The life of Kanye: Reputation management case study

Julia Miashkova
by Julia Miashkova on October 19, 2020

It's not that not enough has been said about Kanye Omari West's reputation over the past decade, including by the man himself.

I know I got a bad reputation
Walking 'round, always mad reputation
Leave a pretty girl sad reputation
Start a Fight Club, Brad reputation

The Man, The Myth, The Legend that goes by the names of Kanye, Ye, Yeezus, or simply Louis Vuitton Don is a public figure as divisive as Greta Thunberg. Worshiped by some and frowned upon by others, Kanye West has remained in the spotlight for over 20 years now. And he's exceptionally good at keeping the world busy discussing his every move.

Just when you think you've had enough of the self-proclaimed "Warhol, the No. 1 most impactful artist of our generation [...] and Shakespeare in the flesh", Kanye pulls his next move. One day it's releasing a celebrity orgy-themed music video, another — stating that slavery was a choice, and then — announcing that he's running for President of the United States.

Kanye West, as controversial as he may be, is not only an exceptional artist holding 21 Grammys, a successful fashion label, and his fair share of the Kardashian sisters. He is also a one-of-a-kind case of reputation management with many ups and downs over the years. Now that Kanye's Google knowledge panel reads "Candidate for President of the United States", he's more in the spotlight than ever before.

We at Awario have also had Kanye on our radar for a while now. Seeing how he's the perfect case to study in terms of reputation management, we thought we'd see what the 2020 Internet thinks of Kanye West. With all the speculations around Kanye having destroyed his reputation, the time has come for a fresh look at the state of things.

Granted to me by the power of social media listening, let us begin.

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7 weeks ago, we set Awario to monitor mentions of Kanye West that appear on social media and the web. To make sure we get all the mentions regardless of the name people choose to call Kanye by, we threw in every option we know of.

Setup of Kanye West monitoring alert

As you can see, we went ahead and included the different names Kanye goes by as well as his social media handle. To make better sense of the results, we narrowed the monitoring down to English-language mentions only. The rest of the setup fields remained as is.  

As soon as Awario was done collecting social media and web data, we moved over to the Dashboard and reviewed the social listening metrics one by one to run Kanye West's reputation analysis. Below are the questions Awario gives answers to.

  1. How much is Kanye West talked about on social media and the web?
  2. How big is Kanye's online visibility and how does it change over time?
  3. What is the prevailing tone behind Kanye-related conversations?
  4. What are the biggest themes and topics discussed in relation to Kanye?
  5. Who are the people talking about Kanye West?

All of these insights will help us assess Kanye West's reputation as seen by his electorate on the Internet. Excited to see what Awario dug up? Let's get to it.

1. Internet loves talking about Kanye

Over the 7 weeks of our analysis, Awario collected some 572.2K mentions of Kanye West from social media and the web. 

Volume of mentions of Kanye West over 2 months

Although the mentions graph reflects fluctuations in the volume of Kanye-themed conversations, the average remains above average (pun intended). The highest point on the mentions graph detected in mid-September was caused mostly by Kanye's own tweets that generated a lot of user engagement. We can see that by clicking on the high point and looking at Awario's instant insights.

Insights for mentions spike

We'll get a closer look at the user engagement later in this analysis. For now, let's move further to other social listening metrics.

2. Internet gives Kanye a lot of visibility

When we analyze a person, company, or phenomenon via social listening, we always look at the Reach of all conversations around the subject of our study. While the sheer volume of mentions gives us an understanding of how much awareness there is of a person, company, or phenomenon, reach reflects the total online visibility, i.e. the exposure gained online.

Reach graph for mentions of Kanye West

As you can see, the number of impressions generated by mentions of Kanye West over the past 2 months does not necessarily reflect the exact fluctuations in the volume of mentions. It happens because depending on the accounts that feature Kanye, mentions can generate different engagement, e.g. influencers give more visibility than private accounts.

All in all, mentions of Kanye West on social media and the web were seen over 9.4 billion times over the past 7 weeks. This means that social media users have likely seen Kanye-related conversations more than once. Regardless of any fluctuations in the number of mentions, Kanye West remains visible at any given moment in time.

