Let’s be real. Celebrities are better at Instagram than brands because they’re celebrities, not brands. Fame obviously gives celebs an edge over companies on social. But that doesn’t mean marketers can’t learn a thing or two from them.
Just like brands, celebs have a stake in social media, too. Nowadays, pop singers and movie stars are multi-hyphenate business magnates, running wireless networks, cosmetics brands, and eco-friendly water enterprises.
They’re also mega influencers, promoting everything from Puma sneakers to Butterball turkeys.
We’ve rounded up some of the best star-powered moves on the platform that brands can add to their Instagram strategies.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
1. They get Internet humor
Being funny on the Internet is always easier than it looks. Many brands have found this out the hard way. Take the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which misfired by describing its otter Abby as a thicc girl.
The funniest celebs know that audience, tone, delivery, and timing matter. Perhaps no one understands this better than Ryan Reynolds, saucy star of Deadpool and owner of Aviation Gin.
Within days of a Peloton exercise bike ad going viral, Reynolds posted a video response ad that put a deadpan spin on the original.
The quick turnaround earned Reynolds high praise from fellow funny celebs, including Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness who commented, “This is the funniest quickest best thing ever.”
Humor is not only memorable, it’s a bonafide way to elicit genuine LOL, comments or likes. Need further proof? Reynolds’s Instagram post, which was watched more than 4.3 million times, got 8,932 comments and counting.
2. They get that the caption can make or break a photo
If humor works on Instagram, then a caption is a good place to deliver a punchline. It’s also a good place to add context, hype something, or even insert a prompt.
Take Blake Lively, a.k.a. Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, and unlikely menswear icon in A Simple Favor. She also happens to be married to Ryan Reynolds. Yes, she picked a good one.
Tom Hanks has mastered the art of the Instagram caption with his dad-joke infused lost-and-found series. In this case, posting these photos without a caption would look especially odd.
Leave it to Reese Witherspoon to deliver some of the strongest caption form on the platform. Her New Year resolutions post checks several items off our Instagram caption checklist, including tasteful hashtag use and a friendly call-to-action.
Some celebs may be better off leaving caption writing to their spawn. For a real ride, scroll through actor Rob Lowe’s feed, and keep your eye out for devastating comments from his sons, like this one or this one or this one.
3. They know how to work video on social
Many celebrities are just as famous behind the camera as they are in front of it—and they’ve put this talent to use on Instagram.
Exhibit A: Jennifer Garner. The Alias and 13 Going on 30 actress has turned social video into a fine art. From episodes of her #PretendCookingShow to her everyday antics Garner’s quirky escapades are so captivating that sites such as Buzzfeed break them down still by still.
Unsurprisingly, Will Smith’s video game is as fresh as it is fly and showcases epic range. Topics range from deep reflections to a wild night a Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant.
More than anything, these videos scream personality. Use video to tell a story, introduce your company, and endear customers to your brand.
4. They take you behind the scenes
Everyone wants to peer behind the curtain. Whether it’s the backstage drama behind the gold-tassled drapery of the Academy Awards, or just an unfiltered glimpse into everyday life, celebs can give followers the VIP treatment by taking them behind the scenes.
And, of course, Jonathan Van Ness’s famous coffee dance.
This concept applies for companies, too. Take your followers on an Instagram tour of your factory to tout your eco-friendly practices, or show them the noteworthy exhibitions and presentations of a conference.
5. They know that it’s all about the face
Instagram is a place where people tend to put their best face forward. No group of people does that better than celebrity models.
Anna Speckhart has been a true role model in this sense, jumping from around 50,000 followers to nearly 80K in a short time with her face-forward feed.
(Turn the sound on for this one.)
But selfies aren’t only about good looks, which celebrities tend to have in high supply. People connect with faces. A recent study by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs finds that photos with faces in them are 38% more likely to get likes on Instagram.
6. They answer your questions
For many fans, Instagram is a way to connect with their favourite celebrities—especially since the platform is one place where replies—and sometimes clapbacks—actually happen. Celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Selena, and Chrissy Teigen have been known to respond to comments on their posts, or even comment on posts from their fans.
