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What Kim K and GQ Taught Us About Instagram

What Kim K and GQ Taught Us About Instagram

Kim Kardashian is back at it again with the breaking of the Internets. This time it’s less the Internet as a whole and more the servers at GQ. The July issue of the men’s lifestyle magazine’s feature story “Kim Kardashian West on Kanye and Taylor Swift, What’s in O.J.’s Bag, and Understanding Caitlyn,” and its corresponding “sexy” photo shoot, opened the gates to GQ’s two biggest days of online traffic in the magazine’s history.

According to Digiday, the content received “a million unique views when the story went live on June 16 and more than two million views over 36 hours.”

Huge. Obviously. But what do you expect when you combine Gawker alum Caity Weaver, fashion photographers Mert and Marcus (both social media influencers in their own right), and Queen of #trend Kim K? The project was going to be a success from the start. The only questions were how big a success it would be and where would that success come from.

With, to quote GQ, a “sexy photo shoot” being the meat of this content bundle, it’s no surprise that the campaign absolutely crushed it on social media. It is also no surprise that it crushed it on gq.com. The surprising thing is that about 18% of that crushing on gq.com was due to Instagram. Out of the first dual day tidal wave of traffic, Instagram was responsible for 360,000 of those uniques. I would bet a reasonably small amount of money that that is more people than usually jump off Instagram to go anywhere on a daily basis.

For the uninitiated, this is surprising because Instagram is not a driver of web traffic. When you go through site analytics, Instagram is rarely, if ever, invited to the top referrers party.

In this case, Instagram not only was a key referral source, it was the top social referrer for GQ beating out even Facebook.

The Quick and Dirty Overview


The larger team involved (photographers, creative leads, product affiliates) also post but their audience sizes are eclipsed by GQ and Kim so we going to save ourselves some digging for now and assume most of the traffic was generated by the big dogs.


What's interesting is it's not hundreds or photos or posts that drove this traffic, but just a handful of quality shots.



So What Happened Here?

Well, a lot. But two things stand out to us. First GQ and Kim prove that Instagram can be an effective source of web traffic when the content requesting a user’s attention is in line with the content that is currently occupying their attention.

Every since the first “link in bio” was posted on an Instagram post, we have been trying to entice people who are at a point in their days when they want to look at photos to come over to our site and read something, interact with something or press play on something.

Instagram is home to the most passive form of social content consumption. We want to slide our thumbs up our phones and see pretty things. The only way you are going to get us off the platform is if you promise to show us prettier things just as easily.

That is what GQ did. They gave us one pretty photo at a time and we had to go through the brutal two-step process of going to their bio, and then clicking over to their site to see the other 10. And we did so happily because those other 10 photos promised more than we could expect to see in our feed.

Instead of the usual pleading for someone to click, it was more a “if you know what’s good for you” type deal where we all unabashedly knew what was good for us.

So the first thing we learned, or was reinforced rather, was that if you want someone to come to your site in our modern social landscape, the content on your site has to promise more than what is able to be consumed on a social channel while also fitting almost exactly into the format and nature in which the specific social channel’s content is consumed. That’s because if we are in the mindset to passively consume beautiful photos, it doesn’t matter how well written your blog is, the reading part of our brains has a sign up that say “NO SOLICITORS.”

Influencers, Influencers, Influencers

The second thing GQ taught us, even with their 2.9 million followers on Insta, is that in your best campaigns, your owned channels play a supporting role to the channels of the influencers who are featured in your content. To the larger majority of people and brands on Instagram, GQ’s almost three million followers makes them a behemoth in the space, however compared with Kim Kardashian’s almost 80 million, they look like a scrappy startup just trying to get verified.

And that is smart business on GQ’s side.

Create an amazing visual narrative focused on someone or something more popular than you. And then get them to share it.

After that, it is all about the partner influencers you have sharing the content, not the subject of the content itself. For instance, POLOGEORGIS, maker of one of the furs Mrs. West wears in the shoot, shared the photos on their Insta for a humble 75 likes and no doubt fewer clicks to the site, if any.

Same photo. Different audience. Different endorser. Different results. 

When it comes to Instagram, one Kim is worth a thousand “collaborators.”

It's not your Instagram that matters, but your Instagram strategy.

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