From “We” to “I”: Lessons from House Beautiful’s Intriguing Social Transformation

Sep 18 2019

by Nancy McNulty

Beloved for years as the nation’s longest running shelter magazine, House Beautiful has broken through the dimension of beautiful photos and stories into a brand with a distinct personality and deepened connection with readers in the past year.

Foundation Changes – New Leadership

Hearst made it clear in 2018 major changes would be happening as the media giant shifted focus to developing its digital footprint.  Delish editorial director Joanna Saltz in April 2018 took on a dual role as editorial director for HouseBeautiful.com. Today, she oversees both and has assembled a small but mighty team of thought leaders including Alyssa Fiorentino, Senior Editor of Content Strategy, who says her collaboration with Joanna and staff is key.

“This is actually my second time working for Jo, and I think that really says something. What we were able to do at Delish was really so special— I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of her next project. Jo always has a strong vision for what her brands should look like— I really appreciate working for a boss who has a clear sense of direction and knows what she wants,” said Fiorentino.

Joanna-Saltz-Alyssa-Fiorentino-House-Beautiful
House Beautiful editor Joanna Saltz with Alyssa Fiorentino at the magazine’s show house in Nashville being built by Castle Homes. Called the Whole Home Concept House, powered by LG, it is open for tour in October.

In a MediaPost.com story, she shared her vision and tone for the changes in this excerpt.

House Beautiful has always been such a forward-thinking brand in the home space. I’m so excited to continue in that spirit, while injecting a new level of fun and surprise — just like we did with Delish,” Saltz said. “We’re going to focus on entertainment and real utility in home design and connect with the way people actually live in their spaces.”

As editorial director of HouseBeautiful.com, Saltz will make ecommerce and video a priority and reimagine the brand’s digital presence across social media and the website.

Fast-forward to a year later, Alyssa has shepherded the progress.

From We to I: Shift in Brand Voice

Immediately after being named to the position, Alyssa changed the tense used for social media posts.

“With influencers, bloggers and YouTube personalities in the mix today, we aren’t just competing with other brands.  It is well beyond that and anyone producing content is a competitor,” she says.  “These individuals have a stronger edge in connecting.  I spent years using the ‘we love this,’ ‘this is our favorite,‘ ‘our hearts are breaking.’ I started questioning, we who? “

That realization helped Alyssa move to a forward-thinking position of creating a single personality for House Beautiful.  When you look for recommendations and a person who says “I love this sofa,” it is so much stronger she contends. “It was a quick change that had to happen. “

Other immediate changes included adding to e-commerce opportunities, which Alyssa says helped them connect with readers in a new way and expanded their work with brands.  She introduced cute memes and questions.

“It isn’t new to the Internet but was new for this account. There is a lot of data to backup the success of these posts which is exciting,” she said.

Data Backs Up Change

“We have been able to connect so much more with the audience especially through questions.  I’ve loved reading all the responses and learning about our 2 million plus audience.  With Delish, we learned the audience as we grew because we started with nothing.  With House Beautiful, I walked in to all of these followers, so it’s been interesting to get to know them and what they’re looking for,” she said.

For the House Beautiful accounts, Facebook growth of 7.2 million has been steady but slower. Instagram has grown more quickly from 1.8 million to 2.3 million and counting.  Alyssa points to other increases including comments up almost 40% vs. last year driving engagement.

Top Instagram Tip for Growing an Account

Have a thing Alyssa says.  “It is a struggle for certain brands trying to be too many things for too many people. The bloggers and influencers finding huge success have the one thing that they become known for and people can count on them to continue providing it, be it outfit inspiration or honest product reviews, or whatever.  They are serving it up for audience,” she said.

Producing dependable content is key but throw in a meme and add some personality she adds.  “It doesn’t have to be the same thing all the time but people should know what they are getting when they visit your account. “

One other tip, her prime time for postings is 7 p.m.

Bonus – Favorite Fun Accounts

Brands having fun on social media get it, says Alyssa, which you can see reflected in the videos, memes, questions and general tone she sets. 

And, anyone working or spending considerable time on social media loves the spoof accounts. For fun, she says some of her favorites include @GaryJanetti who spoofs England’s Prince George, @NorisBlackBook spoofing North West and @GirlWithNoJob.

*Of fun note – Forest Home Media is working with House Beautiful and Castle Homes for the Whole Home Concept House powered by LG. Designers from across the U.S., including Vern Yip and Barclay Butera, will be featured and proceeds benefit the Nashville Symphony. 

To learn more or purchase tickets, visit Castle Homes or if you are a home lifestyle blogger/ influencer, contact PR@ForestHomeMedia.com for special October 15 event. Stay in touch for the upcoming HGTV Dream Home influencer event in the Southeast with designer Brian Patrick Flynn. 

(Photo by Reed Brown Photography)

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Nancy McNulty View More Blog Posts from this Author

Cool, new and different is the mantra driving the public relations efforts of our company, Forest Home Media. Based outside Nashville in the historic Forest Home area, as a PR rep, I love working with a variety of home lifestyle companies including the 2014 Nashville HGTV Smart Home builder and served on the PR team for Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel. A long-time Tennessee girl with a communications degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, my career began as a newspaper reporter and a state agency spokesman. Connect with me at ForestHomeMedia.com

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