It is strange to admit, but I follow a doll on Instagram. I'm not the only one either-- this doll has more than 100,000 followers.

QaiQai (pronounced Kway Kway) is the "granddaughter" of tennis star Serena Williams and her husband, serial entrepreneur and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Their 1-year-old daughter Olympia isn't always as "careful" with her baby doll QaiQai, which is how we found out about her.

What started off as a few posts of photos and video of Quai Quai in unfortunate positions on Williams and Ohanian's Instagram feeds and stories, morphed into the doll having her own Instagram account. She's even been verified.

Fans engage with her, and QaiQai, full of personality, talks right back. Little Miss QaiQai is so popular, she took over the Women's Tennis Association's Instagram stories for a while during the Australian Open a few weeks ago.

QaiQai's success provides lessons for brands who want to find ways to engage with fans more deeply, particularly on social media.

1. Have fun with your brand.

Everything you do does not need to be laser-focused on your products and services. For me, and many others, QaiQai brings delight. I smile every time I see a post from her, and there are plenty of times when I laugh out loud.

Those good feelings have a positive spillover effect on how I feel about both Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian. I've been a longtime Serena Williams fan, but I feel like I get to see more of the personality of her and her spouse through their treatment of QaiQai and how they've given her a voice.

QaiQai is an extension of their brand that helps to strengthen it.

As you think about what kind of social media content to create, you don't necessarily have to create a QaiQai (she's one of a kind) or some character of your own. But keep an open mind about ways to add a little comic relief with a recurring theme as you show up online. 

In time, your audience will enjoy and appreciate your shared experience with the joke and it can deepen the relationship they have with your brand as a result.

2. Showcase real life.

QaiQai came on the scene not because she was part of a strategic-planning session of how to increase engagement on Instagram.

She was already a part of Williams' and Ohanians' world because of their daughter. As the pair started to showcase glimpses of their home life with their followers on Instagram, QaiQai became a natural part of the narrative.

Everything you do in your business doesn't have to be planned out in advance. As you take your customers and followers along on the journey with you, there will be parts of your life that stand out.

When you start to share more of yourself in a manner that isn't always focused on a hard sell of your products, your audience will connect with you at a more emotional level. When they do, they will let you know what type of content they want more of. All you'll need to do is give it to them.

3. Dedicate resources to fully seizing opportunities.

Once it became clear that QaiQai was a fan favorite, her grandparents got her her own Instagram account. QaiQai now has her own posts, her own stories, and even merchandise with her name and face on it.

Someone is managing QaiQai's account so she can have engaging posts with cool photos, and interact with her followers. QaiQai's grandparents are two busy people with an active little one at home. Either they carve out time from their own schedules, or they hire someone to help, but one thing for certain is that QaiQai has resources dedicated to her growth.

Building a strong base of raving fans, especially on social media requires time, planning, and attention. Your ideas may develop organically, but they will grow when you give them the resources they need to thrive.

How you show up on social media is a big part of the customer experience you deliver. Follow QaiQai's lead so you can bring delight to your audience, and grow an engaged fan base for your brand.

Published on: Jan 31, 2019