Taylor Swift, and the value of your Twitter followers

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Taylor Swift by Eva Rinaldi (used under a Creative Commons licence)

Big surprise of last week: Taylor Swift had some really interesting thoughts about the intersection of tech and commercial art in a piece for the WSJ:

There are a few things I have witnessed becoming obsolete in the past few years, the first being autographs. I haven’t been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera. The only memento “kids these days” want is a selfie. It’s part of the new currency, which seems to be “how many followers you have on Instagram.”

Fascinating point, and a very rapid cultural shift.

Here’s another:

A friend of mine, who is an actress, told me that when the casting for her recent movie came down to two actresses, the casting director chose the actress with more Twitter followers. I see this becoming a trend in the music industry. For me, this dates back to 2005 when I walked into my first record-label meetings, explaining to them that I had been communicating directly with my fans on this new site called Myspace. In the future, artists will get record deals because they have fans—not the other way around.

Will we (or have we) seen this happen with journalists? I’ve noted that a friend of mine joining a national newspaper seems to be good for several thousand Twitter followers right off the bat, which is the inverse of what Taylor is talking about here. But if we postulate that online publications might evolve into aggregations of their journalists’ combined followings, that might set the value of a journalist – and their social skills – at a premium.

Photo by Eva Rinaldi and used under a Creative Commons licence

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.