When brands are struggling to find their social identity, they often look elsewhere for inspiration. This is great when looking at competitors and aspirants from similar industries, but detrimental when brands look to celebrities for ways to mimic their posting behavior. Although this applies to most social channels, it’s most apparent in Instagram because brands often approach this channel much differently than Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Instagram allows for a real-time connection between brands and their loyalists, often with behind-the-scenes looks at how products are made, or sneak peeks of upcoming launches.

When the same tactics don’t work for brands, they’re left feeling confused about why. Taylor Swift posted four times today and she has 46 million followers, so why did only 15 people like it when a brand did it? The answer is two-fold: content and connection. Content quality is important for brands, especially in a space like Instagram where many struggle to represent themselves and their brand authentically. The connection between celebrities and their fans is unlike anything a brand could ever hope to accomplish. This connection to a real person is what allows celebrities to amass huge followings effortlessly and break every best practice of social media and still get more than a million likes on every post.

Here are three things celebrities can get away with in social media that brands can’t (and shouldn’t try).

Posting Multiple Times: In a Day, or in a Row

To promote an upcoming single, Justin Bieber posted the same message everyday for 30 days, and by the hour the day of the launch. For brands, it’s best practice not to post more than once a day.

Source: https://instagram.com/justinbieber/

The Exception to the Rule: Events. When you’re able to differentiate content enough from post to post and content is still fairly spaced out (think around 2 hours), you are still able to feed multiple posts into a follower’s feed without feeling like you’re spamming them.

A Brand Doing it RightLilly Pulitzer. This will come as no surprise to Lilly fans or anyone interested in fashion brands in social media. The Lilly Pulitzer team has been credited by Glamour Magazine as the best fashion brand on social media, and part of that is because of its strong content strategy, and the rest has to do with the brand knowing exactly who it is. When brands post content that doesn’t resonate with fans, it’s often because the content doesn’t align with the brand. The Lilly team, as part of its content strategy, started posting the Lilly 5×5, where it posts at 5 p.m. every day of the work week. The consistency allows its fans to know what to expect from the company, and often drives daily visits to its account. In addition, the feed is very fluid—the brand has a strong visual identity and it doesn’t stray from it, allowing it to establish a more authentic connection with its followers.

Low-Quality Images

Everyone has taken some horribly grainy seflies in their day, or photos of inanimate objects that might only make sense if you’re in the moment (like that time Lena Dunham posted a picture of her leg and still got almost 2,000 likes). Although most of us would never post these images to our Instagram accounts, celebrities do not care. Then again, I probably wouldn’t either if I could expect hundreds of thousands of clicks despite image quality. The intimate, inside look into a celebrity’s life is often what overrides the need for quality content in a channel like Instagram, where photographers and curators have thrived on the basis of quality content. For a brand to join this space, it needs to pay respect to the environment. Using stock photography or overly produced images can be just as bad as a low-quality image.

No one gets away with this better than the selfie queen herself, Kim Kardashian. In a two-for-one special, we have both rules put into one: back-to-back-to-back posts of low-quality selfies, all of which received over 698K likes:

Source: https://instagram.com/kimkardashian/

A Brand Doing it Right: Kate Spade New York. The KSNY team does a great job of balancing content that is shot for Instagram: UGC from influencers and content that’s cross-promoted across all its social channels. It is also apparent that this team stays up-to-date on the content formats that perform well in this channel, such as lay-down shots, shots from above, and showcasing product as it fits into your life, making it easier for consumers to picture themselves in that image.

Kate Spade NY’s instagram channel balances content that is shot for Instagram, UGC from influencers, and content that’s cross-promoted across all its social channels, as is shown above in a snap from their feed during the 2014 holiday season.

Source: https://instagram.com/katespadeny

Heavily Promotional Images

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: social is for sharing, not selling. When brands post heavily promotional content in the social space, it quickly feels like an advertisement. To piggy-back off our Kate Spade example, this brand does a great job showing how its products fit into your everyday life (especially in Instagram), rather than posting product shots. Celebrities get millions of dollars to endorse products, which often requires them to post about those brands in their social channels. Celebrities don’t do a good job of showing the products as part of their everyday life, but rather “this is my obligatory endorsement photo” or “I made this new thing. Buy it.” This can even be the case when celebrities are promoting their own industry work, like a new album or movie. Here are some examples from five of the most-followed celebrities on social media:







A Brand Doing it RightTarget. Have you seen Target’s Instagram feed? Its tagline “Where products come to play” does not disappoint, as it has succeeded in finding a way to bring products into the spotlight without forcing them onto customers, and most importantly, without trying to sell you anything. You already know you can get food, toys, and electronics at Target, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to see a Tonka truck building a hamburger, a Pac-Man game created out of rake hands and leaves, or a holiday message written in cursive using only marshmallows.




Who are your favorite celebrities and brands to follow in social? Do you view them differently in the social space, or is it all one in the same? Let us know in the comment section.

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