Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift had an exhausting day on the internet on Monday. In the immediate aftermath of Kardashian releasing video footage confirming that Swift did, in fact, have a conversation with Kanye West about her name drop in his song “Famous,” public opinion has taken a dramatic turn against Swift.
There were memes and think pieces galore, but on top of all that, people flooded Swift’s Instagram response with comments to let her know how they really felt. They accused her of being a liar and called out her tendency to always play the role of a victim who needs to be coddled when things don’t work out in her favor. Several simply left snake emojis.
But go look at the comments right now. Of course you can’t scroll through the 380,000 (and counting) comments, but even thumbing through the first hundred, you may notice something. No one has anything negative thing to say.
According to multiple outlets, Instagram users are reporting that the app is actively monitoring her post, deleting comments that contain rat or snake emojis or any sort of “hate speech.” If you try to leave a comment with snake emojis, good luck—you’ll likely run into a pop-up from Instagram warning you that they “restrict certain content and actions to protect our community.”
Technically, they’re allowed to do that. Instagram’s community guidelines allow them to remove “content that contains credible threats or hate speech, content that targets private individuals to degrade or shame them, personal information meant to blackmail or harass someone, and repeated unwanted messages.” And when StyleCaster asked Instagram for a response, a spokesperson simply said, “We’re always looking for better ways to help people prevent spammy or inappropriate comments on Instagram.” But it seems as if Swift is getting special attention.
Ignore the weird implications of selective censorship for a minute—we’ll get to that. Because while Instagram was busy deleting emojis,Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was spending her Monday retweeting racist comments she’s been receiving in wake of the movie’s release.
At first, Twitter took no action against accounts hurling racial slurs and derogatory comments in her direction. Jones was forced to manually block the offenders herself, many of whom were likening her to an ape and barraging her with offensive pictures. A user posing as her was even posting homophobic comments under her name.
After several other high-profile celebrities, such as Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, weighed in, Twitter began to ban the racist Twitter accounts. Late last night they released a statement: “People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”
But it was too little too late. Yesterday afternoon, Jones announced that she is deleting her Twitter account.
Here’s the thing: being a woman on the internet sucks sometimes. Like, a lot. Women are harassed constantly and viciously, often for no reason other than the fact that they’re female. Very few of us are immune; a recent study showed that nearly 76% of women under 30 who are online experience some form of abuse or harassment.
I’m sure a fair amount of the comments on Swift’s post were spammy or inappropriate or derogatory. I’m sure a fair amount of the comments were pieces of hate speech that deserved to be deleted. But how do we decide when a simple emoji counts as hate speech? How do we decide where the line is drawn between legitimate criticism and harassment?
How did we decide that celebrities—but only a select few—are above this? Instagram’s community guidelines clearly state that they protect “private individuals.” Swift is a public figure. Negative comments are what she signed up for when she signed up for fame. This isn’t an issue of protecting someone from pure hate speech: It’s an issue of coddling and protecting a privileged white celebrity from any vague form of negative sentiment.
Why is Instagram stepping into this particular situation when they did nothing for the slew of bee and lemon emojis against not only Rachel Roy but also her 16-year-old daughter after Beyoncé’s Lemonade dropped? What about all the trolls on Kesha’s account? What about the attacks (full of snake emojis, no less) on Kardashian? What about real, unfamous women who experience harassment on a daily basis?
If the hate toward Taylor Swift is the kind of content Instagram wants to censor, it needs to censor it for everyone—not just a few. When Leslie Jones can be called every racial slur in the book and has to sit back and take it, but Taylor Swift’s feelings are hurt by snake emojis and are therefore removed, that’s called white privilege. There is really no other way to describe it.
The selective action of intervening happening on Swift’s social media right now is real-time evidence of how Swift represents a dangerous form of white women. As journalist Damon Young says, we all know a woman like Swift: She twists situations to become the victim and gets preferential treatment, especially when pitted against people of color. Maybe that’s why we are so actively interested in this situation.
