3 Things Taylor Swift Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Reputation Management
Taylor Swift makes certain not one of her fans feels like a number, which is part of why she has more fans than she could possibly count.
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How do you get customers to notice the release of a new product? If you're Taylor Swift, you delete your social media history and then drop a video of yourself in a $10 million diamond bath. Although it's a bit unorthodox, her approach worked.
The "Look What You Made Me Do" video racked up more than 43 million views in 24 hours, according to Variety -- crushing the record for views of a debut video. By the time it became available through streaming services, Swift's Reputation album had already spent three weeks in the Billboard 200's No. 1 spot.
What made Swift's album release so massive? She knows her fan base well enough to create exactly the type of hype her millions of followers respond to best. Brands can follow suit by looking for opportunities to get the attention of their own fans. Swift's fans follow her religiously on Instagram, but if, say, General Electric deleted its Instagram posts, few people would notice and even fewer would care. Entrepreneurs should first find out where their customers are and what they care about in order to figure out the best way to get them to take notice.
What's the customer experience 'end game'?
Customers want to feel like they matter, but all too often, they end up feeling like little more than a number. This feeling isn't unjustified. What's the first thing the typical business does when it gets a new customer? It assigns that new customer an account number.
Swift differs from a typical business by looking at her customers as unique individuals, even though her millions of fans far exceed the number of customers of a typical business. Swift broadcasts general information to all her followers, of course, but she also goes out of her way on an almost daily basis to engage at an individual level with at least some of her fans.
In a world where the bar for the customer experience is so low that even the most skilled limbo dancer couldn't slide beneath it, the way businesses interact with customers is more important than ever. Businesses often use size to justify their lack of a positive customer experience. While a startup can offer customers a personalized interaction at the beginning, many businesses find it difficult to keep individualized attention and care a priority as they start to add more customers and hire more employees. There are ways to keep the focus on customers' experiences, though, and Swift's success in doing this at scale offers three great lessons:
1. Stay true to the "customer comes first" philosophy.
Never forget that a company's success grows directly from the relationship with its "fans." Swift is under no false illusions. The second her fans decide to stop listening to her music, her career is over. This is why she goes out of her way to cultivate her relationship with her fans on a daily basis. Her Tumblr page is a prime example of how she takes fan engagement seriously, and she uses the platform to interact with fans on a regular basis by following their pages, commenting on conversations and even sending flowers to fans who need a pick-me-up.
The same must be true of every employee in a company. If the people who come into contact with customers don't understand and share the enthusiasm for creating a remarkable customer experience, the "customer comes first" philosophy isn't being put into practice on the front lines. Never forget that customers are a brand's fans, and they keep companies in business. Every employee plays a role in making customers feel special and appreciated.
2. Forget the old way of doing things.
For her most recent concert tour, Swift announced a change in how ticket purchasing will work. Rather than follow the traditional "first come, first served" model -- which invites bots to snatch up tickets before actual people can purchase them -- Swift's fans will be allowed to compete for a ranking through Ticketmaster's Verified Fan program. In this model, if a fan exhibits increased engagement by signing up for Swift's newsletter and sharing about her on social media, the fan is able to purchase better tickets to the concert.
Like Swift, constantly be on the lookout for fun and engaging ways to let customers know that their business is valuable. This will take creativity and may require extra effort, but the response from customers will be worth it.
3. Reward raving fans.
Many entrepreneurs worry that if they can't create a remarkable experience for every customer, it would be unfair to do so for any customer. This means that no customer ends up having a remarkable experience.
Swift refuses to get tied up in such limited thinking. In 2014, she undertook a project to study the social media accounts of a few of her "superfans," learning what they liked, who they were friends with, where they worked and other personal details. Swift then went shopping for Christmas (or "Swiftmas," as it came to be called) gifts for those fans. These exceptional personalized gifts, sent to only a few dozen fans, were seen by the rest of her fan base as an incredible act of kindness. That made them love her even more, even though they weren't direct beneficiaries of this special treatment.
Showering your best customers with extra love isn't unfair to the rest. Set the bar for customer experience high across the board, but do something extra special for your most loyal fans. They deserve it, after all, and there's no better way to convince a customer "fan" base that they really are more than just a number.