Ariana Grande Is The New Queen Of Instagram: What Can We Learn From Her Strategy?

Ariana Grande attends the 13th annual Billboard Women in Music event at Pier 36 on Thursday, Dec. 6

Ariana Grande has been making history and headlines in 2019. In February, she broke the record for the most Top 40 hits at once for a woman, and now with 150 million followers on Instagram (at the time of writing this), she is the new Queen of Instagram, a title that Selena Gomez had previously held steadily for years. (Grande surpassed Gomez, who had 146.32 million followers, on February 25. According to Billboard, Grande gained 13 million new Instagram followers in the last four months.)

It’s no surprise that Grande has become the most followed woman on Instagram, considering the amount of content she’s released in less than year (the album Sweetener was released in August 2018 and was quickly followed up by the album Thank U, Next in February 2019). Throw in a highly publicized engagement to Pete Davidson followed by a subsequent breakup, in addition to the surprise drop of the single “Thank U, Next” in the fall along with its viral music video, and all eyes were locked on Grande’s Instagram account.

What is surprising is her unconventional Instagram strategy, which strays from the traditional social media playbook. I spoke with Priscilla Castro, Brand Partnerships Manager at Planoly, a visual management platform for Instagram, and Larissa May, founder of the social media platform, #HalfTheStory, to discuss the key takeaways from Grande’s Instagram tactics.

1- Some marketing rules are meant to broken, as long as there’s a level of strategy involved.

While other users tend to share a maximum of one or two posts daily (and some might even go a few days without posting new content to their actual Instagram grid), Grande posts three assets to her feed daily and shares them back to back.

Castro of Planoly explains: “When it comes to content strategies, our team usually tells people to cap their posting to a max of three posts a day, whether they’re sharing for their personal Instagram or planning as a brand. Sometimes, even one or two posts can do the trick to ensure the content’s always engaging. Grande’s strategy combines listening to her fans and giving the people exactly what they want , as they say in showbiz! Along with doing strong teaser campaigns for each song / video / album that she’s about to drop, she knows how to build the hype with her Instagram. And honestly, it’s what led to her success with “Thank U, Next” as the most watched music video on YouTube within 24 hours of its release.”

But this posting strategy isn’t for everyone, so proceed with caution.

“Unless you already have an established die-hard fandom, don’t go the Grande route and post as much as she does. She is the exception, whereas other accounts, be it a brand or personal account, that post too much can definitely come off spammy and lose engagement, and ultimately followers,” warns Castro.

The method to Grande’s madness, however, is the strategy behind it and that’s what makes her social content a grande slam, rather than spam.

Castro continues: “To me, spam is multiple content that has no intention or strategy, and it’s clear that Grande has an intention and strategy in place for each post.”

2- Be consistent.

Grande is queen of consistency. Even a casual scroll on her feed will reveal that there’s nary a post out of place.

Castro explains: “The great thing about Grande always posting in sets of ‘three’s is that all the content relates to one another, making it a series where there’s a clear beginning, middle and end that the audience can anticipate. She’s trained followers to expect that she will create a row when posting content, so it never comes off as spam.”

The key here is that there’s a certain predictability to her posting behavior, even though she manages to keep followers on their toes with engaging content.

3- Take a social media break when you need to.

After Grande and Davidson called off their engagement in October of 2018, Grande announced she was going on a social media detox.

It was a widely applauded move that sparked conversation surrounding the importance of recognizing the correlation between mental health issues and social media, and knowing when it’s time to take a break.

Larissa May, mental health advocate and founder of #HalfTheStory, weighed in on this move: “This is the type of behavior and dialogue I wish more celebrities would adopt. Many of them have marketing teams and managers that handle all of their content, so it’s easy to look invincible. Celebrities and influencers are considered the top 1% of social capital — that’s what I call them. This minority group is controlling the content and influencing the rest of the community, shaping their ideas, and their purchasing behaviors. More and more celebrities are opening up about their own mental health and social media use, and this is exactly where the conversion should be heading. Social media is only #halfthestory.”

4- Know when to post Stories vs. in-feed pics.

People are usually more precious when it comes to their “in-feed” posts as opposed to Instagram Stories, since Stories expire after 24 hours.

Castro confirms this theory: “The rule of thumb for Instagram Stories is to post whatever doesn’t fit content-wise with your grid. Grande has chosen Stories as a channel for her to share a more intimate, behind-the-scenes look into her life with her friends, family and pups.” She also sprinkles in selfies, memes and countdowns to new releases, making for an endless stream of Stories.

Instagram Stories might be fleeting, but Grande is still calculating about every font, color and emoji she chooses.

“While Grande is a personality, she is also a brand. It goes back to her flawless consistent branding, but more so the attention detail: right off the bat you notice her photo editing style, the fonts, the grey, black and white, and pink hues in her photos. It’s signature ‘Ariana’, and goes to show that whether it’s her high and taut ponytail or her oversized sweaters with high-knee boots, she knows her personal identity and her fans clearly know it too,” Castro explains.

5- Keep your followers engaged in your conversation.

Engagement has always been an important tactic when it comes to social media, and Grande takes it further in her Stories.

Castro explains: “Since Grande has started the Sweetener World Tour, she’ll ask fans to drop in questions while she’s getting ready to go on stage, and it’s a way for her to keep that two-way communication channel with her and her audience in real time. Instagram isn’t just a promotional tool for her, but a way for her and her audience to genuinely connect.”

If you’re aiming to level-up your Instagram game, keep this key takeaway courtesy of Castro in mind:

“Know who you are, know how your brand resonates with your audience, and stay consistent with it. Once you start honing in on the brand that you’ve defined for yourself, your audience will appreciate your consistency and authenticity. It’s important to note that social media audiences are very much in sync with these details, and the minute they feel something is out of tune to personality and brand, they will be the first to call it out in the comments.”

In the meantime, head’s up, Cristiano Ronaldo and your 160 million followers; Grande might be dethroning you next…


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