Coffee, Watches & Kylie Jenner: Building a Brand with Social Media

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 Coffee feed on Instagram.


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.


Wendy’s Twitter exchanges went viral in early 2017.


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.



Daniel Wellington Watches feed on Instagram.


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.



Kylie Cosmetics feed on Instagram.


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!








  1. laurenmsantilli · ·

    Great blog! Once I saw your comment on mine, I wanted to see what you thought about Kylie Jenner’s use of social media to promote her brand. As for Kylie Jenner, I think her social media for her makeup line is so powerful. She really has capitalized on her family name and the buzz she has the ability to create via Snapchat, Instagram, etc. I also think it’s so interesting you mentioned Daniel Wellington – I have a watch from the company that I completely learned about via social media. I think their promotion of their products through their users is a brilliant form of free advertising. They post a user’s photo almost every day as a featured photo, which encourages DW watch wearers to show off their product on their personal Instagram, in hopes of being featured.

  2. lenskubal · ·

    Very interesting post! Companies that have effectively branded themselves on social media are incredible to me as well. Companies that have figured this out have made themselves heard in new ways. I love that you pointed out Starbucks and how they frequently repost user content on their own channels. My friend posted a picture of her latte a few weeks ago and Starbucks reposted her picture. This made her day, and like you said, it encouraged other users to create their own content.
    I love your piece on brands that have boosted their presence and online sales through social media. Insta-famous companies are real competition to established, well-known brands. For example, Jack Threads took off in recent years due to their online presence and social media channels. They took over many other competitors by exposing themselves all over the Internet, and offering lower prices than their rivals.
    Kylie Jenner’s use of social media to promote her brand is incredible. I had no idea her makeup line was so popular, but I think she has done a great job capturing a big market through social media. She has leveraged her family name with certain social media platforms and the combination has been a successful way to promote her brand.

    1. Thank you! That’s amazing that you could see your friend’s reaction after her post got featured, goes to show how powerful Starbuck is on SM. And I haven’t heard of Jack’s Threads (probably because I’m not the TA), but I will definitely check them out, thanks for sharing!

  3. erinfitzpatrick123 · ·

    I totally agree about Starbucks! I’ve found myself trying to get onto Starbuck’s instagram kind of just for fun. This is something that we see with BC social media too – students are posting pictures and adding hashtags that they are seeing reposted by BC. It is like a fun game of trying to get the best picture so you can repost – which is all free, interactive marketing for these companies. Interestingly enough, a fitness blogger named Kayla Itsines takes this kind of approach for her fitness workouts, reposting people’s before and after pictures to show her workout plan’s success- and encouraging other people to try it and post pictures of themselves, all with the branded hashtags. Very interesting!

    1. Oh can’t believe I forgot Kayla, I absolutely love her! I follow her Instagram and her workout guides. What she does on social media is absolutely amazing, she has a very consistent and constant presence and her own style. I also love her subscription-based app – it is a genius business model that allows her to capture and compete in a huge market.

  4. katherinelgold · ·

    Super interesting how you pointed out that companies are leveraging social media to grow their brand or build their brand from the ground up. I love how you pointed out Wendy’s twitter presence. As another example, I follow Dennys, because their tweets are so ridiculous and meme-y. The tricky part about following the right trends to become successful on social media is that you have to pay attention to the trends of your target market and what kind of content your customers want. While Dennys has turned me into a loyal follower and I would choose them over IHOP for late night pancakes, their fun, candid, and meme-y presence would probably not appeal to mothers or families. I’m curious where the line lies between having a decent social media account that will satisfy the bare needs of everyone, or taking risks to create intensely loyal followers at the sacrifice of other customers.

    It would be cool to find a list or chart of brands built almost entirely through social media, like Daniel Wellington. I’ve noticed on Twitter many small brands are trying to make it big solely through social media inundation–namely Ivora Ella, Vela Lune, and Arrow and Oar. It’ll be cool to see how sustainable these brands become.

  5. “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” Perfect way to sum it up!!

    What I thought was great about this post is that you saw the strengths of each account. You were really able to show how companies use social media in different ways to express their brand and engage with consumers. What I think is interesting, even when you just look at the pictures you posted, there is a certain feeling associated with each brand. Starbucks is cozy, Wendy’s is humorous, Daniel Wellington is explorative, and Kylie Cosmetics is fun! The fact that I could recognize and feel that as a consumer within seconds of looking at the pictures (I do not follow any of the accounts) is very remarkable and is a testament to the brands’ success.

    Instagram is definitely my favorite way to engage with brands. Some of my favorites are R.M. Drake (rmdrk), Yoga_girl, and UNIQFIND. They all offer different reasons to keep up with them!

    1. Yeah, I think the way these brands project their unique brand image on Instagram is great. Thanks for sharing your favorite accounts – UNIQFIND is BEAUTIFUL!

  6. Interesting blog post! You are right in saying that there are brands that have really failed to use social media well. I would agree that it does seem to take both individuals and businesses a certain level of understanding a platform well before they can utilize it in an efficient, successful manner.

  7. Wow! Two back-to-back post on Kylie Jenner. You should definitely read the other one if you haven’t. These SM celebrities are actually fairly interesting as a phenomenon.

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