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Keynote: Tyra Banks — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Bridgette Cude of Connect with her by following her on Twitter.

12:45 —’s Kurt Vanderah interviews fashion, business, and social media super-brand Tyra Banks.

12:46 — Kurt: Why social media? What is it about social that is so important to you?

12:47 — Tyra: First of all, I just really enjoy it. Sometimes it feels like gaming to me. It’s like my Candy Crush or Angry Birds — it’s just personally entertaining. But on the business end, it’s just great for entertaining your fans. Right now, it’s promoting America’s Next Top Model and seeding promos for the future — like secretive marketing research. It’s also important for us to retain, retain, retain. At the same time, I’ll push the envelope, and it’s on purpose. The third reason is to attract more users.

12:50 — Kurt: With those three things in mind, how do you go about reaching each of those?

12:51 — Tyra: For me, it’s about expanding the definition of beauty. It’s about inspiring, entertaining, and sometimes it’s about “saying with.” And on top of that: humor — all wrapped up in zagging, not zigging. Being different. When public figures’ social media profiles are vanilla, or derivative, I wish they would switch it up, be a little different.

12:52 — Tyra: But if I did all of those every single time, it would make the message the same.

12:53 — Tyra: I had a great opportunity to become a model, and I know that that can create insecurities in girls. Girls need to understand that perfection is about smoke and mirrors, it’s about modeling for the masses and making every girl feel like they have that in her — whether that’s in social, TV, or other media.

12:54 — Kurt: I know that T-Zone is a big part of how you’re doing that.

12:55 — Tyra: Yes, T-Zone is within an organization of Boys and Girls club — for girls between 8-18 years old — with a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. T-Zone represents self esteem and empowerment so that young girls can work for themselves.

12:56 — Kurt: Is social a part of that?

12:57 — Tyra: We’re working to make that a part of the program. It’s important of my non-profit side to be a part of my for-profit side. I have a gala in May and we’re looking for sponsors… “Holla!”

12:58 — Kurt: The 21st cycle is coming up. With everything you’ve been doing through all of these initiatives, when did you realize social media would be such an integral part?

12:59 — Tyra: For a couple weeks I was late to work because I would go on my computer to tweet (this was before smart phones). My numbers started to grow and I did not realize the impact we were having until now. I’m the 57th most-followed Twitter account in the entire world, #25 in terms of American figures on Weibo, and #17 on Google+.  And I wonder about why my numbers dwarf the other bigger celebrities, but I think it’s about the engagement I have with girls about their self esteem — it creates a self-esteem ecosystem.

1:01 — Kurt: In our own group, we’ve talked about how, once we get home from work, we don’t even want to look at our own social media profiles.

1:02 — Tyra: I never get tired of social. On Instagram, some people want their photos to look all-natural, but “I’m all like, child, 10 filters!” I’ve recently been to the doctor for carpel tunnel syndrome. It’s definitely a bit of an addiction. My hairdresser is obsessed, and I ask him, how often do you pick up your cell phone to check on social media. And he’s like “Bitch, pick it up? When do I put it down?”

1:03 — Kurt: We’re big on transparency and honesty here, and that’s why we’re so excited to have you, but it has to be tough for somebody who has so many interests to grow and to protect — what happens when you have a bad day?

1:04 — Tyra: I get a lot of comments and likes on pictures of the photoshopped picture of myself — but I also get so many comments on my pictures with no retouching. I also get trolls. But it doesn’t discourage me to self-deprecate.

1:05 — Tyra: For example, I tell everyone not to sleep with their makeup on…. but occasionally I do too, and I get a few friends as a result of it. So I posted this photo of my friend Mr. Pimpleton on Instagram. Some of these transparent tweets are the ones getting the most engagement. People do want imperfect brands, it’s not the 1960′s anymore. They want asymmetrical, oddness, real.

1:07 — Kurt: So much of what you do touches on pop culture .You’ve talked about influencing teen girls, but how much does that influence your overall strategy?

1:08 — Tyra: I like to make up words like “Smize: smiling with your eyes.” (Tyra demonstrates.) I have smize contests or smize of the day. I also went to an owner business program, something sort of like an exec MBA at Harvard, and after it leaked that I was there with an alias. So many girls were talking about how they wanted to go to school.

1:09 — Tyra: 180 people but only 18 females — don’t clap! That’s bad. It’s important for me to figure out how to make business exciting for young girls. You can’t just tell them about strategy and marketing. But it’s true that a lot of young girls are not interested in entrepreneurship.

1:10 — Tyra: Now, I’m investing in startups run or founded by females or reaching a female audience. When I invest in a company with a female founder, I send her a T-shirt. It says “I’m an entrepreneur, bitch.” And now they’ve started posting it on social media. And that gets a ton of engagement. It’s about putting candy around the vitamin, like Flintstone vitamins!

1:11 –Kurt: We have to talk about America’s Next Top Model a little bit — can you explain about how social voting has evolved for the show?

1:12 — Tyra: I’d love to say it’s my genius that this is one of the longest running TV shows. Something we’ve been doing is to bring the interns into the room and say, “OK, disrupt!” One of the assistants said, “We’re tired of you telling us who should be the winner, we want to know…” So now we post the photo shoots live and people respond. We’ve been including videos from fans, too, but that’s also a problem because some fans think it’s being decided live.

1:13 — Kurt: It has to be tricky to show a new product, how do you go about doing it?

1:14 — Tyra: I don’t like to do a lot of the same promos in the same places. I know that a lot of people here already know this, but it’s really about speaking to each platform specifically. First, I’ll talk about the different buckets we do. Fiercify, being strong, and rebellious is a confidence image we do. For example, on Instagram we do a visual screening, but we don’t duplicate the actual same post. I want people to want to come to our Twitter, Facebook, and even my crazy Vine. We also gave a category of business models. How do I make girls pay attention to this? So I do things like pose with a file folder (to provoke the question of what’s in the folder, Tyra?), and start conversations about entrepreneurship. I also post random things like the Tyra tiger. I also show things like how to put my fake hair weave in.

1:15 — Kurt: How do you figure out how to spend x amount of time marketing or just talking?

1:15 — Tyra: I feel that when I’m constantly pushing, the engagement isn’t as good. When I’m strategic and creative, not only do more people respond, but more people watch my show. For example, after this post more people came to the America’s Next Top Model recruits. It’s about being creative and not hitting them over the head. I only promote America’s Next Top Model two days out of the week when it’s on the air.

In order to keep America’s Next Top Model new, I was obsessed with trying to find new technology with photography that would engage people in a social way. So I found a company called Fixel that does video and freezes it, allowing one part of the image (video) to move. The first time I presented this to my team, I lost control of the meeting!

What this ever-changing mindset has done is engaged the social audience. It’s a loop of social, online, and the actual show. You have to continue to innovate.

December 10, 2013 0 comments

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