Celebrity Intelligence editorial director: What PRs and marketers can learn from celebrity ‘squads’

Tapping into the phenomenon of ‘squad goals’ is an opportunity that brands should not miss, says Celebrity Intelligence’s Nina Tsang. The shared communities can provide invaluable access to reach wider markets and below are six tips on getting started.

Harnessing the power of digital influence is more prominent and powerful than ever before. Through the integration of celebrity and influencer marketing, strategists have been able to leverage the combined audience bases of influencers, celebrities and brands alike to amplify a brand’s message and reach goals. But there’s one other goal – the hashtag #squadgoals – that has the potential to attract even greater opportunities.

The prolific use of the term has been adopted by brands, talent and millennials alike. Journalist Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie defines squad goals as “an aspirational term for what you’d like your group of friends to be or accomplish”.

In its celebrity form, #squadgoals has been used to illustrate everything from Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence’s Hamptons vacation, to Barbra Streisand’s dinner party (with pals John Travolta and Lady Gaga), to Justin Bieber’s #WhatDoYouMean campaign (Tony Hawk, Kendall Jenner, James Corden and Ben Stiller lent their social media support). Outwardly, broadcasting these aspirational goals to fans sends out a positive message of camaraderie and solidarity.

It is also a savvy marketing move for celebrities – they are building even bigger communities by piggy-backing off other talent and their social following. Take Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour. With 62.5 million Twitter followers, Swift is one of the biggest artists in the world. Yet the sum of all Twitter followers of all the celebrities that have made cameos on her stage is more than double that of her own Twitter following – more than 133 million.

But it is the diversity of the members in her squad that is adding true value, enabling Swift to reach untapped territory. Through global sport (Kobe Bryant, the US female soccer team), TV (Lena Dunham, Ellen DeGeneres), fashion (Victoria’s Secret models), film and other music genres, Swift is reaching wider markets through the endorsement of like-minded celebrity peers. The careful selection of positive and successful role models who share the same brand values as Swift has contributed to what is arguably PR gold.

For fans, the carousel of cameos – on-stage in Swift’s case – has kept content fresh and relevant. On a similar scale, vloggers Zoella, Tanya Burr, Sprinkle of Glitter, Alfie Deyes and Jim Chapman often appear in each other’s videos, showing strength in YouTube numbers.

The value of this shared community can be hugely effective for a brand; after all, celebrities collaborating with other celebrities is no different from brands partnering with other brands. Consolidating communities can provide infinite opportunities across multiple levels. But how can brands tap into the influential squad phenomenon? Here are six tips on getting started:

Celebrities such as Taylor Swift (middle) have been savvy in tapping into the phenomenon of ‘squads’ to reach new audiences

Identify influential squads that work with your brand, not any brand

Set realistic goals – a Victoria’s Secret model or a global musician may be an aspiration to many a brand, but influential squads come in many forms: vloggers, micro-influencers and local celebrities to name a few. Make sure they align with your brand values and operate in the same market as you.

Identify the right social platform for your brand

Place your bets on a social media platform that works for your campaign. If you’re working with micro-influencers – those with modest social followings but who generate high engagement – Instagram may be the ideal platform for you. A Forrester study found that Instagram delivers more than 58 times as much engagement per follower as Facebook and 120 times as much as Twitter. Conversely, if the squad tends to communicate with their peers and generate more engagement on Twitter, it’s a no-brainer.

Research, research, research

Overcome the barriers of access (in agents, managers and publicists) by researching every member of a squad you want to work with. On a macro level, Rihanna’s talented designer friend Melissa Forde has over 500,000 followers and is often pictured on Rihanna’s Instagram feed. She may be lesser known than the artist, but Forde racks up a significant reach compared to a better known fashion influencer – and has the celebrity connections too.

When swimsuit brand Triangl wanted Kendall Jenner to wear its suits, it identified everyone in her social circle and made sure they were gifted a suit. The result? A namecheck on Kendall’s Twitter feed – without the brand having to pay for the endorsement. At Celebrity Intelligence, the Associates section on our website is widely used by brands to map out a celebrity’s social and family circle, ideal for gifting opportunities.

Look out for rising talent

Reduce PR and marketing spend by working with talent on the rise – whether it’s a fashion influencer that drives conversation but has yet to reach meteoric follower levels, or an artist that is just signed to a record label. Investing in rising talent enables your brand to join their journey, familiarise with their clique and reap the benefits that come once they have firmly established themselves.

Form genuine and valuable relationships and take a different approach to each pitch

Celebrities and influencers work hard to show fans that their friendship squads are genuine and authentic. It takes time to build trust within the influencer community so ensure that you focus on a small group of key influencers as opposed to blasting to a list of hundreds in the hope that one may ‘stick’.

Be open to pay-to-play

As in the business of employing PR contractors, don’t expect to engage with connected influencers for nothing. Cultivating relationships takes time and so does building a social community. Influencers and celebrities live and die by this social currency, so be prepared to negotiate if you want access to their connections.

Nina Tsang is editorial director of Celebrity Intelligence

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