What's your opinion on this robot harry?For me it's so annoying he can't even pretend to be excited for his own tour, his social media presence is such a turn off
Well I’m sort of digging myself a grave with this one, but since I haven’t seen a post I can fully agree with, here we go. Disclaimer, I actually study this at uni. I was the Social Media Manager for the planning and putting together of a fashion show, on all platforms. I just handed in last month a 6-months marketing plan that was based around social media promo. So I do have a bit of knowledge in this area. I am by no means an expert, but this is my future field of choice, so I like to think I’m at least educated.
The situation isn’t as black and white as people have put it so far. All I’ve seen is “he’s horrible at engaging with fans” and “he doesn’t own you shit so stop complaining”. The answer is a very big grey area in which Harry’s actual social media presence fits perfectly in my opinion. First of all, there’s two main templates we studied for marketing purposes this year, Gaynor Lea Greenwood’s promotion suggestions (2009) and Burcher (2013)’s Paid, Owned and Earned media concept. Long story short, the first one is your traditional marketing campaign and the second one relies more on social media and advertising on it. Now, I think Harry’s team went for the more traditional approach, and let me explain why.
Harry started distancing himself more and more from twitter and Instagram ever since the hiatus started.Even before, during OTRA and MITAM promo, most of his tweets were promo stuff, lyrics I’m not sure we fully understand even now, charity work, promoting friends or tweeting about holidays/important days or events. His fan interaction has been low for quite a while, and I’m honestly baffled people are acting like this is news. Looking through his Twitter in 2015, there are some tweets to fans, yes, but they’re very sparse.I counted about 12 in 5 months, most of them in September, when Perfect came out, and around the release of MITAM.His tweets were mostly thanks to fans for various awards and nominalisation, promoting the songs/album, some lyrics and, without fail, after every concert he tweeted a thank you for coming.
It felt more personal than what we have now (tho in all honesty, his tour hasn’t started yet and if we eliminate the OTRA tweets it’s already a different story), but Robot Harry has been a thing then, and people were riding along with it instead of condemning it to the extent they do now.But, the thing is, Harry didn’t have the entire burden of engaging with the fanbase like he has now.Louis, Niall and Liam always took turns in taking the lead in replying to fans and interacting with them, which allowed Harry to do his part and everyone was mostly happy.
And yet, I personally don’t feel this frustration many people feel. I think it’s quite interesting actually. A bold move that wouldn’t work for other artist whose career relies on people who live and breathe social media (maybe Beyonce or Adele, but they are in another league). I was very intrigued by Harry’s statement in the Behind the album video, in which he said that there was a time in his life when people knew everything about him, and he didn’t like it.He has been overexposed since 2012, his personal life splashed across tabloids, fake relationship or not.And now he disappeared for a year (and has been retreating into himself for at least 2) and he wrote this mysterious™ album, trying to see if people can listen and understand it without knowing much about the current him. In this context, having an album that surrounds itself in mystery and then doing 4 Q&As on twitter and 3 livestreams sends…extremely contradictory messages. I can, and will fault his team for presenting a dual image of Harry that sometimes makes 0 sense, for handling a lot of things so poorly, and for the entire Carolina mess, but I will say that his social media fits this old school mysterious rockstar image they’re showing of him. I also think his actual reason is very personal and very real, and I respect the fact that he didn’t compromise this choice he made for promo purposes.
His promo relied on more traditional channels. TV and radio appearances, print magazines, and most importantly, the secret gigs. Now, I’m sorry, but I felt entirely more connected to Harry running across London at 8AM in my pyjamas than by any twitter spree he’ll ever do. I never did this before. This reminded me of the stories my dad told me, of queuing up for days in front of the box office so he’d get the tickets when they went on sale. It was very old school and it worked for me. It was a phenomenal experience, something I will never forget. And he did this for us. All profits went to charity, he didn’t do this for money. And while I know this was for a few selected cities and a handful of lucky fans, it was intimate and it was special and I think everyone, regardless if they were there, or vicariously living through pics and videos, felt a connection to Harry. We got emotional on his behalf when he sang with his idol on stage 2 weeks later, you don’t do that for someone you have no connection to.
