5 Things You Didn't Know About Celebrity Instagram

Those "intimate" pics are full-scale productions—get the scoop!

By Claudia Rosenbaum Jun 11, 2015 8:30 PMTags

Jennifer Aniston is showing us the eggs hatched from the chickens in her garden (thanks to Living Proof). Rihanna is giving us a peek at what it would be like to have her as a bridesmaid (is that blunt hanging from her lips?). And we all know what Taylor Swift did last night—she posted all the details on Instagram.

Celebrities used to beckon us distantly from movies and magazines, but now they invite us backstage, into their bathrooms and on their private jets, giving us a close-up look at their oh-so-fabulous lives. Check your phone. We are now kept up to date on every minutia of their day. But with their full-time jobs—performing on stage, touring, acting in television shows, prepping lines for a movie—how do they do it? Well, most of them don't.
If you think some celebrity like Britney Spears is currently bent over her iPhone crafting her next tweet or Instagram, think again. Celebrities barely have time to make it to their next facial appointment, so they certainly don't have time to manage their social media.

And why should they? With Instagram posts fetching in the six figures, their social media is becoming big business. Chances are that poolside picture you just saw wasn't an impromptu selfie but a fully orchestrated mini-magazine style shoot complete with stylist, hair and makeup, professional photographer, retouching and, of course, sponsorship from the bathing suit company or the resort where the star is staying.

Here are five tricks of the trade:


1. Celebrity Social Media Managers Get Paid Six Figures to Craft Those Witty Posts: "It's now this incredible lucrative six-figure job in Hollywood that you can get right out of college," says Jo Piazza, author of Celebrity Inc. and the newly released The Knockoff.

After signing the obligatory NDA, though, the demands on the social media managers are constant. If they are not traveling with the celeb on a private jet as part of the entourage, they are on the receiving end of stream-of-consciousness texts. "I have some great stories of celebrities that are texting from far-flung locations all over the world complete nonsense and the social media manager has to translate it into exactly what the hell they meant," says Piazza. "You just guess, cross your fingers and pray."

But high pay comes with high stakes. The wrong tweet could bring a swift and sudden end to the sometimes enviable and glamorous job. "It's actually a really high-pressure job," says Piazza. "You are essentially the public face for these celebrities. I've heard of media managers being fired because they posted the wrong thing, the wrong picture or just because the celebrity didn't like it. You have to be absolutely meticulous. It's immediate, it's fast-paced and it has to be perfect."

Often just one social media manager isn't enough, which has led to the creation of a new niche industry. Lisa Jammal began as social media entrepreneur but when need outpaced demand, she founded Social Intelligence Agency, which specializes in full-service social media needs. Jammal says her job is akin to a celebrity publicist and she commands the same type of money taking on multiple clients at a time.

"We will put the whole thing together—the copy, the photos, and create strategy," says Jammal. "It's not just posting, but also strategy and community management—you need to respond to your fans. It's a collaborative process with talent and their entire team."

2. Behind Each Photo Is a Hidden Team of Professionals: The shot—the one of the perfectly fitted bathing suit hugging all the right curves by the azure colored sea of a celebrity drinking the latest brand of coconut water—is an orchestrated production. "It is very rare that there is just a candid picture of a celebrity with product," Piazza says. "It is set up in advance. There are hair and makeup teams. There is a reason they look so god damn perfect all the time."

A week's worth of photos are often crammed into a day. "We are running around L.A. shooting them in their outfits," Jammal says of a normal week. "They will have a rack of wardrobe and be ready to go. And it's really quick, throw the hair up, thrown the hair down. At the end of the day, they will have 10 to 15 shots retouched. Anything after that, they will pay by the hour. They can't be too picky."

And of course there is the Photoshopping. "There is 100 percent Photoshopping of the pictures," says Piazza. "Those pictures are selected to look absolutely perfect.  Celebrities are by their very nature aspirational. The Hollywood industrial complex that could be behind one single Instagram could be up to $10,000, but then that celebrity could make $50,000 or a $100,000. So that investment, to make sure it looks perfect, is completely worth it."


3. How Much For That Hashtag? With 300 million active users on Instagram, brands have taken notice. Mike Heller, CEO and founder of Talent Resources, rattles off the statistics that are driving the burgeoning branch of his business. There are 1.9 billion active users on Facebook; 80 percent of millennials have a mobile phone; 75 percent have social media profiles; there are currently 92 million millennials in the United States, the largest generation ever born between 1980 and 2000. There are 2 billion smart phone users, and teens are increasingly moving towards online and mobile purchasing.

"What we have been doing is taking all this information and pitching these brands saying it doesn't make sense to do a traditional advertisement anymore," says Heller, who just staffed up six people to handle his firm's social media brand management. He says it doesn't take much convincing when he shows brands they can go jump from 1,000 to 25,000 Instagram followers. "Overnight. It's instant! And not only are they getting those followers, but they are also getting the ability to start engaging in those followers—finding out who those followers are and who likes the brand," says Heller. "So they can read the comments and it can say 'Oh my God, teeth whitening! I love that. I could use a teeth whitening!' And they will eventually be able to send push notifications on deals, coupons, whatever it is."

And the stigma against actor's advertising doesn't appear to apply to social media. "I can tell you that we are working with some of the biggest names that we couldn't ever imagine getting to do an appearance or an endorsement," says Heller. Millennials seem to not care they are being blatantly sold to as long as the content is pretty and interesting, says Piazza. What is the going rate? Well, it depends on what tier of celebrity it is. For one Instagram, a reality TV star—like someone from a Real Housewives franchise—would probably garner up to $20,000. However, a TV sitcom star could fetch more in the $50,000 range while an A-list actor might receive $100,000 to $500,000 for one single Instagram post, says Piazza.

4. It's Not the Number of Followers, but the Number of Engaged Followers: Here's the key. Just having the requisite number of followers these days isn't enough. The demand now is for engaged followers. It's the ratio of likes/comments to followers that is being sought after. "Engaged followers are more important—it shows that their followers are not just taking a look at their Instagrams but are actually participating," says Heller. "They are touching the brand. They are getting involved. The convergence of the fans buying the product is when the celebrity has a loyal engagement."


5. Beyond Extra Cash, Celebs Need to Feed Instagram to Stay Relevant: Even if celebrities don't want to get into the S.M. cash game, they realize that these days, movie/music studios are going look to go straight to their Instagram/Twitter when considering them for the next big role. With big money at stake, investors need to know who is going to encourage the most fans to the theaters or who is going to get the most fans to the concert.

"The great thing that we know of social media is that it breeds this social intimacy with the star," Piazza says. "You are following someone and it's like you are friends with them. Would you go see your friend's movie? Of course you would go see your friend's movie! It's just another step removed from reading about someone in a magazine. It's like you actually know this person because you just saw of a picture of what they ate for breakfast."

Celebrities also need to constantly insert themselves into the conversation to stay relevant. "With social media they cannot be static. You can't just start tweeting when you have a movie coming out," says Piazza. "It's a 24/7 job."

There are other rules, but those and more are continuing to be worked on. The best time to post? Noon lunch time on the East Coast. That hits the 9 a.m. West Coast and early evening in Europe. And there are time limits set on the next post to give photos time to sink in. But with social media's big business growing in leaps and bounds all the "actors" involved are just learning as they go.