America’s “royal” family? The most famous-for-nothing celebrities on the planet? That family with big drama and even bigger butts? They have been called all of these things and plenty more, but whatever your opinion of them, the important thing is that you know who they are. Not only that, but you probably also know some of the more intimate details of their lives, like the fact that Kim Kardashian had a marriage that only lasted 72 days before marrying the self-loving hip-hop star Kanye West, or the fact that it was just announced that the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, Kylie is pregnant at the age of 20 with rapper Travis Scott’s baby.
Okay, so it might seem a bit pathetic that you know so much about this family’s life for no apparent reason, but it really isn’t your fault. The Kardashians really are everywhere. The most recent season premiere of their reality show, “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” amassed nearly one and a half million viewers, Kim herself has over 165 million social followers on her combined platforms, and Kylie’s ever-popular cosmetics website has crashed multiple times due to the heavy traffic on the site. Even if you don’t watch their show or follow them on social media, it seems as though we are always getting updates about the controversial Kardashian-Jenner clan whether we want to or not.
Love them or hate them, their ability to have an ubiquitous permeation throughout the consciousness of Americans everywhere is no small feat. In a survey conducted by Lisa Bloom, young Americans could name more Kardashians than they could the number of wars the United States is currently engaged in. While this might seem shocking to some older Americans, it is not surprising to those of us familiar with the sweeping influence of social media and digital business.
On Instagram alone, Kim has over 100 million followers, Kylie has just shy of that with 98 million followers, Kendall has around 84 million followers, Khloé has 69 million followers, Kourtney has about 59 million followers, “momager” Kris boasts around 18 million followers, and for good measure, Caitlyn Jenner even has over 8 and a half million followers. That’s a combined following of around 436 million followers for the famous family (Rob Kardashian does not currently have an Instagram account)! If Instagram averages around 800 million monthly users, then it’s no wonder why the Kardashian-Jenners seem to be dominating our feeds.
However, the most impressive thing about this famous family is how they were able to transform from C-list reality stars with questionable beginnings (e.g. Kim’s infamous sex tape and their father’s involvement with the OJ Simpson case) into social media moguls capable of creating a multi-million-dollar business for themselves.
So how did they do it? While Keeping Up with the Kardashians first premiered 10 years ago in 2007, Kim (the most famous member of the family at the time) did not post her first tweet until 2009.
And in 2012 Kim posted her first Instagram (in true selfie fashion no less).
Then in 2016, she sent her first public snap as a verified account on Snapchat.
Even Kim herself probably couldn’t expect the profound affect her family’s presence on social media would have on American pop culture. On the surface, her posts may just look like vain selfies with good lighting, but in reality they are carefully curated self promotions of her personal brand.
At the Forbes Women’s Summit this past June, Kim broke down the social media strategy behind her glamorous posts: “Social media is the most important tool to building your brand […] [it] requires you to be authentic and listen.”
She goes on to explain how she uses the various platforms to promote herself. Twitter and Snapchat she uses more loosely, using the former to connect with fans and really listen to what they have to say, and she uses the latter to give her audience a glimpse into her everyday life, keeping them connected to her brand on a daily basis. Instagram however, she uses in a much stricter, more professional manner: “If people think you just post [on Instagram] and it’s so easy, it’s not […] I like my Instagram to look a certain way, and I’m really a lunatic about it because sometimes there is so much pressure to post, too.”
This logic is further evidenced throughout Kim’s color-coordinated and perfectly polished feed. No pose is to treacherous, and no filter goes unedited to create the backbone of Kim’s brand identity:
For Kim and the rest of her family, it seems these tactics have certainly paid off. Whether you are a fan of the Kardashian-Jenners or not, as students of social media and digital business we cannot ignore how revolutionary this family has been in the way that we both talk about and think about social media.
As Kim so eloquently put it in her Forbes speech, “Not bad for a girl with no talent!”