Right now, in the busiest theme park in the world, a gaggle of millennials are lining up in front of a lavender wall. They smile, look serious, laugh at something in the distance, or sip a Starbucks beverage. They snap a pic, apply a filter, and immediately upload to Instagram.
And they aren’t alone.
Thousands of people each year are taking pictures in front of this exact, perfectly purple wall at Magic Kingdom Park. The Purple Wall, as it’s known at Walt Disney World, has a massive social media presence.
It’s become the place to get your Insta-worthy pic when visiting the theme park. #PurpleWall on Instagram has over 48,000 tagged posts on Instagram. Official Disney Blogs have shared The Purple Wall and other iconic Disney Walls perfect for grabbing your insta pics in front of.
Sources: Instagram: @dustinleescott, @spencerbarrett13; Twitter: @WDWtoday
Disney has capitalized on this.
They sell Purple Wall merch – Dad Hats and Spirit Jerseys (also highly Instagrammed content), and even now sell a Purple Wall Slushy at one of their counter-service food and beverage kiosks.
Late last year, Disney even invested in a Purple Wall upgrade – making it even more photogenic, more visually stunning and interesting in the hopes of driving more people to snap a selfie in front of it.
Source: Twitter: @WDWToday; Instagram: @Ayee_Cee11, @DisneyStyle
And that’s just Disney’s investment.
Style influencers, Etsy shop owners, Clothing (and Ear) designers, Jewelry makers and so many more have designed products inspired by this exact same wall.
Sources: Instagram: @pixiesweetshop, @onceuponapparel, @enchantedthoughtsclub, @prettylittlecozies, @myfantasybands, @magicalmonograms, @megan_fife
With all this hype, you’d think the Purple Wall is an iconic feature of Magic Kingdom, displayed as front and center as Cinderella’s Castle.
The Purple Wall is literally sandwiched between the bathrooms, a seasonal food & beverage location and Monsters Inc Laugh Floor. Before its Instagram stardom, it was a mostly-forgotten path designed to relieve traffic from crowds on the center walkways of MK that go around the front of the castle.
Cast Members call that walk way a bypass – it helps guests from Tomorrowland get back to Main Street during the fireworks or parades without pushing through the thousands of people standing still watching those things.
So why the hell do people care so much? Why has Disney invested so much in creating merch and food and aesthetically pleasing paint updates on something that honestly does not compare to their other experiences?
The answer? Experiential Marketing.
Millennials have earned the nick name of “The Experience Generation” – we seek out things we can taste, touch, smell, see and hear with our own senses and tell everyone about them.
Think about it. Do you find yourself following local cuisine accounts when you know you’re traveling to a new city? Or trolling specific style hashtags before you visit a certain place? Congrats, you’re consuming experiential marketing.
While we may be the Experience Generation, we’re also the largest living generation in the United States right now and frankly, traditional marketing methods don’t work for us. We can’t read a slogan and take a brand’s word for it, we rely on our friends or family to provide reviews and opinions on things they have tried out for themselves.
This most prevalent on Instagram. We see an amazing brunch spread from a local eatery on a coworker’s Instagram and immediately we’re texting our besties and making a reservation for next weekend.
It works like this: Brands invite influencers to experience their product, influencers post about that product on their media of choice, their audience sees the posts and engage with it or, ideally, go in to experience it for themselves.
The TL;DR version: Market your brand as something your ideal clients will want to experience in real life.
Here are some ways you can do that on Instagram:
Identify influencers that you think perfectly represent your brand and ideal customer. If you’re selling a product, DM them and ask if you can send them a free product. There are several ways to engage with influencers, but if you’re first starting out, you ideally should live in the realm of Earned opportunities, meaning you are not paying actual real-life dollars for an influencer to write something positive about your brand.
Post something to your Instagram Story or Feed saying you’re looking for brand representatives, chances are some of the first folks you’ll hear from are your super fans. If they have a level of influence in line with your own, send them a free product for them to test out and report to their followers about.
How do you know you’re getting the right kind of influencers to be your brand reps?
I think a good rule of thumb for earned media is to identify influencers who have roughly the same level of influence as you do. If you’re just starting out, shooting for brand reps who have between 1000 and 5000 followers on Instagram (we call these micro-influencers) is always a safe bet.
As your influence grows, you should find yourself targeting within larger scales of influence, from 5000-10,000 and then 10,000 – 25,0000 and so on and so forth.
Just as important as actual follower rate is your rate of engagement. These days you can buy just about anything online, including Instagram followers. If you find an influencer who has a significant number of followers, but very limited engagement on your posts, they’re not going to get you very far. If an influencer has less than 10% engagement relative to their follower count on their posts, it’s probably best to move along.
This is one of the easiest ways to get started. Look at your Instagram photos, do they look like they are happening in real life? Are they perfectly posed? Do they feel like fashion editorials? Do they give off a vibe that they didn’t actually happen?
Present your photos in a way that feels experiential. If you provide a physical product that your customers can hold or wear or eat or smell, your Instagram pictures should illustrate those senses in action. Take your products out into the world around you. Sure, you may look like a weirdo holding a product up in front of a tree in your local park, but just remind yourself you’re doing it for the ‘gram and that it will all pay off in the end.
Not convinced? Take a look at these two pictures I took of donuts. (I’m super into donuts.) The one on the right received significantly more engagements than its sister on the left. Both feature donuts in my home, but the one on the left shows a much more idealistic experience. You can picture yourself at the table with these donuts.
If you’re not the best photographer yourself, rely on your customers to illustrate this vision. User Generated Content, or UGC, is one of the best ways to understand how your product or service is being used in the wild and cultivate a library of assets to use on your social posts.
There is a little nuancing to collecting and requesting UGC, but if you have a brand-specific hashtag and scroll through it and see how folks are using your products. You can also check out your “tagged photos” tab on your Instagram profile.
The last little tip to stay active in your customer’s experiences, is to proactively engage in conversations that already exist about your brand or the sphere of influence you’re trying to break into.
Hashtags are the internet’s filing system. Spend time on Instagram search any and all hashtags that appeal to your brand or your ideal clients. Go through those posts and comment or engage on as many as you can.
The more you ask questions of, comment on or offer support for your ideal fan base, the more likely they will reach out to you and engage in your content.
Social Media is a community, you have to be willing to engage with people active in the social communities you’re trying to be a part of if you expect to gain any influence from it.
You can do everything right with your Instagram, leverage trending hashtags, take boss photos, update frequently but not too frequently, and never see any significant follower growth. You have to be willing to be proactive in your fostering of conversations and always social listening. Don’t let the social reputation of your brand be owned by anyone else but you.
Social listening is where you’re going to discover any nuances of your brand you hadn’t considered before, and those nuances are going to help you discover new ways to draw in potential clients and create more captivating content.
Let’s go back to the Purple Wall. Instagram influencers turned a side walkway into a must-visit spot at one of the most Instagrammed places on earth, and Disney was able to capitalize on a wall - A LITERAL PURPLE WALL, PEOPLE - and churn out additional products and services to supplement their guests’ Purple Wall experience.
Tapping into the power of experience can only benefit you and the growth of your brand.
So ask yourself, what’s your Purple Wall opportunity?
How is your brand being used by your consumers? How can you maximize on those experiences your clients are already having with your brand?
Find those experiences. Snap a pic. Give someone scrolling Instagram #FOMO.