Lauren Conrad first gained fame as a reality star a decade ago on MTV's Laguna Beach and The Hills. Now, she's a bona fide media mogul, with multiple clothing lines, bestselling books and her own lifestyle brand. Conrad is also a force on social media, with millions of devoted followers. But she wasn't always the picture-perfect Instagram queen she is today.
In April 2012, Conrad had her first (and last) major social fail. As part of her "Crafty Creations" YouTube series, she slashed apart a series of classic books to create a "unique storage space." This did not go over well with the online literati. After a public outcry, Conrad quickly deleted the video from her YouTube page. From that moment on, her social media content has been aggressively inoffensive.
So what helped Conrad grow into a social savvy, breakout reality star, winning over 4.4 million followers on Instagram, 3.5 million on Twitter and 1.9 million on Facebook? She sticks to what she calls "Ladylike Laws of Social Media Etiquette," and we interviewed her followers to find out why that strategy is working. Here are six valuable insights brands can glean from Conrad's positive playbook:
1. Master your tone.
"Do consider your tone. Are you a 'Face-bragger' or complainer?" Conrad asks. "If so, reconsider your posting strategy because no one likes a Debbie Downer or a pompous poster."
It would be hard to call Conrad a "pompous poster." She's humble and self-effacing, reminding her readers that she started as a mere magazine intern and still makes coffee runs. Her tone in posts like this one cement her reputation as the girl next door.
"She seems like a down-to-earth girl who had a dream to design clothes and made that dream happen," follower Siera Jones, 28, told Adweek. Jones has read Conrad's roman à clef, L.A. Candy, and has been a devoted follower since Conrad's high school days were chronicled on Laguna Beach.
2. Don't hog the feed.
"Nothing annoys me like someone tweeting 10 things in a row or pinning 100 images all at once," Conrad writes.
She rarely posts more than three times a day on any of her social pages, and the few posts she does send out are carefully thought-out and crafted.
Regina Donizetti, 22, appreciates the restraint. "I like that she doesn't throw herself into the spotlight," Donizetti said. "She's doing well for herself and has her own brand, and unlike many celebrities, she seems to be doing it because she wants to, not for the popularity."
Donizetti never saw Conrad's reality shows. She became a fan years later, when her fashion line at Kohl's first came out. "I don't follow her religiously," Donizetti explained, "but there's something about her that I've always liked."
3. Make friends, not enemies.
"Don't get too personal. Arguments, feuds and the like are best kept offline," Conrad advises. "Personal attacks not only reflect poorly on the attacker, but let's be honest here, no one wants to see it anyway."
Conrad's online presence is relentlessly positive. She never gets into public fights with other celebrities and in fact ignores her detractors completely (even when her former reality co-star Heidi Montag claimed she'd ruined Montag's life.) She's more likely to highlight her friendships, like this warm photo of her bridesmaids.
Follower Faye Gloriani, 28, admires the way Conrad protects her reputation online. "Lauren seems like a very savvy businesswoman who has maintained a great reputation while being one of the first women of our generation to create a strong brand/persona off of herself," Gloriani said. "Despite her fame, she seems like a very humble person."
4. Let your work speak for itself.
"Don't constantly ask people to follow you or like your page. It's not only demanding, but you should let people follow and like what they want," Conrad writes.
When Conrad promotes a product, she isn't the type to demand likes or retweets, and her fans appreciate that about her. Instead, in the post above she explains how her company is helping international artisans and invites followers to support women around the world. No link to buy a product. No specific call to action.
One thing that came up repeatedly in our interviews with fans was Conrad's relatability and how grounded she seems, especially compared to other former reality stars.
"I grew up watching Lauren, from the ages of 17 to 22, which is a crucial time in a girl's life," Shiela Tungol, 28, explained. "Many girls party too much and don't spend time building their careers. She worked hard to get to where she is now—she went to school while interning full time."
Tungol said Conrad's success is inspiring to the average millennial woman, and the fact that she works hard makes her more likable.
5. Be consistent with your visuals.
Conrad's cohesive, elegant Instagram feed is arguably her most impressive social channel. Conrad herself knows the power of the Gram, and wrote about how she gets that perfect photo in an article last year on her site.
"The not-so-sexy truth is that there isn't a one-button way to make an image beautiful," Conrad explains, before going on to admit that her go-to filters are Valencia and Nashville.
Conrad's pictures are perfectly composed, expertly styled and beautifully lit. Her feed is so easily recognizable, entire articles have been written on how to recreate her distinctive look. Conrad's 4.4 million followers on the platform show that having a uniform style can go a long way.
6. Self-promotion doesn't have to be icky.
Conrad has plenty of products to promote, and she does so in an effortless way. Her fans say one of her best qualities is how humble she seems. It would be counterintuitive to her brand to promote herself in a showy fashion.
By subtly incorporating her products into her personal Instagram pictures, Conrad shows that self-promotion doesn't have to be tacky or in-your-face. It can be artful, even beautiful, if you have the right touch.
Conrad's fans watched her grow up on national television. They feel like they know her, so they follow her on Instagram to see her authentic self—they don't want to feel like they're clicking on an ad.
"Lauren showed us that it's possible to have fun and be a badass woman with a career, while dealing with bad boyfriends and backstabbing friends," Tungol said, then paused. "It also helps that she has great style and makeup all the time."