I am fascinated by brands who get Social Media right. I might not be a customer or a frequent customer yet, but I still follow them – they make my insta feed look pretty and their funny (punny?) tweets make me smile – and I am sure I am not alone in this. What fascinates me even more is the business acumen of the brands, businesses and businesses-to-be that are behind these popular pages and feeds.
UGC for the win
When digital and Social Media emerged as marketing channels, brands flocked to it in order to claim their presence and engage with customers in yet another way. As a result, some clear #winners emerged. Companies like Starbucks (check out their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and tell me if you don’t love it) were able to effectively take their brand online to continue building and strengthening their brand image. As a channel that allows constant sharing, SM allowed Starbucks to develop its own brand voice, and, most importantly, make it heard. Consistently engaging with the users, Starbucks was able to cultivate a deeper relationship with their user base and current and potential customers.
Starbucks is also very notable for frequent reposts of users’ content on their own channels. It’s a clever business move – by featuring user-generated content they encourage other users to create their own content, and continue sharing it with hopes of getting featured. Creating a carefully focused and filtered-to-perfection photo with a Starbucks cup requires, well, a Starbucks cup in the least – and there you have it, more business and $$ for Starbucks. Genius. In addition to that, the multiple tags and @Starbucks and #Starbucks mentions are essentially turning the whole platform to one giant Starbucks feed, all the while helping the coffee giant strengthen its brand and ties with its users.
Starbucks is not alone in this either. Make-up brands like M.A.C. Cosmetics and Anastasia Beverly Hills, or retailers like H&M and Forever21 (all are among top brands on Instagram) are very actively reposting content hashtagged and shared by other users. And with an average price of products at least 5 to 10 times that of a coffee cup, the value of these reposts is equally multiplied, both in terms of contributing to the brand image, as well as to the bottom-line profits. The strategy is adopted not only by the companies producing physical products. Airbnb has a stunning feed filled with UGC that has undoubtedly contributed to the company’s growth on social media while helping build a community of brand-loyal users.
Other brands, like Wendy’s and DiGiorno Pizza, let their words speak for themselves and rely on a unique Twitter voice in order to connect to their audience and grow it further, while also making their brand stand out.
The era of the Insta-famous
While social media helps some established brand boost their online presence and sales, it has also given rise to new brands altogether. On one spectrum are the brands that were given prominence due to active promotion on SM channels like Instagram. The most notable case is that of Daniel Wellington watches, that became an Instagram phenomenon through careful mix of visually-engaging, distinct and recognizable content, giveaways, paid ads and internet celebrity endorsements, who would often get the product for free. Similar to the other successful brands, DW encourages users to share content – and is always happy to feature a standout image on their own feed.
On the other end of the spectrum is a separate category – the so-called internet personalities/celebrities who have used social media to meticulously craft a personal brand. These personal brands are valuable to such a high degree that the people behind them have fair business value attached to the actual names, both in the form of endorsements and personal businesses. Perhaps the most famous example is Kylie Jenner (#7 on the most popular pages list on Instagram), who used her popularity and her extremely deep knowledge of social media to launch a successful make-up brand (now extended to include other merchandise) that is mainly sold online. Launched at the end of 2015, @kyliecosmetics has a following of 11.6M users on Instagram as of today. For comparison, M.A.C Cosmetics, the most popular cosmetics brand on Instagram, has 13.6M followers. Being an extremely active SM user, Kylie used her SM-savvy and a mix of some of the already familiar techniques – distinct image and voice, as well as giveaways, endorsements and active featuring of user-submitted photos – to achieve this impressive result.
And if you are not entirely convinced that the success of her brand came from successful usage of social media as a marketing and a business tool and not from her famous name, consider Huda Kattan. Huda Kattan is one of the most successful beauty bloggers, who launched her blog and YouTube (102,411,986 views and 1,680,510 subscribers) channel in 2010, and continues to maintain presence over Instagram (17.3M followers) and Snapchat. Using her popularity on these platforms, and, once again, extreme social media savvy, she launched her own extremely successful makeup line that she naturally promoted over her channels to reach an even higher awareness – and, ultimately, even higher sales.
The key to success
So what is is that fascinates me so much and makes these brands so successful? The short answer is understanding of how social media users actually interact, and being able to leverage that in the brand’s favor, knowing what content is expected on which platform, being able to develop such content, engaging consistently and in the language of the users, all the while maintaining own distinct, recognizable and consistent voice and visual style. Oh, and being innovative, on-trend and avoiding getting boring. While it sounds pretty straightforward, it is everything but, and even understanding the above does not mean that it will be executed in a successful and timely manner. With clever and careful use of Social Media, these brands have turned SM into something beyond a marketing and communications channel – it is also a very effective sales tool in itself. But not everyone will be #winning, after all.
What are some of your favorite brands that are ahead of the Social Media game? I’d love to check them out – let me know in the comments below!