3. Kanye West talk is mostly negative

It's not enough to generate a lot of online buzz and have a large exposure. More than anything, reputation management via social listening is about tracking the tone behind online conversations. This is where sentiment analysis comes in handy.

Sentiment analytics presented by Awario allows us to look beyond the volume and reach of mentions and right into the prevailing tone and audience disposition. 

Sentiment graph for mentions of Kanye West

Kanye West is as eccentric as he's determined. And sometimes, eccentricity comes at a cost of a mostly negative tone of online feedback. In a noble pursuit to fight the "modern-day slavery" he found himself in when working with Universal Music Group, Kanye went ahead and urinated on one of his 21 Grammy awards, which wasn't universally approved of.

4. Kanye gives the Internet a lot of food for thought (and talk)

Now that we've talked about the volume, impact, and tone of conversations around Kanye, let's dive into the biggest topics, running themes, and trending keywords featured alongside Kanye West. For this, we move over to the Topic cloud.

Topic cloud for mentions of Kanye West

And we're in for a treat! Topic cloud for mentions of Kanye West delivers a lot of promising threads, with hundreds of thousands of user conversations behind. Let's click on the keywords to see the mentions they originated from.

First off, we have a strong opener featuring an even stronger comparison to the most important prophet in Judaism. The crown jewel of Kanye West's Twitter attack on music corporations made the absolute biggest waves and resulted in tons of engagement on social media. 

Awash with determination to defend the wrongfully treated, Kanye even stepped in for his longtime adversary Taylor Swift, also a victim of an artist-label unequal relationship. Kanye stated his intention to reunite Taylor with her master recordings lost as a result of her label's transfer of ownership. 

Another celebrity name that pops up from Kanye West's topic cloud is Drake. The two have been engaged in a feud for a while now, and some claim the rappers might be co-dependent on each other's oil to the flame.

Last but not least, the topic cloud got a dash of political commentary related to Kanye's current status in the knowledge panel. Clicking on the keywords vote and ballot brought us right to the source.

Having examined the topic cloud for mentions of Kanye West, we can say with certainty that social media needs some time to internalize Kanye's political ambitions. For now, he's much more influential as an artists' rights defender.

5. Kanye's Internet audience is never bored

Last but not least, we'll take a lookie at Kanye's online audience. These are the people and institutions that engage with Kanye's social media content, mention him in their own posts, and, by doing so, move the whole discussion along. Being an audience analysis tool, Awario offers plenty of insights into audience online behaviors. In addition to that, we can examine individual posts and see every major conversation unfold.

We went over to the Mentions feed that stores all the mentions Awario collected in the course of the analysis, sorted the conversations by Reach, and grouped them by Authors to see the driving forces of the Kanye West talk (excluding himself).

Mentions feed for mentions of Kanye West

While social media users have yet to accept Kanye's presidential side, the media is right on it.

Concealed funding from the Republicans or no concealed funding from the Republicans, Kanye goes big on advocacy, by his own means very much included.

Naturally, mass media doesn't miss out on the opportunity to cover the biggest story that brought Kanye the most user engagement in the past month. 

The third-biggest news piece that originated from the things Kanye tweeted about has to do with his influencer ambitions. 

What is there to say? Kanye West loves taking things to Twitter. It's not always smooth sailing afterward but he sure brings a good chunk of his audience along for the ride.

Bad reputation?

Using a social media monitoring and analytics tool as our weapon of choice, we wanted to gather fresh social data on Kanye West's "bad, [...] always mad reputation" assessment. Here's what we found out.

  • Kanye's online reputation at this moment in time is indeed mostly bad.
  • He does appear mad a lot, which costs him some negative feedback but also brings tons of online user engagement.
  • While some publishers have internalized Kanye West's political ambitions and are providing relevant coverage, he is mostly seen as an artist and activist.
  • Kanye's audience is never static: with so much to react to, people keep talking.

Kanye West is a phenomenon, cultural as well as a marketing one. There will likely be a lot more about Kanye to gather and analyze in the coming months, so we'll keep Awario running just in case this reputation analysis needs an update. 

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