It was a normal Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting in class with my friends Laura and Zoe when the news struck — Beyonce. Pregnant. With twins. Alas, little Blue Ivy would have two siblings to help her navigate the world of being our generation’s most famous diva’s child. Fast-forward just 11 hours, and her announcement photo becomes the most liked on Instagram, stealing the title from Instagram-queen Selena Gomez.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely photo. The colours, the accessories… but what I care about most, as does the rest of the world, is Beyonce. Have 10.9 million people and counting liked this picture because it made them feel spring in the air? Or because they’re a fan of that photographer? Maybe they just really love pregnancy announcements in general? No, they liked it because it’s Beyonce. Hell, I liked the picture and I don’t even follow Beyonce on Instagram.
This makes me wonder — does Beyonce even need a social media strategy? I mean, think about it. She’s been (Beyon)slaying the game far before we all carried smartphones and refreshed our timelines incessantly. She carried her engagement over from previous streams (radio, tv) to our online world. Did she not really need to capitalize on the possibilities of social media because her fanbase was already set and loyal? Before she sent out her first tweet, she reached one million twitter followers. She didn’t need a strong personality or engaging content to draw people by the masses. She just had to be herself, and that’s not something we can all say.
I’m not discrediting #RTA902. Unless you’re literally Beyonce, there’s no way you’d be able to pull that off without some degree of thought and skill. But the thing about Beyonce is that she is Beyonce… so in what ways is she the loophole of social media strategy? Engaging with each week of the course individually, I’ll try to discover when thought and planning were clear, and when she was just Beyonce.
WEEK ONE: THE POWER OF STORYTELLING.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos.
Well, let’s check out Beyonce’s brand.
- Most of her Instagram photos don’t have captions — the ones that do usually make a statement (like the pregnancy announcement). There has been no clearly set theme until recently, where she started posting in sets of three. However, there is no unity in colour/filter or type of photo (except maybe that most posts are of herself… but if I was Beyonce I’m sure I’d do the same).
- She has tweeted a total of nine times since signing up in 2009 (though it took her an additional three years to send her first tweet out). Of those tweets, two were promotional (for her website and for Lemonade), and seven were related to activism.
- On Facebook, she mainly shares posts from her website (blogging about influential women), promotional posts (both for music and merch, like her Ivy Park line), and once again, activism.
- She has a Snapchat (as we can tell from the photo below), but it is not public, so she doesn’t use it as a social media marketing tool.
If we put it all together, what does this say? There are few consistencies, save the fact that she shares things she cares about on most platforms and only uses captions when she truly has something worth saying (don’t you wish more people were like that?). She rarely markets herself, and posts in which she does do not come off as corporate or ad-like. Her brand, then, is authentic. Her brand is Beyonce.
WEEK TWO: RED, WHITE, AND UNTRUE. Beyonce’s her name, and political activism’s her game. In rare instances where she uses captions, like this, she calls people out to use their voices and be heard. In a sense, she emplores us to transcend our filter bubbles by making informed decisions (clearly not enough people listened, but I digress). Way to go Bey!
WEEK THREE: THE WORLD’S GONE VIRAL. And so has Lemonade. While Beyonce hasn’t put out memes/clickbait personally, she sure is the subject of them, like these memes featuring her, or memes about her. How does Beyonce put out compelling content, then? Well, she pretty much just exists. As I saw when I assessed her brand, her posts are really just her in every way. Promoting her album, for example, was not something thought-out with a big build up. She just dropped it. Because she can. Because she’s Beyonce. Are you sensing the theme yet?
WEEK FOUR: POST-TRUTH. While we haven’t seen Beyonce put out fake news, she’s surely been the victim of it. I don’t want to think about people trolling Beyonce, but it happens. Unlike certain people who take a more reactionary approach to trolling (*cough* Donald Trump *cough*), Beyonce just keeps on doing her (better than we’re doing us, probably).
