Brand Risk-Takers: Social Media Marketing On Disruptive Platforms

  • by November 1, 2021

Let's be honest. Most people know one thing about OnlyFans: that it's linked to sex workers. That's fair, since that's what gets the most press. Given that, you might be surprised to learn that national brands as diverse as Sichuan chili sauce brand Fly and West Coast fast-food chain Carl’s Jr. are including OnlyFans in their social media strategy. Do they know something you don’t?

Fly and Carl’s Jr  are doing what a lot of brands are doing today: seeking out new, disruptive social media channels for more candid interactions with their audiences. That doesn’t just mean OnlyFans, but also other channels that I would classify as disruptive from a branding perspective -- namely Discord, Reddit, and Tumblr.

I define disruptive as something that challenges the norm and how we do things now. For these platforms, their features and/or audience puts them in this category. All of them offer a certain level of risk-reward, but for some brands, it’s a risk worth taking.



Consider the following:

On OnlyFans, fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff launched a mentor program and streamed a recent fashion show offering exclusive content, increasing her brand awareness and making a value play for democratizing sex work. Also, the fast-casual chicken chain Sticky’s Finger Joint used the platform to offer a special menu with the subscription fees donated to unemployed industry professionals in New York.

On the blogging platform Tumblr, brands like Sharpie have cleverly taken advantage of the platform’s popularity among artists to showcase fan art made with Sharpies and promote artists overall. General Mills’ “Hello, Cereal Lovers” blog offers recipes,  animated GIFs, DIY projects and “throwback Thursday” photos of old cereal boxes.

Worth noting is Tumbr’s status as the safer social media space of choice for the LGBTQ community, with a huge increase in community members since the pandemic due to the nature of specific communities, such as homesteading, plants, and music.

Discord, the platform that started initially as a way for gamers to talk while playing, gained a reputation for bullying and the proliferation of hate speech. The platform has made significant changes to its moderation and safety protocols. resulting in brands like Chipotle using the platform to announce a minimum wage increase and hosting a virtual job fair that attracted over 24,000 applicants a week to forums on company culture, and open room interviews. Similarly, Jack in the Box held a blowout after-hours Comic-Con event with a late-night concert, an NFT live design raffle for No Kid Hungry, and discounts on Jack in the Box treats.

If there is a unifying theme to how brands are using disruptive social media platforms, it’s this: They’re giving their audience something they want and, most importantly, asking for nothing in return -- only to join them in fandom.

Disruptive social media channels are ideal for speaking directly to your brand’s fans while also nurturing content creators and causes. Any winning disruptive marketing strategy first requires listening and being supportive of your most ardent fans. Save starting the conversation for elsewhere. For success on disruptive social media platforms, you need to listen.

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