By Alex Hanson

Mattel’s Barbie toy has been around for 57 years, but she is adapting very well to new social media technologies. With 258 thousand Twitter followers, 698 thousand Instagram followers (with 1.3 million followers on her Barbie Style account), 1.1 million YouTube subscribers, and 13.2 million likes on Facebook, Barbie brand has a huge social media following. One of the most appealing aspects of social networking sites for many people is the ability to follow and interact with public figures, like musicians and politicians, on the same platform where they might connect with their classmates or family members. How does Barbie create such a large following, though, when she toes the line between brand and pop culture figure?

Barbie is far from the first social media account to be run by a marketing manager or team instead of a single personality representing themselves. In the early days of Friendster, people would make fake Friendster accounts, or “Fakesters,” representing bands, celebrities, and affiliations. Friendster banned these Fakester accounts, which was arguably a fatal decision for the company. They could not have known it in such early days of social media sites, but interacting with fake personalities and even brands would come to be a staple of the social media experience. Today, people like, follow, and retweet brands without question, and it is expected that brands have several social media accounts. The platforms even encourage it by verifying brands, so users can see which pages are official and which are fan-made. When users connect with brands on social media, they understand that they are participating in that company’s marketing strategy, but they trade their follows and likes for free content, whether it be images, offers, or videos (depending on the brand and platform), from that brand.

Barbie, however, is a unique case. Social media has been, traditionally, used by adults and teens. While the age of social media users continues to decline, most people that are on social media probably would not consider themselves the target audience for Barbie— they would probably say it was for girls under ten. So how does Barbie gather such a large following? Simple: she makes her social media content accessible to not only young kids, but nostalgic millennials and parents as well.

Barbie does this by manipulating platforms to address each segment of this very large social media audience, using some as Barbie, the character from the films and products, and as Barbie, the brand. Barbie’s YouTube channel is the best suited for the youngest audience, the kids that play with Barbie toys and products. In my personal experience as a babysitter, I have noticed many parents using children-oriented YouTube videos as a tool to keep their young kids occupied the way my parents would have given me a coloring book when I was their age. Barbie’s vlogs and short narrative films on her YouTube page make it a space for Barbie as a character to express herself and for kids to spend their time watching her.

Video from Barbie’s official YouTube channel

            Barbie’s Instagram account, however, is more suited for the nostalgic millennial: young women who used to play with Barbie can now follow her on Instagram and like her outfits that parallel current popular styles amongst young women. The Barbie Style account, featuring Zoolander themed Barbies and the TIME Magazine Barbie cover, is geared toward taking Barbie from a source of nostalgia to a brand that is still active in millennials’ lives.

Picture from Barbie Style’s Instagram page

Screenshot of Barbie's Official Instagram Page

Screenshot of Barbie’s Instagram

            Barbie’s Facebook page, while it includes images from her two Instagram accounts, features commercials and company events to make the brand appeal to parents. Pictures and videos of children playing with the dolls elicit comments from adult women recalling their days playing with Barbie and parents praising the brand for their development over the past few years.

By using different social media platforms to promote different perspectives on the brand, Barbie has expanded her social media audience to include several generations of fans. Her ability to adapt to this online content and marketing landscape has been impressive, and I believe will continue to strengthen the brand’s image and sales in the upcoming years.


One thought on “Barbie Is The Most Popular Girl Online

  1. I totally agree that the reason Barbie continues to remain as successful as she was when she was first introduced is because of how the company makes sure to appeal to its wide and very diverse audience. It’s crucial for companies to maintain a relationship with anyone who has interacted with their brand, and using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to do that is key. I really like how Barbie has tailored each of its social media platforms to a different audience (YouTube geared towards kids and @BarbieStyle geared towards young adults/older women who used to play with Barbies as kids) because it allows everyones wants to be satisfied. While Barbie’s grasp on social media certainly keeps their image strong, looking at the photos in this post got me thinking about the broader implications of the @BarbieStyle Instagram account in general. Many of the images on this account are reminiscent of photos that young girls would take in real life and post on their accounts. These photos are artsy, colorful, perfectly set up, and the captions are written in first person (from Barbie’s POV). The real Barbie account reminded me so much of the parody account @socalitybarbie which shows photos of Barbie going on fun adventures and walks on a mission to take ‘the best Instagram pics’ except this account makes explicit fun of that objective through blatantly truthful captions and hilarious hashtags. This account has amassed 1.2 million followers, which is basically just as much as the original. This makes me question whether Barbie has received any backlash in regards to the ‘perfect life’ it expresses throughout its Instagram and whether it might have a negative impact on young girls’ self esteem / body image, as it represents something that is utterly unattainable.

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