article was originally published on 3/26/2015 on TIME.com.
By now, nearly everyone has heard about “Swiftmas”, Taylor Swift’s gift-giving extravaganza in which she and her team spent hours getting to know 32 of her fans, and then even more time buying gifts and surprising them with personal Christmas presents on their doorsteps.
On the other hand, the brands we work and interact with every day, the ones that spend millions and millions of dollars on TV spots, sweepstakes, radio spots, full-page magazine ads, email marketing — they’re absolutely lost. If these brands ditched that impersonal, mass advertising in favor of Taylor Swift’s methods, not only would these brands make loyal customers for life, but the world might actually be a better place. Brands should follow Taylor Swift’s brand of marketing for five main reasons:
She Knows Her Fans Are More Than Their Demographics
Most multimillion-dollar brands spend lots of money and precious time to analyze their customers. However, they do it in a very broad way. Spreadsheets, surveys, focus groups, social media engagement… and for what? To launch traditional media campaigns that, for the most part, nobody wants to see.
Taylor Swift, on the other hand, studied her fans deeply. Taylor and her team already knew that her fans spend a lot of time learning everything they can about her. With Swiftmas, Taylor returned the favor.
Not only did Swift’s team leverage social media and digital analytics, but they got to know her fans on a personal level, in what became known as “tay-lurking.” And their analyses, unlike so many brand research studies, were not focused on her product. They focused on each individual person — what she likes, what she does with her friends, and the gifts she might want. The details that Taylor mentions in her video and in the handwritten notes are personal and emotional. They show that she actually cares about her fans as people, not just consumers.
She Learns How Her Fans Use Social Media, and Reciprocates
Because Taylor’s dedicated crew spends so much time lurking on social media — for Swiftmas and in general — they’ve developed an intimate understanding of how her fans use social media. So many large brands still (still!) treat social media as a one way street, responding to customer service inquiries and little else. This makes no sense.
Social media is a communication tool; just like email, a phone call, or even person-to-person interaction. If you owned a store, would you tell your employees to only pay attention to the customers who pitch a fit? Never. In fact, in stores you tell your employees to reach out first, not wait for the customer to ask for help.
Obviously you can’t constantly ask all your brand’s fans if they need assistance. But we see far too few brands engaging positively with their followers. Social media is a valuable customer service tool, but it can also build relationships between brands and individuals. Not every social media interaction has to be directly related to a product.
She Gives Her Fans Real Rewards
Think about the last time you developed a contest for your brand or client. What was the prize: Money? A gift certificate? Taylor Swift realized that her fans, while they would be excited to win money or a cruise, would find her personal involvement so much more valuable.
Taylor Swift didn’t just give her fans a box of cool presents. In the video, it’s obvious that the handwritten note meant the most to recipients. The idea that their role model, this person they so admire and respect, spent her own personal time and resources to get to know them, buy specific gifts for them and write them a card was worth much more than any contest giveaway.
The best part about Swiftmas, from a marketing standpoint at least, is that it’s actually touching to watch. How many times have you fought back tears watching someone win a brand’s social media contest? Not only did Taylor make those 32 fans cry, we’re willing to bet that fans across Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter were also in tears as they watched. Swiftmas wasn’t just something a celebrity did for a fan; it’s something one friend would do for another.
She Doesn’t Restrict Access to Her Brand
Taylor Swift has built her brand around doing personal things for her fans. She engages with them on a variety of social networks. She gives them the freedom to create their own content about her (she even admitted to doing weird things on purpose so her fans can make GIFs). She trusts that every personal engagement, every real connection and every bit of goodwill she shares will make sure that her shows sell out in 15 minutes for years to come.
Most big brands restrict access to their brand in the interest of making money. They cut back on initiatives that don’t directly lead to a sale. They spend their time trying to figure out ways to sell more product, not to make their fans love them. It’s a balance, obviously. Taylor Swift made the very public decision to cut ties with Spotify because she values her product, and wants revenue from her music. She struck the balance of giving access to her brand, but being focused about how people purchase her music products. She gambled (correctly) that removing her music from Spotify wouldn’t harm her brand. She, like many luxury products, separated brand value from product exclusivity.
Maybe brands should be more like Taylor Swift — give freely of our brands, our content and our money when it means we can foster a lasting, personal relationship with our customers. Maybe we should think about what our customers find truly rewarding, instead of throwing together a sweepstakes. Maybe we should ask what it really means to “surprise and delight” our customers, instead of assuming that a 25-percent-off coupon will cut it.
She Doesn’t Question Digital ROI
As an agency, we see it every day. “Why are we doing LinkedIn advertising?” “Do we really need community management?” It can be hard for brands rooted in the traditional world to see this, but Taylor Swift gets it: Online, the little things add up.
Every interaction, every customer service issue solved, every fan recognition, every article posted, are all in service of the overall strategy. It’s the boon and the curse of digital marketing. There are lots of little things to do, but it takes a lot of time and energy for all of it to come together and make a great digital brand.
Instead of questioning digital ROI, remember that digital media is a direct connection to your audience. It may look like a lot of work, and it may feel like you don’t immediately get the results you’re looking for. I mean, we can’t all be as instantly dazzling (or as wealthy) as Taylor. But we can be persistent, continuing with tactics we know will work.
We’ve all been saying this for years now, but digital media is changing the way brands relate to their customers. There’s no doubt that Taylor Swift is leading this change. Maybe we should all do some “tay-lurking” of our own, and recognize that our brand wouldn’t exist without thousands and thousands of real people. Then take what you find about those people, and build your brand around them.