Taylor Swift’s image has taken a hit over the ten days as she’s come under intense criticism after Kim Kardashian released a Snapchat video of a phone conversation between Swift and Kardashian’s husband, Kayne West. The spat with “Kimye” has evolved into a full-blown public relations crisis for Swift, as she’s been called out by fans on social media and in traditional media outlets. Let’s take a closer look at how Swift got into this image and reputation management mess.
Swift has used social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to cultivate her image. Her authentic, wholesome, down-to-earth persona has become familiar to millions on these platforms. This incredibly personal post wishing Ed Sheeran a happy birthday and picture of Taylor and her friends wearing silly pajamas and eating pizza are prime examples of how Swift has used Instagram to build a persona and share it with her fans. Abercrombie & Fitch found out just how large and loyal her fanbase is when they were forced to pull from the shelves a T-shirt commenting on Swift’s lovelife after her fans launched a petition calling it “childish” and “hurtful.” This strong reaction is a testament to how loyal and adoring her fanbase is – they see her as someone they love as a friend.
The problem is that no person is who they are on social media platforms and Swift’s brand is more heavily reliant on the persona she’s built than her talent as a singer/songwriter. Swift has been overexposed for years and this public spat with Kimye, which has cast her as duplicitous and has destroyed her air of authenticity. She compounded this mistake by responding through social media. Airing one’s dirty laundry online is almost always a bad move, especially for someone like Swift, who has 86 million Instagram followers.
Swift would be best served by laying low on social media platforms and in traditional media for a while. Moving forward, she needs to be more strategic about what she shares with her fans. Finally, the best way for Swift to build a large and sustainable fanbase is to continue to create music that millions of people love.