You may not have heard of "Baby Ariel" Martin, "TheyLoveArii" Trejos, and Loren Beech - but if you have tween or teenage children, they probably have. And, if you have a business that either caters to the tween and teen markets, or utilizes social media as part of its marketing, you definitely should learn from their advice.
Together, the three girls, now ages 14 and 15, have over 30-million engaged followers across social media, and receive millions of likes on their posts just about every day - far more than achieved by many A-list celebrities and public figures. And here's the kicker - all three of them built their entire, massive, super-engaged audiences in well under a year. You read that correctly.
The three girls are all "musers" - that is, users of the musical.ly video social network that I discussed earlier this month, and it was on that platform that they built their names and brands. Ariel and Ari came to the platform in the spring of 2015, and Loren posted her first video last July. All three saw their following skyrocket last summer - they finished their 2014-5 school year as typical middle school kids, but by the time the new semester began last September, they were de facto celebrities. Ariel is now homeschooled, Loren is in school online, and Ari still attends a public school.
I first met the three of them at the Shorty Awards in New York City last month, and I have since interviewed Ariel along with her parents, and Ari and Loren along with their respective mothers. And, for those who have checked out my own musical.ly videos, it was Ariel who actually shot my first video - in which I appeared with her as well as Loren, Ari, and one of the top male musers, Jacob Sartorius.
The girls' success on musical.ly has translated itself into other social platforms and offline - all of them have traveled extensively and gotten offers from various brands for endorsements, and now have professional representation. Ariel (represented byCollab) is participating in DigiTour this summer and has launched a line of lipsticks, Ari (also represented by Collab) now has a nail polish line, and Loren (represented by Women 360) was signed by a major NYC modeling agency at the age of 13, something that she has wanted to do since she was a little girl.
What is also notable about the three is that they are self-made - they weren't chosen at some audition, nor did someone hire them to perform material that someone else wrote; the girls create all of their own material, share it themselves, and engage directly with their fans. While musical.ly's featuring some of their videos helped jumpstart their careers, it was the girls' talent that caused the videos to get noticed in the first place.
How did they achieve astounding success so quickly - and what advice do they give to others wishing to succeed on social media? Here are some key points extracted from my interviews with them:
1. Be consistent - All three girls noted that they post regularly and consistently, and that they view this as essential to their success. Clearly, if people don't get the material that they are seeking from you as often as they want it, they will look to obtain it from someone else.
2. Be yourself - The girls are not acting when they make videos; they are performing. The personalities that viewers see are genuine. People relate better on social media to people who are, as Baby Ariel put it, "real." I have heard similar sentiments expressed by social media guru, Dave Kerpen, on multiple occasions.
3. Engage with fans - All three girls actively communicate with fans (via musical.ly as well as through Twitter, Instagram, and other social platforms on which their fans tend to "hang out"). People who feel connected are more likely to remain loyal supporters.
Several of my own observations about other factors that likely contributed to the girls' success include:
1. Talent - All three of the girls are seriously talented, not just when it comes to performing, but also vis-à-vis how to shoot a short video that engages its audience. Obviously, when it comes to success in the entertainment industry, talent can be a huge factor; these girls know how to produce videos that the members of their target audience enjoy watching.
2. Timing - All three joined musical.ly before, or as, the platform "broke out" and ascended to the top of the app charts last summer; they were featured when large numbers of their peers were beginning to join the network and checking out the app. As such, the three girls were on the "leaderboard" right when it mattered most in terms of gaining a critical mass of followers to ensure long term success. Without consistency, talent, and fan engagement, timing rarely delivers value, but when combined with the other factors, it can make a huge difference. People joining musical.ly, now, for example, have to, de facto, compete with well-established musers for mindshare. This notion is true in business in general: it is more challenging to reach a top spot when entering a market that is already crowded and has leaders consistently occupying top spots with huge bases and brand recognition.
3. Maturity - While Loren, Ariel, and Ari are (by far) the youngest people whom I have interviewed throughout the time that I have written my column (now at Inc., and before at Forbes), at times when speaking with them it was easy to forget that that was the case. These girls seem well grounded, and that maturity can make a big difference when building a brand; it is not a secret that many child celebrities have harmed their brands with poor decisions, a lack of discipline, or the inability to take guidance from experienced professionals.
4. Parental support and encouragement - Despite their maturity, all three are still young teens - too young to even drive - so having parents who encourage them and help guide their careers is a big plus. For folks over the age of 15 the same concept applies - no one person knows everything, and seeking out guidance and mentorship is important - especially when achieving rapid success in an area which a person was previously inexperienced. Remember, nobody succeeds alone.
Hear Ari, Loren, and Ariel discuss how they became successful, and their advice for others, in these excerpts from my conversations with them:
This is piece is part of a special series I am running on "The Business of Social Media." To receive notification when the next piece runs, please follow me on Twitter at@JosephSteinberg.