It’s not a funny thing to watch anymore. Not in this time of such elevated tension. Not in this time when white cops are shooting black men on camera and getting away with it. And certainly not in a time when your silence on the subject speaks volumes.
No, the white-female-victim game that Taylor Swift plays isn’t funny anymore, and it has passed the point of being tired and has veered into dangerous territory. She has millions of little girls looking up to her, and her actions leave lasting impressions. They have consequences.
Girls need protecting sometimes, yes, and the internet needs to be better about the harassment we face on a daily basis. But young girls also need to know that not everyone gets special treatment, particularly if they’re not white. Not everyone gets to behave badly without being held accountable. They need to learn that crying foul any time they feel wronged isn’t an automatic fix. That, when someone says something critical of them, the best response is to work hard, succeed, and prove them wrong, not to argue about character assassination.
Above all else, young girls need to learn how to be the heroines of their lives, not the victims. Unfortunately, that’s not the example Swift is portraying today.
This piece originally appeared on Three Degrees.
Instagram is dead, long live Instagram. The second largest media network — and fastest growing one, at that — has ditched what made it unique in the first place: the square.
Years of restricting media to a square format forced users to get creative, but at long last, the latest update has allowed for full size images and videos in landscape and portrait sizes. According to the company’s blog, it was time. Nearly one in five posts don’t stick to the square, using third party apps like Whitagram or Afterlight to add whitespace to their content before sharing. While this obviously creates a shift in the content everyday users are sharing, the most sizeable impact will be on businesses.
Last year, Instagram opened themselves up for ads, and at first they were sparsely integrated and saved for the biggest and best brands, worked out exclusively between brands and an Instagram sales representative. But earlier this month, Instagram opened up its advertising API (application programming interface), making ad buys way more accessible for brands of all sizes. So much so, that EMarketer predicts Instagram will generate $595 million in advertising revenue this year, and surpass Google and Twitter in mobile ad revenue by 2017.
Which is why the change in media format matters so much. Now that more brands will be advertising on Instagram, things could go one of two ways. Brands could embrace the freedom of layout as an opportunity to be more creative — think full portrait looks from fashion brands or horizontal teaser videos from movies.
Or, they could get lazy, and integrate the same standard TV promo, horizontal banner ad, or vertical Snapchat video, which is what a lot of critics fear. The square was like Twitter’s 140 characters or Snapchat’s 10 seconds. Was it restrictive? Yes. Did it make for unique content once people were forced to adapt? Absolutely.
Opening up the API was a step away from their pains to regulate ads that were authentic and compelling, ads that would seamlessly flow in a user’s feed. This, combined with the new media format could spell out success or it could be a disaster. The cards are all in the hands of brands now. And let’s hope they remember what Uncle Ben said: “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Last week, I wrote about my thoughts and concerns with Stevie Nicks’s social media presence and campaign. There were so many moments that started strong, but fizzled out. There were many little, absolute must-have best practices that were overlooked. For an artist of her caliber and from a label whom I respect, and have been impressed with their social media presence before, I was shocked.
I have been actively and passionately keeping a close eye on things, my social media nerd coming out far too often. The responses I received after I shared my original report on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Facebook were extremely reassuring. In the past week, my study received praise from not only fans, but social media experts and music industry professionals, as well. I am not the only person who has made note of such things, and feels that the opportunity to do better exists, but I’m the only one who has put together a comprehensive audit and plan.
In the days since my initial #CarrieForStevie post, a few more incidents occurred that I felt were important enough to deem an update:
Although a Q&A is an easy way to engage with fans, the platform it is conducted on can make all the difference. Facebook, unfortunately, is not that platform.
There are several inadequacies with Facebook Q&As. They are clunky, difficult to sort through, and causes a lot of unnecessary confusion for followers and participants alike. Questions are easily buried and irrelevant, but many-times “liked” posts, pop to the top and convolute the pool of answers. Furthermore, and most importantly, Facebook’s demographics skew significantly older, especially at 3:45 on a Wednesday afternoon. From observation, many younger people expressed frustration that they were in school or at work at this time. Additionally, many fans had already bought the album. Engaging with your fans is important, but reaching new ones even more so.
