3 lessons from Blake Lively’s Instagram stunt

The actress deleted her photos and unfollowed everyone—including hubby Ryan Reynolds—except some women named Emily to promote her new film. Can PR pros replicate her success?

Blake Lively Instagram

How can deleting your account grab a ton of social media attention?

The key is to leave a puzzle that social media users will love to solve.

Blake Lively started an internet furor when she deleted much of her Instagram account, unfollowing everyone except for a handful of accounts named Emily Nelson. She even deleted her celebrity husband Ryan Reynolds, leaving social media sleuths to solve the mystery.

The chosen Emilys, lifted from obscurity, were perplexed:

Some fans were concerned for the actress’s marriage:

Once users figured out that Lively was making a statement, they had questions.

Lively kept viewers on the hook with a cryptic tweet:

The question “What happened to Emily?” is a nod to Lively’s new film.

Some applauded the move:

Others forecast big returns:

Has the stunt paid off?

Elle magazine wrote:

Was this worth erasing every Instagram photo and making nation-wide headlines for? The trailer has 501k+ views and counting on Lively’s page, and it’s only been 20 minutes. But she did have some good selfies on there.

One key part of Lively’s stunt was the mystery that kept fans in suspense for days. Even now, after much of her Instagram has been restored, she hasn’t issued an explanation. Instead, fans have to research the story and find their own answers.

The move recalls other social media winners. Like KFC, who followed only the five Spice Girls and six guys named Herb to allude to their 11 herbs and spices, Lively used a social media platform to tell a story. Her bio also gave clues, asking “What happened to Emily?”

For PR pros looking to replicate the celebrity’s success, here are three lessons:

1. Use more than one channel. Lively used her Instagram, where she had a devoted following, to make her first statement. Then, she pivoted to Twitter to keep the mystery alive. Remember that your audience uses many social media platforms and a well-timed post can draw an audience from one channel to another.

2. Don’t explain the gag. Social media stunts are like jokes. If you have to explain the punchline, it didn’t work. Lively let her audience puzzle through the mystery and didn’t budge when her followers balked at the challenge. Trust that your audience is smart enough to follow the clues—and wait for a couple of savvy bloggers to help everyone along.

3. Use your influencers. You might not be married to a movie star, but you might still have a circle of influencers to help tell your story. When Lively unfollowed husband Ryan Reynolds, he, too, was asked what was going. He used humor to drive another set of headlines and keep the story in the public eye.

E! news reported:

“Yes, she did. I’m very sad about that,” Reynolds quipped to [Australian radio] host Smallzy. “Definitely stinks. It’s a terrible way to find out that I’ve been kicked out of the house, to be honest. Absolutely terrible. I don’t know where rage like that comes from.”

He also joked about their daughters—James, 3, and Ines, 1—being too young to understand the social media shade.

“‘Mommy unfollowed daddy on Instagram,'” he said, pretending to deliver the news to his children. “My child would just fart and then walk away.”

How would you try to replicate this stunt?

(image via)


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