If you search Martha Stewart on Instagram, two verified accounts pop up: @MarthaStewart and @MarthaStewart48. @MarthaStewart’s posts capture the essence of the Martha Stewart brand: magazine-quality spreads of pies, amuse-bouche, and cocktails, with the occasional garden photo. @MarthaStewart48, on the other hand, does… not.
It’s so un-Martha-esque that commenters regularly post asking if the account is real or a joke. But MarthaStewart48 is the real Martha, and her posts suggest she is completely oblivious to any strategies for maximizing her online audience. She just posts what she cares about, whether or not they fit her #brand: her cat’s x-rays; a trio of posts documenting a red tail stuck behind a fence; flooding from a Connecticut river (her friend Doug lost his BMW, she writes); whatever her 2018 Halloween costume was. Her photos are often blurry or unflattering, and her captions inscrutable or borderline offensive.
Martha’s been doing her own thing on social media for as long as she’s had social media. Back in 2013, the internet called for her to stop tweeting pictures of disgusting-looking food. She’s cleaned up her act on Instagram, but even the good-looking food she posts is not Insta-perfect; it looks like the kind of stuff I make at home, which I never feel like is worth taking a picture of.
For comparison, here’s @MarthaStewart48’s pie, which looks like it could’ve been made by any reasonably good amateur baker:
And here’s the painstakingly designed pie top that @MarthaStewart posted, which I couldn’t make if my life depended on it:
While Martha used to post her personal musings on Twitter, they now mostly appear on her @MarthaStewart48 Instagram account. You can still find some of what I suspect is real Martha on her Twitter account, though; note the differences in tone and punctuation between these two tweets below, as well as the fact that @aerosoleshoes is not Aerosoles’ official Twitter handle but an account with 215 followers, which has been inactive since 2015:
In this cultural moment, where celebrities’ Instagram posts look and read like ads, it feels almost subversive for a celebrity as big as Martha to post blurry snapshots and her thoughts about whatever. If you’re the head of a lifestyle brand, your job is to sell your lifestyle; celebrities like Ina Garten and Oprah rarely deviate from posting high-quality photos of food, family, gardens, their latest projects, or celebrity friends, complete with well-written, enthusiastic captions, giving the illusion that their lives are neat and shiny.
Martha’s Instagram reflects a life we can relate to: Sometimes the photo she snaps is too zoomed in or uploads a little blurry, just like the rest of us (though most of us don’t get to hang out with Snoop Dogg). And just like the rest of us, she sometimes leaves it up anyway. While so many celebrities and influencers strive for authenticity in their posts, Martha takes it to a new level: she posts what she wants, regardless of its marketability.
A final mystery: Why the 48? She easily could have used Martha Stewart as her own account, relegating her team’s PR-type posts to a different account, but she decided to slap 48 at the end of her name and use it as her handle. It’s unclear whether 48 might have significance to Stewart; she was born in 1941 (and not on April 8 or August 4), and unlike celebrities like Taylor Swift, whose fans have a signature “number” (13, in Taylor’s case), Stewart’s not known to have any special connection to 48. Maybe there were simply 47 other Martha Stewarts on Instagram when she signed up?
Or maybe it’s all part of some master marketing strategy. If so, it’s brilliant.