It would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting that must have taken place between Taylor Swift and whatever social media consultant she retained to help her carry out her rebranding. Most such conversations are probably quite predictable, but in the past month or so, Swift was evidently asked to sign off on a rather innovative approach to social media marketing: one that consisted of no social media activity whatsoever.

Vanishing Acts

Engadget described the situation in more detail, and it presented it as part of a growing trend among celebrities – and probably also type the social media consultant who serves a celebrity’s audience. The article notes that several celebrities have vanished from social media recently, either indefinitely or for a brief, calculated period of time. The reasons for these disappearances have been varied, with some having political motives and others being entirely unexplained. But in Swift’s case, it was clearly an act of social media marketing, aimed at getting people talking without having to say anything herself.

By most metrics, the endeavor seems to have worked.

Admittedly, social media has not been entirely kind to the first single off of her new album. The single was released on Thursday and precipitated the singer’s conspicuous return to normal social media activities. But despite the mixed reactions to the actual product, the success of the social media marketing campaign is judged by whether people are paying attention when that product makes its premiere. And in the run-up to Thursday’s release, Swift’s fans certainly were talking about her life, image, and music, without having a clear sense that they were waiting for the artist to share something with them as consumers.

Lessons for Non-Celebrities

There are interesting lessons in this story. Naturally, not all of the tactics utilized by a celebrity’s social media company can be used with equal effectiveness by your own neighborhood social media consultant; but there are useful underlying principles to be found in any successful campaign.

One way of characterizing the success of Swift’s social media consultant is by saying that they leveraged the power of silence. Few products are as well-served by this as the marketable persona of a famous musician or actor, but silence can be alluring any time you can be certain that it will be noticed.

In one sense, Swift’s single release was a new take on a marketing tactic that we’ve seen in the past, even before the days of the social media consultant. Some brands have imbued themselves with a pre-release air of importance by teasing audiences with a countdown and not specifying what that countdown is for. It’s a tactic that is tailor made for social media marketing, because unlike traditional forms of marketing, the actual message is secondary to the goal of simply making sure that people are paying attention.

One people are looking at you, it’s important to give them something they’ll want to see, and this might be where Swift failed. But in terms of social media marketing alone, the people behind her Twitter and Instagram accounts did a great job of starting a conversation and building anticipation, all without having to actually do much of anything.