Returning engagement is not only a meaningful way to connect with followers, it encourages more comments moving forward. Just ask influencer Jenna Kutcher who says, “When people see that I am online and commenting back on comments, they are far more likely to engage with my post.”
Kumail Nanjiani responded to several marvellers after his super-hero bod unveil.
View this post on Instagram
I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked. I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world. I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time. So big thanks to @grantrobertsfit who started working with me at the beginning of the year and made me understand true physical pain for months and months. Then, once we started shooting, a massive thanks to @davidhigginslondon and his team (@ellispartridge, @thebeardypt, @tomcheesemanfitness) for training me almost every day and making me strong, limber and injury free. I can almost touch my toes now. (And thank you for forcing me to do cheat meals David.) Matthews Street Catering for their delicious and healthy meals. And finally, the biggest thanks goes to @emilyvgordon for putting up with me complaining and talking about only working out and dieting for the last year. I promise I’ll be interesting again some day. #thirstyshirtless (Photo by @markupson.) (edit: I left off one very important person: @lancecallahan who trained me for 6 years and helped me build the foundation I could use to do this. Thank you!)
Some celebs, like Luke Cook from Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina have even hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) in Stories using the Instagram sticker.
AMAs are a simple way to learn what your followers are curious about. Brands can use them to answer questions about a new product, be transparent, or simply engage with customers.
7. They know how to use a meme
Memes will never not be popular on the Internet. At their best, memes are funny, shareable, topical, and tend to have broad appeal.
When it comes to memes, celebrities have the added advantage of being in the meme, or being meme-adjacent. Reese Witherspoon’s oeuvre has been meme-gold for the actress, who’s posted shots from Legally Blonde, Big Little Lies, and more.
Kristin Bell’s The Good Place meme came right in time for Christmas, and was packaged with a thumb-stopping caption. And just as January rolled in, January Jones took part in some name play with a timely meme of her own.
These examples have a few things in common. They’re timely, on brand, and funny. Using the right meme at the right time can add some levity and relatability to your brand’s personality.
8. They know how to build anticipation
When it comes to dropping an album, new product line, or big announcement, most celebrities now turn to Instagram to share teasers. Beyoncé, without a doubt, has perfected this genre, taking to Instagram to preview her album Lemonade, and breaking the Internet with her baby bump.
Selena Gomez gave people a taste of her latest album with a sound bite and a caption revealing “Something exciting is coming tomorrow.” Meanwhile, anticipation is killing Rihanna’s fans, especially after she posted this meme:
Writer and star of Schitt’s Creek Dan Levy has been building exciting for the show’s final season with a series of heartwarming countdown posts.
Then there was that time Ansel Elgort had the whole Internet guessing over his series of 17 shirtless selfies. Was he trying to stir momentum for The Goldfinch? We’ll never know.
Brands preparing for a product launch or big event should take note. Countdowns and teasers are an effective way to drum up anticipation. So effective, in fact, that Instagram added a countdown sticker to its Stories arsenal this year.
9. They get brand identity and aesthetic
The best brands understand the power of a strong visual aesthetic, and it’s no different for celebrities.
Celebrities like Beyoncé, Jaden Smith, and Kacey Musgraves take a disciplined approach to their feed. To keep things uniform, Beyoncé posts everything in threes.
To promote his new album, Jaden Smith painted his feed in a kaleidoscope of pinks and purples.
Tinashe took a similar approach for the launch of her album, Songs For You. Meanwhile, in anticipation of Halloween, actress Vanessa Hudgens posted in black and white for the whole month of October.
Your brand’s visual language should be supported by a social media content strategy. Establish themes, develop color palettes, and post images with intention.
10. They don’t take themselves too seriously
At the end of the day, people log on to social media to get their dopamine kicks and have fun. So give the people what they want and indulge in a little chicanery from time to time. Most importantly, don’t take yourself—or your brand—too seriously.
Case and point: Kylie Jenner. After her butchering of the one-line lullaby “Rise and Shine” on a YouTube tour of her office, Jenner jumped on the opportunity. She changed her Insta bio to “rise and shine,” reposted memes, and used the line as a slogan for her skincare line. We have to stan.
Here are a few other celebs that excel at being seriously unserious on Instagram.
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