Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi saw phenomenal success with his debut album, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent: one of the best selling albums of 2019. His sense of humor ensured that he handled being at the top of the charts with the characteristic charm and wit that is driving fans to follow him on social media.
The quirky, irreverent Scot hasn’t exactly been an overnight success - he began his music career in the early 2010s gigging in Edinburgh and Glasgow - but he has enjoyed a whirlwind of success since his first single, Bruises, made him the fastest ever unsigned artist to reach 25 million plays worldwide on Spotify. His next song, Someone You Loved, then spent seven weeks at number one in the UK charts, and had no problem climbing the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US.
While Capaldi’s musical talent is undeniably impressive, equally notable is his popularity on social media. Most active on Twitter and Instagram accounts, he shares (or even overshares) the highs and lows of being on tour and making his mark in the music industry.
You don’t need to be a fan of modern pop music or share Capaldi’s sense of humor to appreciate that his Instagram following of over three million gained in a matter of months is remarkable. (Ed Sheeran, to whom he is often compared, much to Capaldi’s despair, has over 30 million, but he’s been around for a few years longer.)
A solid social media following is now an integral part of any digital marketing campaign, in any area. As consumers increasingly look to their peers for recommendations and endorsement of products and services, it’s no longer enough to release a good product to the market and expect it to perform - you need to build credibility of your brand and grow a community of followers online who are likely to buy your product and become an advocate for your brand by engaging with your social media profiles.
Whether it was initially his intention or not, Lewis Capaldi is an expert content producer as well as a talented artist, and his seemingly effortless flair for producing social media content that resonates with his audience has earned him the large following he has online.
So how does he do it? And what can all digital marketers learn from him?
It feels real. A large part of Capaldi’s appeal is that he still acts like a regular guy who’s been lucky and is enjoying his success, while it lasts. His witty personality comes through in the content he posts, whether it’s his excitement at selling out a tour date, his honesty about the tediousness of signing hundreds of albums at a time, or his blatant self-promotion to sell more records and stay in the charts for another week. By including the not-so-glamorous moments as well as the good ones, he shows how anyone might relate to his life.
It doesn’t feel as though he’s marketing a product (even when he explicitly states that he is) because there’s almost always some humor involved in his content, so people get some entertainment from each post.
Humor may not work for your brand - and it can be very difficult to do it successfully - but the key is to make sure that your content is meaningful and tailored to your audience. Don’t just post content for the sake of it, or to fill up your content schedule - make sure that there is something worthwhile, and relevant, in it: like real stories, tips, and advice. This way, you are building credibility for your brand and showing that you are knowledgeable within your sector. If people feel you are being false or insincere, they won’t be as likely to trust your product or message - being authentic builds trust with your audience.
Capaldi’s look is unique and ‘out there’. While he dresses like a regular guy, his singular sense of humor and penchant for goofy sunglasses are not an obvious match for the often profound themes in his music, yet he has managed to craft them into his own distinctive brand.
Consistency is key to creating an identifiable brand and increasing brand recognition. Is the content you create and post consistent with your brand identity? Identify the key themes for your brand and incorporate them into your content creation strategy. Consider the strengths of your brand, what your values are, and the messages you wish to promote. This may require some tweaking of your current social media and content strategy, or a wider assessment of your branding, products, and messaging to ensure that they are aligned and consistent.
Capaldi and his fans grew up with social media, so he quite naturally shares his winning, even self-deprecating humour and personality across his social channels. He engages with his fans by sharing their posts, often retweeting their messages or memes, and encouraging them to celebrate his successes with him. It will be interesting to watch how he will scale that as his fame increases, and his audience broadens.
It's important to get to know your audience so that you can use the most appropriate formats and distribution channels to reach them, and create meaningful content that resonates with them. If haven’t already defined your audience, start off by creating buyer personas and experimenting with different content formats and channels. If you share a video on LinkedIn about your product but your target audience is actually a much younger demographic who haven’t entered the jobs market yet, you’re unlikely to see much engagement on your post or company page. The more you know about your audience, the easier it is to refine your social media strategy and improve its overall performance.
Lewis Capaldi uses social media creatively and experiments with different media formats and themes. Although not as overtly political as other public creative figures, he does like to post his thoughts on both topical or trivial subjects to get conversations started. He also has several running jokes and themes throughout his posts which create a feeling of having an ‘insider community’ among those who’ve been following him for a while.
One example is this full-size ad on the London Underground which includes a distinctly non-glamorous photo that was featured on his Instagram account weeks earlier when he was celebrating his sixth week at number one in the UK charts.
A great example of cross-channel, online-offline exposure is his post about the time when he joked about one day seeing his face on a billboard in Times Square, versus the day, two years later, when he could indeed see his face up there, for all of New York to see.
Capaldi knows how to turn negative attention into a positive opportunity, like the gutsy entrance he made to his set at the Glastonbury Festival in July 2019 following public criticism from former Oasis singer Noel Gallagher the week before. He cheekily walked on stage dressed as Gallagher while the negative commentary played on screen - much to the delight of the crowd and his followers online.
And a few weeks later, after comments from Gallagher saying he looked like the Star Wars character, Chewbacca, Capaldi walked on stage at the TRNSMT festival in Glasgow wearing a Chewbacca mask (which subsequently earned over $6,000 at a charity auction) and put his own twist on an Oasis classic - ‘Don’t Chewbac in Anger’.
Make use of the range of tools and features available to you across different social media platforms. You can easily enhance your content, even on a small budget, by using built-in platform features like filters, video editors, image editors, sound effects, and audio tools. Monitoring the performance of your content, and repurposing it, allows you to optimize your content and adapt your strategy based on how your content performs.
Trying different approaches in how you create your social media content will allow you to refine your content strategy and connect with your audience in a more meaningful, authentic way. When you know your audience well, it is easier to build trust and credibility, and establish your brand so that it is easily recognized within your industry. By taking a creative approach to your social media strategy you can increase follower engagement, manage brand crises, improve brand awareness, showcase your brand personality, and ultimately put your best effort out into the world.
We'll continue to watch as this cheeky Scotsman starts to dip his toe into the US and global market and see how his online presence evolves. And continue to learn.