WEEK FIVE: THE PERFECT DASHBOARD. Judging from everything else I’ve already analyzed, I’d highly doubt Bey has a team of social media managers using tools to capitalize on her fan base. Content-wise, the voice seems 100% authentic. None of her content appears to be canned. From the planned aspect, let’s look back at her selective captioning. They are purposeful, intentional, and carefully crafted. Her recent trend of posting Instagram photos in threes also hints that she is starting to post in a more well thought-out way. At the end of the day though, this hasn’t affected/grown her following in any way. Her previous posts which followed no clear trend accrued just as much attention. On Twitter, she has only tweeted nine times. It’s clear to to me that she doesn’t just speak to be heard; her voice is consistently intentional. But, I don’t think this is characterized by her vast social media knowledge but by who she is.
WEEK SIX: never happened… let’s keep going!
WEEK SEVEN: SEEING IS RETWEETING. Beyonce’s visual communication is on point. After all, creating videos for all songs on her album (not just singles) signifies her deep understanding and passion for the mediums of film and photography. On Facebook, most of her posts have some sort of visual accompaniment (as we’ve learned, those get way more engagement). Her most-used social media platform (by far) is Instagram. She has commanded her audience and made use of its many features (like the new one allowing users to post multiple photos/videos in one set). My question here is if her engagement levels can be marked by high effort and thought, or by the calibre of her celebrity? I’d say the latter.
WEEK EIGHT: DATA NEVER LIES. This one’s interesting. Beyonce can post some pretty impressive metrics… most, however, are vain. She has a colossal following (while only following ten people on Twitter and none on Instagram), boasts the most-liked Instagram photo (and gets 1–4 million likes on average), and can get retweets in the hundreds of thousands (like for this tweet about Lemonade). That last vain metric is impressive considering her infrequent use of the platform; she doesn’t have to constantly post to keep her audience engaged. Does she utilize any actionable metrics? To me, the answer is probably not. I doubt she pays much attention to the vanity ones either… because for Beyonce, that’s not what social media is about.
WEEK NINE: THE DARK SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA. I would hope Beyonce doesn’t let the results of her social media affect her. My concern doesn’t really lie there with social media stressors; it’s the other way around. Do people see Beyonce’s feed, her highlight reel, and feel envy? Anxiety? Inadequacy?
This meme has been made in many forms (I opted for one from The Office because… what else would I choose?). The theme lies though that the Internet thinks Beyonce woke up like this, (flawless, ladies, tell ‘em). I can’t say conclusively whether or not people get that heart-tightening feeling when they see her posts, though. To me, it seems the majority of the Internet (and world really) rallies behind Bey. Less like a jealous friend, and more like a proud mom. That’s not to say there aren’t people who do feel that way, but I don’t think she is the type of person, nor does she put out the type of content, that would directly cause this.
WEEK TEN: SLACTIVISM. Is Beyonce a slacktivist? Like I’ve discussed, she does have posts discussing political and social issues. However, does she do anything concrete? Her music has had clear political messaging as of late, but it’s unclear to me whether she decided to truly take a stand… or if it’s just trendy to do so. I do like to think she is authentic about this, as her posting of words is so rare that it seems she truly means what she says. If she doesn’t, she’s done a great job at convincing us all.
WEEK ELEVEN: THE PERFECT SELFIE. Beyonce inarguably has influence, but I wouldn’t say she’s a true influencer. And that’s a good thing. She’s not trying to sell anything on social media, not even herself. While she may influence people in terms of her style, she doesn’t influence them to do things unless they’re really important, like voting.
So, where does this leave us? Is Beyonce a social media guru or just… great at life?
To me, it’s the latter. Her unfaltering authenticity and consistent Beyonce brand have just worked to portray her stardom on new domains, not to solidify or enhance them. That is, she doesn’t use social media as a tool, but in the ways that most of us do: to communicate with our friends, to share bomb pictures of ourselves/our experiences, and sometimes, to say something that matters. While her platform may be a little wider than ours, her use of social media is far more comparable to general society than it is different. Beyonce is not a social media guru. She is not a marketing genius.
Beyonce is Beyonce, and that’s all she needs.