Social media: alternative news source or personality contest?

September 8, 2017
Performance Comms

In the digital age social media has come to act as a leading platform for our judgement of character. Whether it be your friends’ over enthusiastic use of hashtags or your mum’s irritating habit of commenting ‘LOL :p’ on every post you make, it seems that there will always be someone somewhere to judge your every move within that 140 character limit.

For the more high profiled personalities in the public eye social media has come to serve as a great tool to try and decipher ‘hidden meanings’ behind their posts and predict next steps. Donald Trump serves as a scary example of a public figure just as outspoken behind his phone as he is on camera. With a never ending talent to surprise, shock and occasionally offend, the essence of the mind-boggling mix of ‘The Donald’s’ personality and lucrative presidential campaign is never far from headline news every time he sends out a new Tweet. Whilst dismissing most of America’s leading media outlets as ‘fake news’, Donald has ‘Trumped’ the image of the US President through the broadcasting of his controversial personal brainwaves through his own personal channel.

But is this necessarily a bad thing? Is this not exactly what social media was created for? Or is Trump just a supersize troll specialising in sensationalism over facts? Looking at Trump’s engagement, it is hard to argue against the idea that his media outbursts successfully attract attention to his views and policies. Trump has over 37 million Twitter followers, with an estimated 72,000 more following each day – is he not just a master of knowing what the people want? Closer to home, Ed Miliband’s reinvention of himself through social media has allowed him to move away from the geeky underdog image of his campaign days to an unlikely comedy genius with a following almost twice as large as Theresa May’s. Maybe the British public are just more receptive to banter than politics.

But it’s not just in politics where a strong personality behind the keyboard helps propel a public image. Bold pop princess Taylor Swift is just the latest global name to use a cunning social strategy to help bolster business success. By deleting all traces of her social history earlier in August, Swift was able to establish a ‘Blank Space’ to launch the next steps of her career. Her most recent posts have seen Taylor reinvent her image, shaking off the old, and introducing her new ‘no-more-miss-nice-girl’ attitude. The impact of Swift’s recent campaign is undeniable. Not only has she set up her new album to become one of the most talked about pieces of music of the year, but all the buzz around Taylor’s return to social helped her secure the record of most YouTube views in 24 hours, with her new song being watched over 28 million times.

‘The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about’, and whilst the likes of Taylor and Trump may not be the most popular figures in current media, they certainly know how to get themselves heard.


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