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What Taylor Swift Can Teach You About Content

ImageI watched a video posted by Taylor Swift recently -- oh, so what, you’ve never watched a Taylor Swift video? Come on now. Anyway, I watched a video posted by Taylor Swift and in it, Swift decides she’s going to surprise a fan by attending her bridal shower. The video plays out as you’d expect - Swift arrives, bride-to-be goes crazy, normal people marvel at the intersection of their lives and their fantasies, etc. But what struck me about it is how brilliant the video is. How brilliant that Taylor Swift is so aware of her brand, how the video underlines her squeaky-clean, down to earth, nice girl persona so perfectly. How valuable it is, even for big name stars, to create content like this to reinforce their brand purpose and message.

Within a week, the video had hit 1.5 million views (currently at 1.7 million). Now, you might think ‘yeah, but it’s Taylor Swift, everything she posts probably gets a million hits, right?’ Wrong – her previous five videos, mostly concert announcements and interview clips, averaged 351,000 views, well below the numbers for Swift’s bridal shower excursion. It’ll live on too, and will no doubt go well over two million, probably three million views in the end, expanding Swift’s reach and winning her a legion of new fans in the process. You may look at this is a celebrity video, separate from a normal company posting, but the process is exactly the same. Swift has (or her people have) identified an opportunity to underline her values and build her brand through video content. It’s low budget, easy to make, and, as you can see, has reached a huge audience. While Taylor Swift does have a large fan base to start from, there are lessons to be taken away from it.

1. Identify stories that resonate with people. People love to see a celebrity paying attention to a lifelong fan – it makes us feel like they’re one of us, they care about us, that those celebrities on high do get our messages. It’s a great story to tell, a beautiful story, and one which few people would be able to find fault with. It’s a safe story for Swift’s brand, and one which will resonate with her target audience.

When considering video content, or even story-based content in general, look at what stories best resonate with your target audience. Look at what appeals to them, what concerns them - what story do they want to be told? Ultimately, the best way to know what works is to be one of them, get involved in your online communities, listen to what people are saying and understand where your brand fits into their world. Then think over what ways you can develop a narrative around that.

Look also to viral campaigns, like Chipotle’s ‘The Scarecrow’ or Guinness’ ‘Friendship’, analyse what they’ve done that’s worked. It’s simple storytelling at heart, but done in a way the reinforces brand values and appeals to people’s sensibilities.

2. Think over opportunities that exist within your business or business relationships that can reinforce your brand values. Taylor Swift obviously has fans sending her letters - she just has to pick one out and go with it - but your brand is also dealing with people every day. What stories can your staff tell that align with your brand message, what experiences can you share? Even further down the chain, how does your business make the lives of your consumers better, how do you contribute to the improvement of their world? There may be stories you haven’t thought of, angles unexplored, and they can form powerful content that reinforces the values your company stands for. What about sponsorship opportunities, community assistance programs - what ways could you help that will be of benefit to society, will tell a great story and will help underline what it is your business is all about? It’s important such programs are delivered with sensitivity and that that align with your brand purpose, but these stories can be a great way to establish your brand purpose and spread your message beyond your existing communities.

3. Understand the mission of your brand. This is critical to the success of your content campaigns – once you understand your brand mission, your company’s purpose in the world, then you can create content that aligns with it. Your content efforts will be far more effective if they are always underlining your brand – think about Red Bull’s content and sponsorships, you could never imagine them sponsoring a bingo night at the local hotel, could you? No, because that’s not them, they do extreme sports, things that push people to their limits - that’s what their brand culture is all about, and everything they do reinforces it.

This same approach applies to all content strategies – while it’s fine to deviate a little with fun images and one-off events, 95% of the time, your content should re-inforce, underline and highlight your brand mission. Taylor Swift’s video highlights her brand, her persona and her attitude. It may seem like nothing, like a random event, but videos like this always underline brand principles and work to further expand reach and public support (and Swift is clever to do things like this proactively, rather than do it in the aftermath of a PR disaster of the like).   

So while Taylor Swift may have billions of fans and while you may not be interested in her video content (hey, I’m not asking you to watch it yourself – if you’re not interested, I took the hit for you – you’re welcome; if you are interested, now you can watch Taylor Swift for research purposes – you’re welcome), you should always pay attention to viral videos like this. What makes them so shareable? What brand elements do they underline and highlight? What lessons can you learn from this content? It’s easy to scroll past the latest viral sensation, especially as they normally flood your newsfeed with people liking and sharing and re-sharing, but it’s always worth checking them out at least once, just to see if you can take anything from it. Notice the detail, the purpose behind each. Note how the audience responds to such posts. It’s little details like these that might help you craft your own million hit masterpiece for your business, and help build your brand through social networks.  

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