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Influencer marketing is simple: you find social media influencers with large followings who have an relationship to, or an interest in your field, and pay a fee to secure their public support. They share images and posts on their social media platforms which directly or indirectly promote your brand and products; for example, they might share a photo of themselves using your skincare products or putting on your athleisure makeup before a workout.
This is a powerful marketing strategy. Brands can easily reach thousands of potential clients — with the added element of trust forged by their connection with an admired influencing figure.
And the beauty industry is leading the way in connecting with customers and building trust through influencer marketing. It is a bridge between the interactive and personal world of social media, and conventional ecommerce. Influencers make beauty products real by showing them in use, and talking intimately about their benefits. Customers are inspired, and when they go on to buy and use the products, they share their journey with the brand too, which means that the marketing potential within the influencer strategy extends far beyond the initial deal.
A report from Celebrity Intelligence shows that for every £1 spent on influencers in the beauty industry in 2017, brands received an average ROI £8.81. The top social media platform for promoting beauty brands is Instagram — and it seems that Instagram is perfect for this job. It’s a visual platform, focusing on images with short captions and hashtags which embed each post within a wider conversation. It’s easy for users to ‘like’ an image or comment on it, and Instagram’s algorithms encourage regular interaction between influencer and consumer.
80% of participants in the Celebrity Intelligence report said that influencers are pivotal in forming customer opinions and influencing buying decisions; and overall, influencer marketing is clearly effective for 98% of the beauty industry. Crucially, 73% of the beauty industry believe that the current generation of millennial consumers is pushing them towards a more transparent mode of working. Today’s customers want to know who they are buying from and what the broader impact of their buying decisions might be which means that connecting directly and openly with consumers has never been more important.
How Are Beauty Brands Using Influencer Marketing?
Initially, brands and beauty incumbents assumed that social media would be a new way of driving sales. As such, the marketing methods used reflected that; they were product focused and brief. But as the industry’s relationship with social media evolved, and as social media in general grew into its place in the world, the evolution of beauty brand influencer marketing has moved away direct sales and, instead, towards brand awareness.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the modern market is less interested in individual products and more interested in buying into a story that reflects consumer values, and taps into their aspirations. Customers want to know how the brand came to be; they want to know how it might help them; and how it affects the world around them too. Influencers are ideal for building and supporting a brand story because each influencer already has a relationship with their followers. They already have a story which their audience relates to in some way — whether it’s because they share experience or dreams, or because the audience aspires to have a lifestyle like that of the influencer. So placing brand products into that existing story is a highly effective marketing tool.
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This is particularly valuable in a market where purchasing decisions are far more complex than they were ten or twenty years ago. The factors that contribute to whether or not a customer will buy a product today are innumerable, including (but not limited to) in-depth research available to everyone via the Internet; a vast array of blogs, social media accounts and print media sharing reviews of brands and products; personal recommendations and celebrity endorsements; and political and environmental beliefs which have an impact on consumer choices.
Consumers are more able than ever before to look beyond the face of a brand’s marketing and see what lies beneath. Of course, as well as being empowering for the customer, it also causes confusion; which heightens the effect of a trusted influencer speaking confidently and positively about a brand. Brands understand now that they need to create long-term loyalty and build a following rather than focus on short-term sales, so social media influencer marketing needs to be part of a long term, awareness-focused approach.
As mentioned, among the biggest driving forces in the evolution of influencer marketing is the new generation of consumers — known as ‘digital-born’ consumers, or Generation Z. Research shows that 65% of this consumer group look to social media to decide which beauty products they want to buy. And they are interested in body positivity; social activism; perceived authenticity; and working for their own success.
These characteristics are reflected in the marketing strategies and brand identities that beauty companies develop — and in the influencers that brands choose to promote them. Authenticity features in the marketing campaigns of many beauty brands and product lines run alongside social movements including veganism and inclusivity. The skincare brand Origins, for example, is known for partnering with influencers who support a cruelty-free ethos and a natural approach to cosmetics.
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Generation Z’s appetite for authenticity is also driving an increasingly data-led approach to the selection of appropriate influencers. Brands measure audience insights to identify the most relevant social media figures and are less interested in finding influencers with the largest followings, and becoming more interested in mid or low-tier influencers who have smaller audiences — but whose followers are more deeply and actively invested in them.
The Celebrity Intelligence study shows that niche female influencers are in the highest demand; 86% of beauty brands say they have worked with influencers in this group within the last year. L’Oreal’s Beauty Squad is an example of this action, with a group of eight mid-tier influencers from a range of backgrounds creating their own content to connect L’Oreal directly and authentically with eight different, unique audiences.
It is expected that influencers will continue to be important for beauty brands over the coming number of years, but that there will be a shift towards trusting consumer-led communities over communities headed by public figures. Generation Z strives for authenticity — and that is more likely to be found among ‘real people’ on the ground than on the social media platforms of successful influencers.