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7 purrrfect social media lessons from Grumpy Cat

The internet is vastly improved by animals. The status of cats on the internet is akin to the worship they enjoyed in Ancient Egypt, except the Egyptians had no idea what memes were. Grumpy Cat (real name Tardar Sauce) pounced to fame in September 2012, after her owner posted a video of the extremely unhappy looking dwarf cat being petted online. A star was born.

Worth a mind-boggling $1 million as of September 2013, we asked ourselves forced to ask: how has Grumpy Cat survived the inevitable meme burnout and become one of New York Magazine’s ‘Boom Brands of the Post-Crash Economy’? Excellent social media marketing, of course. Here are some lessons you can learn from the grumpiest kitty in the land.

1. Don’t Stop Moving!

The beauty of Grumpy Cat is that she far outshone her fluffy internet counterparts by constantly adapting. Grumpy Cat stays fresh by remaining topical, which means she’s done things like guest-star on a Friskies advert at Christmas and spending a day at the Buzzfeed office - generating more content about the brand. Take advantage of the topical and combine it with your unique selling point for great results.

For Grumpy Cat, the novelty of her grumpy face is her selling point, it’s what sets her apart from the plethora of cat content. How do you capitalize on it? Grumpy Cat giving you grumpy weather updates. Grumpy Cat taking photos with the latest contestants on the Bachelorette. Grumpy Cat serving up ‘grumpucchinos’, making your morning fix of coffee amusing. Keep your brand moving by getting involved with the everyday moments, or getting involved with trending news (always keep it appropriate and relevant though).

2. Time Your Campaign To Pawfection

Make the most of your moment in the spotlight. Memes tend to burn out quickly over time with little to no money made, whereas Grumpy Cat has become the face of a cat food brand, graced magazine covers, and even signed a movie deal in May 2013. All these successes have been achieved gradually over the space of two years, as the brand slowly evolved and adapted.

Grumpy Cat’s approach highlights the need to time each aspect of your campaigns right. Too much too soon can be met with disinterest as nobody knows what you’re talking about, too little too late can mean you’ve missed the boat entirely. Closely monitoring the perception of your brand on social media can inform you of when to launch each phase of your campaign for maximum effectiveness.

3. Keep The Social Ball Of Yarn Rolling

Your audience craves interaction. Give it to them. Grumpy Cat keeps the conversation flowing by responding to fans, retweeting her favorite stuff… or at least her owner does, she lacks opposable thumbs. Grumpy probably sleeps on the keyboard or walks all over it, as cats do. Anyway, the point is, her presence is constant.

Grumpy Cat would be nowhere without the legions of loyal fans who created and shared memes of her across the internet. Her team of faithful humans recognize that, by inviting fans to caption new photos and constantly encouraging them to create new memes that they share across social networks.

4. Embrace Visual Storytelling

One of the biggest lessons you can learn from Grumpy Cat is the the power of visual storytelling. On this front, Grumpy rules supreme, as many popular memes have a unique narrative. The brand centres around the cat, therefore the story is crucial to keeping Grumpy Cat’s success alive. Using visual elements on social media to tell you brand’s story inspires people to talk about your brand, share your content and above all, stay engaged. The better your brand story, the more likely it is that it will go viral.

5. Analyze Your Market And Give Them What They Want

Knowing your social media market is key to monetizing your brand online. What do they like? What do they want? Why have they chosen to follow you? Clearly, the majority of Grumpy’s fans are cat lovers. They want to see fluff. They probably own cats. How can you further your reach to similarly interested people? Well, a tool like Audiense can help you expand your reach, by giving you detailed insight in to your social audience and those who are engaging with your brand.

6. Be Where Your Audience Is To Maximize Your Social Reach

We’re not exaggerating when we say Grumpy Cat is everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Instagram, Tumblr - and that’s on top of her dedicated website. Then you’ve got Grumpy guest-starring here there and everywhere. The further your digital reach, the easier you make it for people to find you.

In Grumpy Cat’s case, her Tumblr and Instagram post exclusive photos of Grumpy, she uses Twitter to interact with fans, and her YouTube gives the audience glimpses into Grumpy’s daily life. Each profile plays a critical role. Super simple, but not always easy, especially if you have limited time on your hands to dedicate to each social network. You don’t have to be on every single social network however, be on the networks where you’ll find your target audience and make the most of them!


7. Make Your Social Blend With Other Marketing Efforts

Your online and offline marketing efforts should fit together perfectly, like jigsaw puzzles or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Let’s look at our little Tardar. She was named the 8th most important meme of 2012 by Mashable and rose to fame almost entirely through user-generated content and organic sharing. Clearly people could not get enough of miserable cats.

Thanks to the boost in brand awareness and social media followers, Grumpy has sold around 100,000 t-shirts, is the face of a cappuccino brand, features on a weather app (we swear we didn’t download it…) and has her own book. This was all achieved by recognizing her online potential, largely created through social, and integrating these efforts with offline marketing (like attending events such as the MTV Movie Awards) to increase sales.

Are there any other marvelous memes you think could teach marketers lessons about social media? Meow at us in the comments.