You’ve heard it time and time again – social media is all about authenticity: building a purpose for your community beyond selling, serving that purpose and then persevering. This goes for brands and bloggers alike.
One blog in particular, Swagger New York, has had tremendous success in this arena, organically cultivating a Facebook community of 1 million highly engaged fans. Swagger is known for its unique POV on trending topics, idiosyncratic brand voice and dedication to putting its community’s passions and preferences first. (Swagger even posts full story hooks on Facebook rather than trying to drive readers back to the dot-com to pad page-view stats.)
We sat down with Sian-Pierre Regis, Founder & Editor of Swagger, to get the inside scoop on how the popular blog has cultivated such an engaged community, and provide some insight into how these key learnings can be leveraged by marketers.
*Growing a community of this size without any paid media is nuts! Tell us about your strategy.
SNY: Paid media has proven smart for many publications and consumer brands, but we never had the money to put into a consistent paid strategy. Instead, we had to rely on being in tune with what Millennials, our friends, were talking about in real-time. Then, we’d drop content that fueled their conversations (from memes and celeb news to fashion happenings) in smart, relevant, catchy and shareable ways. Our community did the amplification for us, spreading our articles far and wide. And I think our fans just appreciated the fact that someone was speaking to them at their eye level – and while the conversation was still relevant.
*How about your content strategy?
SNY: Be timely, be in touch and be the talk. Our biggest moments speak to the core of our brand. All of our friends – OK, all of the Internet – was talking about Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala dress and so before the event even started, we posted a meme of the starlet in the dress along with Kanye. The post went viral and has been seen by nearly 2 million people to date.
During New York Fashion Week, we decided to work with an illustrator to create our favorite 90s characters – Daria, Lisa Simpson, Captain Planet, Beavis and Butthead – wearing the latest in high-fashion and heading to the glitziest fashion shows. It hit a nerve with our audience and was picked up by everyone from BuzzFeed and People.com to Fast Company, not to mention the Beavis & Butthead and Daria Facebook pages.
*Why did you make the choice not to drive people back to your dot-com?
SNY: As a Millennial, I HATE when I click on a link from my favorite publication and find out that I’ve been baited to a story that’s totally different than the one I expected. Since we have such an engaged demo on Facebook, we often give away most of the story there and link to our webpage if the user wants more. To me, a hit on a website and a post view on Facebook is the same thing. Doesn’t matter how or where you get the news these days, it’s getting it from a voice you trust that matters.
*Taking your learnings, what do you see as the biggest item marketers consider in cultivating an engaged community?
- Talk to your audience. Like, actually TALK to them like you would a friend. Updating your social channels with PR speak does not spur on socializing, so take on colloquialisms that readers associate with a friend, not a brand.
- Be relevant. The internet is about the ‘now’ – how can you engage with relevant topics happening within your company and outside that users can cling on to because they are “du moment.”
- Don’t be something you’re not. Just because a competitor might be doing social better than you, don’t try and speak like that brand does. You have a core identity that consumers have identified with, so BE THAT. Define how your product would sound if it were your best friend and bring that voice to social.
*You have a strong – and smart – point of view. When brands approach you, how do you choose with which to work?
SNY: When working with a brand, there are three questions I ask myself: 1) Is this a mutual win for both of us/can we both move the needle? 2) Will this collaboration allow Swagger to speak to its users in an honest, engaging way? 3) Will I have fun?
I look to work with marketers that believe in their brand’s equity enough that they’re willing to let Swagger have fun with it, and trust that we can make it really HIT. An example: UGG Australia’s Creative Council. We got to interview our favorite music artists and share a genuine conversation around UGG’s core identity. The posts were picked up in multiple outlets, resulting in hundreds of thousands of views.
*What are some things you would want markers to consider when approaching you to work together?
SNY: Approach the project not as an engagement with an influencer, but rather a collaboration with an influencer. Explain what the topline results you’re hoping for are, and why you chose to collaborate with the influencer (was it his/her voice, his/her aesthetic – something more than just the influencer’s audience). Trust that he/she knows what moves his/her readers, and trust that the influencer will give your brand and its messages the same love.
Cover photo via Swagger