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Social Media Done Well: What Brands Can Learn from Kitten Lady.

"So what's a brand that does social really well?"

It's a question that comes up a lot, and it's not actually all that easy to answer.

First of all "doing social well" is a bit of a tenuous question. Without knowing the details of a brand's health (and having insights in any larger fiscal goals that their social is meant to help drive), it's hard to gauge success as an external party.

Still, doing social well is about more than having a presence on social media. It's about more than using the right social channels to put out the right messaging to engage the right audiences.

So without further ado, here's whom I like to use as an example of someone who really gets it: Kitten Lady, aka Hannah  Shaw.

Who is Kitten Lady?

Hannah Shaw is a DC-based "professional kitten rescuer and humane educator on a mission to change the world for the tiniest felines." (As per Hannah's Instagram bio.) In addition to leading workshops on kitten care, she practices what she preaches by finding and fostering teeny kittens (including ones with special needs), finding homes for them once they're less delicate, and being active in the TNR (trap-neuter-return) community.

So what makes Hannah's social media so great?

She really understands social.

It may seem basic, but not always easy to get right. Here's how Kitten Lady does it.

She's on the right channels for her brand – and uses them for different purposes.

In addition to having a website, Hannah's on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. Though there's some overlap in the content she posts, it still looks like she has a separate strategy for each channel. For example, Hannah uses Facebook to tell her followers about upcoming events / workshops she'll be attending or speaking at, YouTube to host her longer videos (e.g. tutorials), Instagram for photos and shorter videos, and Twitter for amplification.

All channels are branded and optimized in terms of being findable and having all the "basics" covered (bios, links, tags...).

She's found her "star" channel, and knows exactly how to use it.

Hannah shares about three posts a day on Instagram (where she has 712K followers at the time of writing this) and clearly knows what she's doing both in terms of how the platform works and how people use it. This means she also makes good use of Instagam's platform-unique features, from stories to live.

Hannah's Instagram story highlights game is especially strong. For example, when you click "Instructionals," single image frames (with strong images) such as "Learn how to safely syringe feed a newborn kitten" lead to tutorials hosted on YouTube.

She engages her audiences.

In addition to giving her audience a chance to engage through Instagram lives and  YouTube AMAs (ask me anything sessions), Hannah responds to people's comments. This includes open dialogues with critics.

She's honest.

Hannah's pictures of kittens are adorable and clearly considered, but never come across as too curated.  Hannah also doesn't shy away from the hardships of caring for, fostering, and dealing with critics. That includes stories of kittens who die.

She's honest about her own shortcomings (and working on them).

She has a good balance of "personal" and "professional" in her content.

Especially when your brand is closely linked to who you are as a person, it can be hard to draw a line. Hannah's does talk about her partner (professional animal photographer Andrew Martilla, who collaborates with her both in fostering the kittens as well as marketing her brand), but doesn't go into great detail – which means it doesn't come across as oversharing.

She understands that social media isn't just about social media.

All of Kitten Lady's digital content suggests that it grew from in-person activism. Her social presence seems natural, and doesn't come across as forced or staged. There's no cynical rationale along the lines of "the internet loves cats so let's give them what they want" behind it.

A large part of the success is the fact that it's a highly personal brand, which means that Hannah's passion (which fuels the cause) shines through everything she posts. Not everyone's lucky enough to work for a brand that stands for everything they believe in. Still, there's a takeaway here: when talking about your brand on social, find the personal stories and angles. Find people who are passionate about the cause (at your company or outside) and get them to talk about it.

Because ultimately:

The brands that use social media best use it as an extension of the real world (and other comms channels), not as an isolate. Or a substitute.


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