Now, the actual reason I’m happy with what we’ve got is that it is genuine from my POV. Liam is the perfect candidate for a comparison, since he also took a bit of a break from social media (not as heavy as Harry’s, but he definitely wasn’t as active as Louis or Niall) and his promo is as textbook as it gets. He slowly, but surely increased his activity since January, a few more tweets, a few more pics on Instagram.A big turning point was April when he posted 13 pics on Instagram, compared to 8 in March, 4 in February and 3 in January. His Twitter went through a similar process.Now, the moment he started posting more, I knew his music was gonna be out soon. It’s pure marketing. You start your campaign weeks before the actual launch, it’s only natural. Unless you want to drop it as a surprise, but that’s another discussion. Actually Harry did it too, with the TV ad, but that was ruined by the info getting leaked beforehand and everyone getting pissed off by that so whatevs. Now, Liam is going for the approachable celeb route. Streams, Instagram stories, snapchat, tweeting fans, loads of pics, videos with popular Youtubers. It’s nice and about as well handled as it gets (apart from that weird video release earlier than it should have been and Liam just generally being a bit…odd?off?idk how to explain it, but a lot of people feel the same way from what I’ve seen). It fits with the image Liam is going for, it aims at the right target audience. He’s not trying to enter a new market like Harry is. He’s consolidating his place in the current market from what I’ve seen (and I’ll admit I haven’t followed his promo as closely as Harry’s). Trying to imagine Harry doing this sort of promo doesn’t really work for me.
Niall has been present on and off social media ever since he came back from his trip last year. Literally, if I pull up the calendars people have been making each month, he doesn’t get more than a handful of days without doing something, so it’s unfair to compare him to the others, since he’s always around and posting and doing stuff.
Louis deserves a better team and I won’t have anyone uttering anything else in my presence, and yet somehow, despite Niall’s constant presence and Liam’s textbook engagement, I’ll never feel as connected to them as I feel to Louis. Louis’ tweets are the perfect mixture of absolutely adorable fan service (“our year” 😭😭) and some of the things he’s passionate about (tv shows, fashion, footie/sports). His promo for JHO was….I have no words for it and I’m gonna have a rage fit if I start thinking about it, but his overall persona is charming and endearing when he’s posting things himself. He created a real communication channel between us and him and he knows how to use it when he needs to send a message (warning selfies anyone?Only you?). There’s an actual analysis of Instagram stats that shows he’s the number 1 male account in engagement and overall likes and that doesn’t surprise me one bit. Louis is a smart businessman, he has a loyal fanbase who is here for him through thick and thin.
And on top of everything I said so far, none of them owe us anything outside the promo bubble. Apart from shoots, songs/albums/tours info and official announcements, they do not owe us anything. If they chose to share a picture from their home, that’s their personal space, and while it’s good for PR, amazingly good in a society that thrives from the feeling of knowing everything about everyone (like what’s your fave’s breakfast and how’s their cat is doing), it’s still a part they can choose to keep private and no one should be entitled to ask for more.
Have you seen Adele’s Instagram? It gives you this illusion of closeness to her, with make up free selfies, funny poses and landscape shots. Too bad literally everything is from touring and other official appearances right? There’s one picture of her home, and that’s to celebrate the end of the tour. Harry sort of did the same with the booklet pictures. He allowed you into his personal space in a controlled manner, just like Adele did. Only he did it in a different way. His promo is just different and you have to think a bit outside the box to see that he actually did a lot of things other artists do. Just a bit differently. Was it perfect?Fuck, no. Was it as bad as many people make it look like?Personally, I don’t think so. It was just different and people are entirely justified to see it as a good or a bad thing. I see it mostly as a good thing. Mostly.