An example of a recent Q&A that utilized best practices would be Bette Midler’s Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA). A challenge with AMAs is driving fans and followers to the community, but frequent driving Call To Action (CTA) posts on Facebook and Twitter led qualified and informed fans to engage.
iHeart Radio Guest DJ
Perhaps the most troubling was basic best practices overlooked with this execution. A guest DJ session on iHeart Radio was a fantastic digital PR execution; the app’s core demographics fall heavily in the 18-34 group, the exact audience that should be targeted for purchase post-release. However, it wasn’t well publicized on social media. Digital and social needs to be tied together. The initial stream of Stevie’s DJ session began in the morning on November 7th. The official Stevie Nicks Twitter handle did not send out a tune-in CTA until a re-airing at 6 PM EST.
Had best practices been utilized, a tune-in notice would have been sent the night before and at air time, with an additional notice mid-way through the airing. Acknowledging digital and media appearances after the fact significantly reduced the potential reach and engagement.
Further, a great tie-in would have been to create a stand alone playlist of “Stevie’s Picks” on Spotify to seed out to followers on that platform. Pink Floyd is currently promoting their latest album The Endless River on Spotify with ads and promoted content leading fans to custom playlists full of new music and deep cuts. Infiltrating targeted, qualified listeners — not only those who follow Stevie Nicks or Fleetwood Mac on Spotify, but related artists, as well — is a well-calculated and brilliant way to acquire new fans.
I had previously stressed the importance of frequent updates on Instagram. What I neglected to mention is that content for the sake of content defeats the purpose. To run an efficient and engaging Instagram, images must be fresh, exclusive, and properly optimized for the platform.
Recent posts have been images that have been widely circulating on the internet, with no exclusive ownership in using them and heavy reliance on Whitagram to add white space to make images fit the square format of Instagram, cheapening the point of Instagram’s square format. Additionally, many recent updates have been low-res scans with low quality production.
Low quality production and non-Instagram spec optimization cheapens the effect of the post.
Fans are not interested in images that have been available and trending online for months. They crave new information and content.
An official Instagram handle should only be seeding out owned, exclusive content, and high quality pieces at that. Otherwise, it loses credibility and becomes little more influential than a fan account. At this stage in the album’s chart life and legacy potential, behind the scenes images, Polaroids not included in the 24 Karat Gold photo book, or personal photos should be utilized to connect with fans and potential fans better.
Again, I stress the importance of strong social media with Ms. Nicks because I believe its importance in maintaining credibility and further cementing her legacy status in the industry. There are a mass of younger fans and potential fans that can be reached, and reached effectively if extremely simple and necessary best practices are utilized next to stronger executions. Older, steadfast fans are secured. No 50 year old is going to say “Gee, I like what this Stevie Nicks is doing on Instagram. I should listen to her music.” That’s how younger fans are reached and acquired, without overlooking or alienating the already existing fan base.
It is crucial that younger fans be acknowledged and gained at this period in time. When older generations fade away, this is the generation that will cement record sales and legacy. They are important. Without them, the music dies.
I’m calling on you to hear me out. I am someone with expert insight into the social media sphere and fan culture. Let’s champion for an icon in the 21st century together.
“I have never seen anyone care about anything more than you care about Stevie Nicks’s social media presence” – actual quote by an actual friend
It’s no secret that I like Stevie Nicks. I’ve spent the last few months writing about her for both Bed Crumbs and Bustle. Topics included her influence on millennial women (Stevie Nicks’s Daughters of the Moon), where she and other influential women were at quarter life, and her stunning 24 Karat Gold portrait collection.
It’s also no secret that I am heavily invested in the internet and social media. How can I not be? It’s my job. I currently work in social media for Condé Nast’s entertainment division, and in the past have managed social media and PR for film and television clients a social media marketing agency in New York.
