Cancel Culture and PR Scandals

With the ever-growing popularity of social media, anyone with internet access has the ability to grow a following and share their life online. However, as a result of the huge growth in social platforms, a culture in “cancelling” public figures has taken shape. 

What does it mean to be “#Cancelled”? 

Cancel culture or being “#cancelled” is essentially an online punishment given to influencers, creators, celebrities, brands (etc)  after unforgivable mishaps in the form of mass public shaming. Being involved in cancel culture has become hugely popular online to the point that in August 2019 YouTube rounded off all subscriber numbers to stop viewers watching the rise and fall in cancelled creators’ followers. 

Prior to the recent popularity in cancel culture, being “cancelled” was in fact just a colloquial term used by twitterers in relation to something ‘cringeworthy’ done by a public figure. Then cancel culture was almost harmless… but is this still the case?  

The rise of cancel culture. 

In May 2019, one of the biggest influencer feuds occurred. Social media stars James Charles and Tati Westbrook took to YouTube to essentially ‘expose’ and ‘cancel’ each other for an audience of millions. James Charles, a 21-year-old beauty influencer with a now subscriber count of 22.8 million, was quickly ‘#cancelled’ by the internet after Tati’s (GlamLifeGuru) efforts to take down his career amid speculation of predatory behavior. Internet users saw James’ subscriber count fall drastically from 16.5 million to just under 14 million in 72 hours with the hashtags “#JamesCharlesIsCancelled” and “#JamesCharlesIsOverParty trending over all social platforms for days. This may be the biggest example of a cancelled public figure; although it was certainly not the first and most definitely wasn’t the last. 

“So what?” you may ask, “it’s only followers”. Cancel culture results in huge public relations scandals for those involved, it is no longer about the drop in followers and frankly the least of their worries.  

PR Nightmare. 

From a PR and business perspective, being cancelled is your worst nightmare. To you or me it may seem like nonsense, it’s only losing a few million followers and life goes on but to a public figure it is ‘social suicide’. As a result of being ‘#cancelled’ these influencers and figures lose huge contracts with brands as these brands are now skeptical of damaging their own image by supporting these deemed cancelled individuals. For example, another beauty industry creator Laura Lee was previously cancelled by the internet for her past racist comments over twitter. As a result, Laura lost ties with several major sponsors and even had her makeup line revoked from beauty retailer ‘Morphe’ indefinitely.


The Debate

One of the biggest mainstream cancels this year was J.K Rowling for her transphobic and misogynistic comments; an unexpected scandal that kick started a wider cancel culture debate. Should we allow cancel culture and is it ethical? The pros of cancel culture can seem obvious to most as the public can seek accountability for inexcusable actions, in particular where the justice system has failed. For example, looking at the #metoo movement, cancel culture allows abusers to be cancelled as we saw with Harvey Weinstein. On the other hand, anti-cancel culture individuals highlight the increase in online bullying that leads to violence and threats often worse than the wrongdoing they’re calling out to begin with. Many cancelled individuals reveal the death threats and violent warnings they receive from internet trolls while being cancelled, and often confess to suicidal thoughts and PTSD as a result, like James Charles did during his scandal. So are we taking cancel culture too far? Is cancel culture even productive or is it just toxic?  

Elise Ralph is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

The Rise of TikTok – Influencer Marketing

TikTok calls itself ‘the destination for short-form mobile videos’ – essentially a 2020 ‘Vine’ (in fact, many of TikTok’s biggest creators started on Vine like David Dobrik). TikToks range from five to sixty seconds and trends can be based on just about anything.

The beauty of TikTok is the ability to go viral at anytime. TikToks algorithm is the key to the app’s success, giving every TikTok user a curated ‘For You Page’ (FYP) with content directly tailored to them based on interactions. Users can still follow creators; however the ‘For You Page’ is definitely where users spend their time scrolling.

What is Tiktok?

There is no one way of using TikTok. From dance trends to clothing hauls to lip syncing, the content on TikTok is endless. I would compare it to YouTube, but more convenient and far more addictive.

Videos can be uploaded or created in-app with effects, filters, audio clips and plenty of other fun tools. Aside from videos, live streams are increasingly popular for TikTok creators… and plenty of money can be earned from them.

Trends are the heart of TikTok and creators have literally earned a living off viral trends. Trends typically involve a hashtag or a viral audio clip and that is just about it. Users jump on trends to try and go viral, it is just that simple.

TikTok Marketing

With over 800 million active TikTok users, the platform has quickly become the most popular social media app making it a highly valuable marketing tool for brands.

There are a range of marketing methods on TikTok.

  • In-feed Ads
  • TopView
  • Brand Takeover
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge

Given how much of an impact TikTok has had on music streams, it is no surprise musicians have used TikTok to market their new releases. Creators often get paid just to use a 15 second clip of a new song.

TikTok has been quick to identify the app as a huge marketing platform. TikTok recently launched a Creator Marketplace to connect brands with content creators. It allows brands to find creators based on performance data and analytics and create collaborations together.

In-feed ads typically get the best results from small businesses. Other Ad’s on TikTok are usually only open to large companies with bigger marketing budgets.

Influencer marketing.

Nearly 86% of marketers have used influencer marketing to boost their brand awareness and sales.

Asking a creator with a large following to review your brand or product on TikTok allows for exposure, and can be done very cost effectively. The key to successful influencer marketing on the app is to target influencers whose following resembles your brands target market.

Influencer marketing on TikTok is likely to be the most effective marketing method due to not having to worry about the negatives of ads and you don’t have to think about building an audience yourself – the audience is already there with the influencer promoting you. Influencer ads work the best when the creator is given creative freedom and the partnership is disclosed. Brands can see the success of the collaboration by viewing insights and analytics.

There are several sites to help brands identify and select the right TokTokers for their brand collaboration.

  1. Julius – Julius enables brands to look through a database of over 100,000 creators. With many filters, brands can narrow down the large pool of creators to find some that suit their target market based on a number of criteria.

2. FanBytes – FanBytes is the first dedicated platform for finding TikTok creators and has over half a million influencers listed. FanBytes runs its own TikTok influencer campaigns making the platform a very reliable source for brands to utilise.

Are you ready to market your brand on TikTok?

Now you know the ins and outs of TikTok marketing, you are ready to launch your own TikTok ad campaign.

Will you use TikTok as a way to market your brand? Let me know!

Elise Ralph is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn