If you happen to market a beauty brand, you probably know that Instagram is where beauty brands go to reach the masses. Forget about TV spots. Viewers ages 18 to 34 now spend more time playing with their smartphones than they do watching television. And forget about radio marketing. Terrestrial radio is one big Classic Hits station. Today, beauty brand marketers who need to reach their target audience - specifically the 18 to 49 crowd - are doing it with Instagram. And the fastest way to get traction on Instagram is to partner with the right influencer.
Sprout Social reports that 70.7% of US businesses are now using Instagram, up from 48.8% in 2016. The good news is sixty-five of the top-performing posts on Instagram feature pictures of actual products. Product posts outperform lifestyle content (which makes up 43% of top-performing posts) and videos (29%).
The not so good news is that most brands aren’t getting the reach they need to impact potential customers. First, the average Instagrammer only sees about 30% of the content that actually goes through his or her feed. Most people aren’t on Instagram around the clock, so they miss most of the content that gets posted.
Second, it’s possible your target audience is on the platform when you post, but they don’t see your post because your previous posts bombed. Instagram’s algorithm shows new posts based on the performance of your brand’s previous posts. So, a string of posts that don’t generate engagement can keep future posts from being presented to your followers.
So, theoretically, a visually-appealing product post could perform well… if you could just get people to see it. That’s where influencers come in.
Social Media and the Beauty Industry
Influencer marketing has caused a huge shift in the beauty industry when it comes to driving growth. For many emerging brands, success hinges on being able to partner with the right micro influencers, then grab the attention and trust of the right major influencers. Fact is, social media is now and will continue to serve as an important growth engine for the beauty industry. The web is where many of the industry’s target customers (largely Millennials) go to find out about new products, pick up new techniques and hacks for using products they may already own, and get feedback from their communities on the products they’ve tried.
Social Media Magnifies Emerging Brands
The fifteen largest beauty brands on Instagram have collectively accumulated more than 120 million followers. And for each of them, influencer marketing has played a key role in boosting sales and driving growth. As a whole, the beauty industry has a pretty good grasp on the most effective ways to leverage the power of social media influencers.
“The trends that have added the most incremental dollars to the makeup category over the last year are the ones that were seen the most on social media,” says Karen Grant, global beauty industry analyst, The NPD Group.
Influencer marketing levels the playing field between small, emerging brands and global brands like MAC, L’Oreal, and Sephora because a great product sets the foundation for high-impact influencer marketing campaigns. When your product can hold its own against those produced by global brands, growth is often just a matter of finding the right influencers to spread the word.
What to Expect in This Post
So, if you’ve read our blog before, you know we’re big on two types of posts: Stats and by-the-numbers posts, and case studies. This post is the latter. We want to introduce you to six types of Instagram posts influencers use to promote beauty brands. We may throw a few stats in there to shake things up for the math geeks, but mostly, we’re looking at pretty pictures and decoding why they performed so well.
Let’s do it.
Beauty Product Posts That Perform
Post Type #1: Product Demos
Internet personality and social media influencer Patrick Starrr (@patrickstarrr) is a bonafide media marvel. He is the host of his own YouTube channel, Patrick Starrr, which has more than 3 million subscribers. Patrick travels the globe as a makeup artists and stylist, chronicling his adventures on both YouTube and Instragram.
His feed features Patrick styling beauty and style icons like Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Mariah Carey, as well as lesser known beauties who just need what Patrick calls a “transformation.”
I struggled with whether to list Patrick Starrr under product demos or under the celebrity endorsement; he can easily meet the criteria for both.
For instance, this 25-second video tutorial for @smashboxcosmetics absolutely killed on Instagram with more than 1.5 million views. That’s nearly 50 percent engagement, as Instagram videos don’t auto-play. You have to click on them to register views on the platform.
People.com ran a feature on Patrick Starrr for its Social Media Stars segment. In the piece, which ran last year during Thanksgiving week, Patrick detailed how he made the shift from nursing student to freelance photographer, and how realizing he could transform headshots using Photoshop sparked his interest in the artistry of makeup.
Today, with 3.7 million followers on Instagram, Patrick Starrr is a much sought-after makeup artist and media personality. He has created more than 2500 posts for Instagram, dozens of YouTube makeup tutorials, reviews, hacks, and product hauls; and racked-up more than 188 million video views. And he gets great engagement.
The Fenty Beauty Tutorial
Patrick began promoting the Fenty Beauty holiday set in October. Fenty is Rhianna’s makeup line. On October 11th, Patrick published a video to YouTube, with corresponding posts on Instragram to drive traffic to his YouTube channel. The video was a demonstration of how to use Rhianna’s makeup to get Rhianna’s look with…
Drum roll, please…
A model (@AndeleLara) who looks like Rhianna.
Here’s the awesome part: As of this writing, the 15-minute YouTube video has 3.46 million views, 124K Likes, and more than 12K comments on YouTube. There were two corresponding Instagram post – one image that garnered more than 218K Likes, and one 34-second video that got 8.9 million views, 302K Likes and 7,759 comments. Coincidentally, between the time I wrote this paragraph and the time I edited this paragraph, these numbers increased so significantly that I had to change them. All of them.
Post Type #2: Product Pictures
The sponsored post, which features seven shades of matt lipstick from @catrice.cosmetics and two candy canes pushed together to form a heart, is a simple, eye-catching holiday post with captions in both English and German (Vania is based in Berlin). Her English caption simply reads, “Getting ready for holiday dinner with my loves. Which lipstick should I choose?”. Vania added the #werbung hashtag (which means “#ad” in German) followed by a caption in German:
Welche der @catrice.cosmetics Matt Lip Artists wäre eure Lieblings-Nuance? 💄
Wünsche euch allen ein frohes Fest! ✨
Which of @catrice.cosmetics Matt Lip Artists would be your favorite shade? Wish you all a happy holiday!
Smartly, Vania includes bilingual translations in her sponsored posts, and in her content, in general. In fact, she often translates the titles of her videos into both English and German on her YouTube channel, though the videos themselves are typically in German, which brings me to a good point:
More than eighty percent of Instagram users are outside the US, according to Sprout Social. The US accounts for 16.9 percent of desktop traffic to Instagram, followed by Russia (8.1 percent), Brazil (5.8 percent), Turkey (5.1 percent), and the UK (4 percent). Of an estimated 700 million active monthly Instagram users, the U.S. is home to about 88.5 million of those users.
So, despite being in Berlin, for a beauty influencer like Vania, creating multi-lingual posts is just smart marketing.
Post Type #3: Get the Look
Another type of post that get lots of traction on Instagram is what I call “Get the look” posts. These are the posts where beauty influencers essentially show their followers the finished product, the results they got from using certain beauty brands.
For example, the above post from influencer ELLARIE (@ellarie) is another that features Smashbox Cosmetics. With 1.3 million followers, Ellarie is a leading mommy-and-me influencer. She shares the spotlight with her daughter, Yoshi, and together, their YouTube channel has more than 78K followers and over 2.8 million views. The sponsored post for Smashbox topped 28K Likes, earning 2.18% engagement.
LA fashion blogger Elizabeth Keene (not Red Redman’s daughter) published this holiday post sponsored by @RimmelLondonUS. Her smoky gold look that she created especially for the holidays is understated, glamorous, and elegant. And consistent with the overall theme of her Instagram account. Elizabeth (@elizabethkeene) has 261K followers and authors the lifestyle blog, A Keene Sense of Style.
Post Type #4: Simply Beautiful
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of posts that are strikingly beautiful are the campaigns for Sugar Bear Hair vitamins.
There’s no shortage of brands marketing vitamin supplements as beauty products. From Nature Bounty’s innocuous Hair, Skin, and Nails, available at your local grocery store to the gummies available from direct sellers, vitamins that support healthy hair are growing in popularity. Like, Kardashian-popular.
Enter Sugar Bear Hair.
The vitamin was originally pegged as the Kardashian hair vitamin after Kim, Khloe, and Kylie started promoting the supplements on Instagram last year. But recent campaigns for the candy-like supplement are taking a different path to glamorous. Like this one from Hieu.
Hieu (@hieucow) has created a beautiful portfolio of images on Instagram to coincide with her photography website, Shades of Hieu. The influencer has more than 128K followers and averages somewhere around 3 percent engagement. Her posts for Sugar Bear Hair typically generate about 2 percentage engagement, and they are eye catching. Posts like the one below
and this one
fall in line with the colorful, fun brand Sugar Bear Hair is building post-Kardashian.