I suppose this experience makes me more sensitive to the executions of other social media campaigns. It’s easy to laugh off “social media fails” or to shrug and let things go when I see countless examples of campaigns coming close, but no cigar. However, when it comes to something near to my own personal interests, like my favorite musicians, entertainers, or brands, I feel the need to say something.
I have long respected and admired Stevie Nicks’s career, so I was excited to see her image branching out more into social media, especially Instagram. So excited that I wrote a piece for an agency blog – Stevie Nicks Joins Instagram: How Old Dogs Are Learning New Tricks – about the opportunities it presented and its potential to increase the marketing behind 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault.
In following the official social media campaign, though, I saw a prime opportunity to offer my assistance. The combination of my enthusiasm for Ms. Nicks’s career and extensive knowledge of social media would enable me to be a powerful asset.
My background and work experience are not the only things that make me qualified for this endeavor. I also studied and meticulously researched the trajectory of this year’s campaign, putting in efforts similar to deep dives I put together for clients. I pulled insights and social chatter, made note of the great executions and the not-so-great ones.
There have been missed opportunities along the way and efforts to correct them now miss the mark. The official Instagram was to be launched on Monday, August 4th after announcing the date on Twitter and Facebook, which confused many fans, but didn’t go live until a few days later. Content was shared once or twice a week, despite the fact that more frequent posting on Instagram is essential for growth.
I tracked the daily rate of growth of fans and engagement per post for a month, comparing Stevie’s Instagram to that of Barbra Streisand, which launched a few weeks later and soon eclipsed it. Both were releasing new albums within weeks of the other and appealed to similar demographics. But Barbra has 30 percent fewer Facebook fans (where the best Instagram tie-in lies) and only 17 percent more Twitter followers. But take a look at Barbra Streisand’s Instagram and you will see that the content is more robust, accomplishing what Stevie Nicks’s should have been: frequent posts combining personal and promotional.
When the Instagram launched, the location settings for the account were active, allowing users to trace where a photo was sent from on a map. In this case, it appeared to be back to the Warner Brothers offices, which not only changed the view of the account from the Stevie Nicks voice to a corporate voice, but was dangerous for privacy, as well.
As the campaign progressed, content slowed. Then, content stopped being shared on Instagram altogether just a week prior to the album’s release. Continuing to push out images and teaser clips through October 7th would have boosted sale numbers not only in the debut week, but the following weeks, too. Additionally, many newly released content, like cover artwork and official lyric videos for the singles, trended on social media long before they were officially announced or acknowledged by the official Stevie Nicks accounts. Most recently, I saw that the T Magazine feature, which was on newsstands on October 19th and shared virally on social weeks before that, wasn’t shared until October 29th.
24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault has immense social media promotion potential, and an opportunity to break news, rather than repeat it long after social chatter has died down. I believe that I can help amplify this chatter moving forward and keep the album’s longevity on the charts. Strong utilization of social media targeting young fans will be important to continue to market 24 Karat Gold easily and for little to no cost. Diehard fans will always be a sure buyer, and are the majority of people who have already bought the album. To continue sales, it is important to market to the younger generation of casual fans who are buying more music than adults.
The Fleetwood Mac episode of Glee boosted Ms. Nicks’s popularity among 14 to 25 year olds, and this past season of American Horror Story has caused her youth appeal to boomed exponentially, with a large concentration of fans gathering on social media like Instagram and Tumblr.
Reaching these audiences can’t be accomplished through things like Facebook Q&As weeks after the album’s release. Hosting one after prime Q&A engagement hours (over lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST, or after work hours, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST) on a platform with mostly older audiences is not reaching fans who haven’t bought the album or are still unaware. Strong promotion lies in little executions, like utilizing trending hashtags like #TBT (Throwback Thursday) and posting new, exclusive content, rather content that is already available on public forums like YouTube. These are simple ways to engage with the fan base on a huge level. Additionally, there is great potential to simultaneously market Fleetwood Mac’s 2014-2015 tour.