It’s not every day we see two of today’s biggest cultural influencers and celebrities feud online.
If you logged onto any social media network yesterday, chances are you saw #KimExposedTaylorParty and its peripheral stories trending like mad. There’s definitely a backstory to this high-school-esque online drama; you can learn more about it here if you want/care enough.
It may look like a lot of pettiness – and perhaps it is – but when two big brands hurl accusations at each other, things get messy. When those brands are people with massive followings and the accusations relate to lying, things go from messy to relatable and exciting for voyeuristic civilians of the interwebs. The explosion of activity piqued my interest as a social media and communications professional. What can we learn from this hot mess? Let’s explore.
- Whichever side has the best memes wins
Social media enables everyday people removed from brand-to-brand warfare – consumers – to weigh in and shape the dialogue. We see public favour shift in real time and get a sense of who will be the “victor” thanks to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook commentary. Nowadays, support often takes the form of meme savagery, particularly among Millennials. We’ve seen this in Clinton vs. Trump, Drake vs. Meek Mill, and countless other recent examples.
Why memes? They effectively distill situations into digestible, often humorous snippets that are easy to share with others. When it comes to two known entities facing off, creating and/or sharing a meme depicting “your pick” as the “winner” communicates your approval or support. #TeamKimye pumped out ridiculous memes all day. Where was Taylor’s fan base? She wasn’t helped in this regard. Her devoted following defended her, but failure to use memes meant their comments weren’t seen or shared as frequently or widely. What happens once the public is whipped up into a frenzy and the majority opinion seems clear? A sort of social proof forms. Publications feel safe taking a stance. After several hours of #KimExposedTaylorParty trending on Twitter, content by publications popped up declaring Swift’s “downfall” and that Kim had “destroyed” her.
- Authenticity rules
Authenticity is one of the core requirements of a great brand. Without it, loyalty (and purchases!) can’t occur. Kim releasing video evidence of a phone call that Swift’s camp denied ever taking place completely undermines Swift’s image as America’s Sweetheart – honest and wholesome. On the flipside, the Kardashians have built a lucrative empire on sharing the intimate details of their “real lives” through their reality show. Kim posting the Snap not only aligns with her core brand philosophy of hyper transparency, it also places her in a relatable, positive light: as a wife willing to go to extremes to defend her husband(‘s image).
There is speculation surrounding the legality of recording the call between Kanye and Swift which ropes in the issue of consent once again in this story; however, this aside, Kim sharing the video harms Taylor’s brand more than her own. Does this mean Patch Design condones what some would argue is tantamount to cyber bulling? Absolutely not. It is nearly impossible for us to imagine another situation where a brand could behave so brashly without experiencing significant backlash – legal or otherwise.
- Crisis communication planning is a must
This debacle has been at a slow simmer for months, giving both sides time to strategize the next move. When was Taylor’s statement in response to the Snapchat crafted? Likely well in advance. The retort does three important things very well:
A) It addresses the most important thing first: the offending line was not discussed in the video and thus could not have been approved
B) It humanizes her, stimulates sympathy, and raises questions about Kanye’s character for his choice of words (“You don’t get to control someone’s emotional response to being called ‘that b—–‘ in front of the whole world”)
C) It concludes by recalling the outrageous 2009 incident where Kanye humiliated her on live television, reminding us that he has wronged her in the past and that this is part of a pattern of him publicly degrading her and her achievements
The Main Takeaways:
- 1. The two-way symmetrical communication made possible by social media can cause a ripple effect that snowballs scandals and escalates issues at a greater rapidity than ever before. A well-crafted and well-timed response is crucial for minimizing damage and initiating the process of reshaping the narrative.
- 2. Authenticity and social proof are powerful psychological marketing tactics. Crowd mentality is nothing new but its effects can be seen and felt faster than ever before, which can complicate matters for brands.
Despite proclamations to the contrary, Taylor Swift’s career is not over. This hiccup will be forgotten history when a new major event or juicy scandal comes to light and the crowd becomes frothed up once more.
This recent social media event – and that is precisely what it was – is a great reminder that although the channels and tools that facilitate social media communication and marketing are constantly in flux, the fundamentals of marketing are always at play. Having expert communicators and strategists on your team is your best line of defense when it comes to effectively preventing, handling and recovering from attacks on your brand. Social media is the cornerstone of the modern marketing landscape and mustn’t be overlooked. Don’t miss an opportunity to have your brand seen and heard, on your terms, through a strategic social media presence.
Patch Design specializes in social media strategy, community management and strategic communications. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings or to get started!