Stars are masters of building a brand online. Here are some of the strategies they use that companies can follow.
Let's face it: Corporate America’s social presence could use a celebrity makeover.
Big companies have spent decades figuring out how to market themselves on TV and in print. Yet, all too often, they fill Facebook, Twitter and other venues with content that puts people to sleep, leaves them scratching their heads or even makes them angry enough to avoid the brand entirely.
Fortunately, companies can seek guidance from a group that has mastered the art of online self-promotion. Celebrities are social media’s power users, and their strategies provide a valuable pathway for businesses as they build—and maintain—their brands online. Being well liked on social media can enhance a star’s career, with many celebrities openly admitting their careers have been significantly aided by the likes of Instagram.
Of course, companies can’t follow celebrity lessons precisely. Stars can be risqué and irreverent in a way that companies can’t risk. Plus celebs’ jobs are inherently more visual.
That said, there are lessons businesses can learn from the Kardashians of the world. Here are five strategies brands can follow.
Every platform is different
If staying on message is the first rule of corporate communications, it is also the cardinal sin of social media.
More than half of all Americans online use two or more social-media sites, according to research by the independent Pew Research Center. Yet many companies replicate the same message across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest and other sites.
This is a fast way to lose traction online, experts say. Instead, companies should consider following the example of Rihanna, the singer, fashion plate and social-media maven.
Follow her on photo-sharing site Instagram and you get sleek glamour shots. There’s Rihanna starring in an ad campaign for the luxury designer Christian Dior. Then there are 18 photos of her celebrating Carnival in Barbados in a jeweled bikini and feathers. Sometimes the shots are moody, grainy and black-and-white. Often they are drenched in color, like the images of her at this spring’s Met Gala wearing a marigold fur-trimmed cape hand-sewn by a Chinese designer over two years.
But on Snapchat, the ephemeral-chat app, Rihanna tells a different story. Call her Regular Rihanna. In April, she shared a video of her shopping for Apple Jacks and Cheetos. In another, she tries to kill a bug in a hotel room. She adopts a puppy. The videos are shaky, grainy and far from her glamorous image.
“Instagram is stylish, behind the scenes,” says Tania Yuki, founder and CEO of Shareablee, a startup that analyzes the effectiveness of social-media campaigns. “Snapchat is by far the most raw. It feels not styled at all. Snapchat is a friend sending you something.”
Similarly, corporations can and should differentiate their approach to each platform, digital-marketing experts say.
A car company might show off its latest model on Instagram, where glossy, beautiful images are rewarded with likes, while using Facebook to link to favorable reviews of that model. A retailer might use Twitter to promote a back-to-school sale and Snapchat to lure customers into its brick-and-mortar outlets with photos and videos of customers in its stores.
The National Basketball Association rarely posts the same item across all these platforms. It uses Twitter for real-time updates on games, while its presence on the photo-pinup site Pinterest is more focused on shots of its merchandise, says the NBA’s senior vice president of digital media, Melissa Rosenthal Brenner.
Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Marriott International’s luxury-hotel chain, adopts this approach as well. Each Ritz-Carlton property maintains a Facebook page so guests can keep tabs on local events, saysAllison Sitch, who oversees Ritz-Carlton’s social-media presence. On Twitter and LinkedIn, Ritz-Carlton’s audience is mostly reporters, wedding planners and bookers, so it tends to offer more practical advice, such as pairing dining tables with clear Lucite “ghost” chairs for a sophisticated look.
“We all live our lives in multiple different social environments,” Ms. Sitch says. “You don’t want to see the same thing everywhere.”
If anybody knows anything about the dark arts of social media, it’sKim Kardashian West. With 48.8 million followers on Instagram, Ms. Kardashian West has built her career and empire on social media. Her appeal online boils down to one major thing, social-media experts say: showing up.
Since she joined Instagram in early 2012, Ms. Kardashian West has posted more than 3,180 images and counting. That’s a little more than two images a day on average. Ms. Yuki says celebrities tend to post three times more than the average brand.
In September 2015, the average brand posted 38 times on Instagram, up 36% from the previous year, according to Shareablee data. But likes and comments by users rose 83% in that same period, indicating that Instagram users want more from their favorite brands, Ms. Yuki says.
“A lot of times we see brands disappear for weeks or months at a time,” Hasti Kashfia, president of Kashfia Media and stylist to Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “It’s just like a normal relationship. You can’t disappear and expect that same warm fuzzy feeling within those relationships.”
