One of our team members told us an interesting story the other day. It was about how her mother snuck into a function at a hotel filled with wealthy socialites. She managed to spend the entire evening there and even mingled with guests without being questioned. When asked how she did it, her mother shrugged and replied:
“I was dressed right and I convinced myself I belong there.”
After hearing this we couldn’t help but think of Anna Delvey, a Russian-born woman who convinced several major banks (and New York’s top socialites) that she was a German heiress.
Now, for obvious reasons we have to address that we do not encourage or condone criminal activity in any way, shape, or form. However, we’re pretty fascinated that even in spite of all of the controversy, Anna has an active Instagram account with 1 million followers.
Always eager to learn more about what works (legally), we dug into Anna Delvey’s Instagram account to figure out what she did right and what we could learn from her. And we walked away with 5 lessons we couldn’t help but share with you.
1. Know what you want.
Right now Anna (who at the time of writing this is still in custody as far as we know) has one thing on her mind: using her current fame to sell her art. She has countless posts dedicated to redirecting the attention she’s gained from her conviction toward her artwork. We’ve got to hand it to her, It’s a clever tactic and one that proves just how important it is to clearly identify your marketing goals.
If you’re creating any marketing content, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is “what do I want?”. If your posts are too scattered and inconsistent, your audience will reflect that. Whether it’s growing brand awareness, selling a product or service, or building social proof: your Instagram posts should serve that goal with intentionality.
2. Know your brand.
We scrolled all the way back to the beginning when Anna first began planting the seeds of luxury. She wanted her audience to think of her as someone with taste, who travels, and who has money. To paint this picture she used photographs of artwork, cityscapes, and hyper-stylized images of herself framed in luxury.
When you build your Instagram page, you have to know your brand. Find keywords that identify your brand; these should be strong and specific adjectives that you want to be associated with your business such as luxurious, confident, and sophisticated. Your images and posts should reflect those adjectives. This will help create a cohesive social media message that will resonate with an audience that values these characteristics.
3. When life gives you lemons…
How do you handle failure and how do you address scandal? These questions can make or break your brand and when we look at Anna Delvey’s Instagram page we see someone who has masterfully taken a bad situation and turned it into a publicity stunt.
Sandwiched in between her original artwork (much of which depicts life in prison) we get images and videos of Anna wearing an orange jumpsuit as she addresses her fans. This is the definition of turning a bad situation into an opportunity.
There are bad ways of doing this (to this day, if you bring up BP to anyone they’ll think “oil spill”). As with most things, honesty is usually your best policy. In this day and age, hiding bad press is nigh impossible. Your best bet is to ensure you have a strong PR and social media team available to help steer your posts going forward.
4. Know your audience.
Anna is only able to capitalize on her reputation because she knows her audience. She knows they’re there for controversy, and she creates content accordingly. Images with quotes such as “Sociopath? I see it as a compliment.” and “Sorry, not sorry.” are surrounded by pictures of her in prison garb and publicity reels. Anna Delvey shows absolutely no shame. She is very purposely provocative and her comments reflect this.
The more provocative the post the more interactions it gets. Anna determined what her audience valued: scandal. So she delivered and continues to deliver that perceived value between the images and artwork that she wants them to see.
Again, we’re not saying that this is the best way to go about building publicity. What we are saying is that Anna has picked up on a very important marketing principle that a lot of businesses miss: understanding her audience. Creating great content is not enough. If you don’t know who your target audience is, you’re essentially wasting your own time. You might as well throw it out into the void.
When you’re creating content, imagine your perfect client. Imagine what they want, what they’re afraid of, and what they crave. If you have that in mind while creating content for your Instagram, you’ll find your niche and increase the interactions with your page.
5. Be honest with yourself.
The truth is, despite her controversy Anna gained 1 million followers on Instagram with only 358 posts over the past 5 years. We did the math, and that’s as little as 1 post every week. She has done this by knowing her goal, her brand, and her audience.
Did she do this all on her own? We’d argue, no. Her interactions increased when she was exposed and then skyrocketed when Netflix came into the picture.
Perhaps it was out of pride or lack of faith that Anna first resisted the Netflix offer. However, by overcoming her fears and her ego she gained not only a sizable payment from Netflix for her life rights but also worldwide attention and recognition.
Essentially: she had help.
Sometimes, a little help is all you need.
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