Social-media experts acknowledge that compared with celebrities, it’s harder for companies to conjure up interesting posts and tweets. “When was the last time you saw someone showing off a home-insurance policy on Instagram?” Forrester Research quipped in a June report on social-media use.
Companies can get a lot of mileage from posting five times a day on Pinterest, while two posts on Instagram is sufficient, according to data published by marketing-analytics startup SumAll and Buffer, a platform that helps users schedule their social-media posts throughout the day. A retailer can post five attractive outfit options on Pinterest, while using Instagram to draw attention to the most high-end of those options later in the day. A restaurant chain can start the day with a tweet promoting its breakfast options and end with a post about its dinner menu.
Keep tabs on your followers
In July 2014, a young Taylor Swift fan wrote a missive about unrequited love on Instagram. Then the singer wrote back.
“Feel good about being the kind of person who loves selflessly. I think someday you’ll find someone who loves you in that exact same way,” Ms. Swift wrote.
This kind of thing has become so common, there is an Instagram account dedicated to Ms. Swift’s fan interactions called@taylornoticed. The account, which tracks Ms. Swift’s likes and comments, has about 47,000 followers.
The big lesson here: Validate your followers with likes, comments and retweets. It builds goodwill. Companies should search for tweets and posts mentioning their brand, and respond, retweet or repost generously, experts say. “That two-way communication is so important,” says Ms. Kashfia.
If a makeup brand notices Instagram users praising its eyeliner or lipstick, that brand should like and comment on the photo and perhaps repost it later. A consumer-packaged-goods company should keep an eye out for times when someone tweets about its granola bar or cereal, and then retweet, favorite and thank that user publicly on Twitter.
Showcasing work created by followers is a very effective way to build a social-media presence, experts say. GoPro Inc., the maker of action cameras, maintains a handful of YouTube channels to showcase videos shot by customers. So far, the company has posted more than 4,100 videos that have been collectively viewed more than a billion times.
Ritz-Carlton decided to devote its Instagram account to photos taken by guests. The hotelier looks for photos labeled with a specific hashtag or tagged at one of its properties world-wide and then reposts them on Instagram, with credit to the user.
Don’t be overly promotional
Vin Diesel, star of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, enjoys one of the most popular accounts on Facebook, with more than 95 million likes. Another Facebook favorite: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, boasting about 52 million.
While both use Facebook to promote movies, they also share personal stories. Mr. Diesel regularly posts photographs of his friend and former co-star, the late actor Paul Walker, and frequently mentions how much he is missed. Mr. Johnson recently posted about the painful decision to put down his dog Brutus.
“It’s about showing up every single day and showing pieces of their lives rather than when they have a premiere or something to promote,” Ms. Yuki says. It’s just as crucial that brands avoid appearing overly promotional because users will get tired of it, she says.
Ritz-Carlton avoids highlighting travel deals and packages on social media, Ms. Sitch says. It shows off its hotels and amenities, but you won’t see a sticker price.
Instead of trying to get followers to buy their product, companies can gently boost their brand by commenting on current events, Ms. Yuki says. Oreos capitalized on the power outage during the 2013 Super Bowl ad with its “you can still dunk in the dark” tweet. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex marriage, companies from American Airlines to Ben & Jerry’s extended support by posting rainbow images on Instagram.
A brand can also take part in other cultural moments on social media, such as “throwback Thursday” on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, where users post old photos. A company like Ford Motor Co., for instance, could use the occasion to post ads from the 1940s.
Just before Christmas 2013, Beyoncé released a surprise album with a 10-second video on Instagram and a nearly four-minute video on Facebook. Last fall, Harvard Business School published a case study about her eschewal of the traditional music-industry practice of releasing singles and doing an array of press appearances to promote an album.
Beyoncé now takes to social media to directly respond to rumors and unfavorable news. When rumors swelled about marital problems, for instance, she went onto Instagram to post photos of her happy family.
Businesses can also use social media to craft a narrative and reply directly to controversy. A car company going through a sprawling recall can post a video explaining the problem on Facebook or flag the issue on Twitter and send users to the appropriate site for more information. A retailer hit by a data hack can keep users updated on its implications through regular posts on both sites and offer instructions on how to protect themselves.
In the fall of 2013, three Model S sedans built by Tesla Motors Inc.caught fire, hurting the company’s stock price. CEO Elon Musk took to social media to criticize the coverage and assure people the cars were safe. He later said that the social-media push helped demand for the cars to rebound after the dose of bad publicity.
It should be noted the celebrities mentioned in this article declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment. But they never stopped posting online.
[By Deepa Seetharaman] [Read More] [First image from YouTube]