Post Type #5: Hacks and Techniques
In addition to tutorials, technical posts are also a great way to demonstrate the usefulness of products. This type of post is as much about the credibility of the brand ambassador as it is about the brand itself. So, let’s look at an example.
Posts for Insiders Who Get It
This Aussie Hair-sponsored post from My Natural Sistas (@mynaturalsistas) drummed up more than 9K Likes, probably from people who understand the importance of two key concepts referenced in the caption: Cold weather and protective styles.
For people who wear natural hair, they quickly learn that the cold, dry winter air can wreak havoc on your hair, so they wear protective styles during the winter months to help their hair maintain a proper balance of moisture. These protective styles (#protectivestyle) usually aren’t the most stylish hairdos in the world, as you can see in the black and white image. And often, women will further protect their sense of style while protecting their natural hair by wearing a wig over their real hair or adding hair extensions to their real hair.
The idea for this post is very much a “technical post” for the insiders who wear natural hair, and are looking for ways to protect and strengthen their hair when it gets cold. And according to My Natural Sistas - an Instagram account run by biological sisters who have become well-known for talking hair, beauty, and fashion tips - Aussie Hair (surprisingly) makes a product that will help you protect your hair from becoming brittle and dry during the winter months. My Natural Sistas also has a YouTube channel with more than 660K subscribers view nearly 50 million views.
Posts for products that help other products work better
There are beauty products that are specifically used to help other beauty products shine. Most women who wear makeup understand the importance of using a foundation or concealer underneath their makeup. While my 15 year-old niece live for Eos because her mom won’t let her wear makeup, a lot of professional makeup artists promote Eos lip balm as a lip primer before layering on lip colors.
Positioning products like Eos as these sort of insider “background” products is smart because it inevitably opens the brand up to an audience that perhaps would not have thought to use the product otherwise.
But it’s not always easy to demonstrate the usefulness of the product in a way that makes an impact (think pretty woman wearing her high heels with a smile because she’s wearing cushier insoles). Usually, these types of posts are quickly dismissed as ads. But… we found a few that were pretty effective as sponsored posts. And first up is this post from Nicole Alyseee (@nicolealyseee).
Nicole is a New York fashion blogger and the owner of the vintage shop American Gypsy Vintage in upstate New York. Nicole is also the curator of American Gypsy Vintage on Instagram. In this post, the popular influencer points to the Get the Look App (#getthelookapp #RimmelLondonapp) from @RimmelLondonUS as the source of much of her inspiration for her latest makeup looks.
The app, which Rimmel London released to much fanfare in the beauty media, generates virtual makeup looks using an image or video of the user’s face. The app also scans barcodes to help app users preview beauty products before buying. Nicole credits the Get the Look app for this flawless look. Nicole was able to grab nearly 3400 Likes (3.7% engagement) with this post.
I want to add one final example of a post for a beauty technique. This one isn’t for the Christmas holiday, but I think it drives home the point.
This series of posts from male makeup artist (emphasis on the artist) Wesley Benjamin Carter (@wesleybenjamincarter) are for Annabelle Cosmetics and in them, Wesley creates an Archie’s comics pop art look using Annabelle foundation, matte eyeshadow, EyeInk liner, and Skinny Mascara.
You can see that each of these sponsored posts performed really well. The post of the finished look saw 7.5% engagement with more than 15.2K Likes and 101 comments. The short how-to video was clicked and viewed more than 232K times, and got more than 10K Likes and 100 comments. To sum it up: Wesley Benjamin Carter got the product and its capabilities in front of nearly a quarter million people with two posts. And I now know that Annabelle is not just a creepy movie.
Post Type #6: Celebrity Endorsement
Micah Gianneli is a household name in my house. The only thing I know about her is that she slays on Instagram. And I know that because my two Instagram-loving daughters hold Ms. Gianneli in high esteem. When I finally came across her Instagram profile, going through her photos was like flipping through the pages of a high fashion magazine, and in that instant, I finally understood Instagram. I got it. Like, deep in my gut. It clicked.
Fact is, Millennials and Gen Zers don’t judge celebrity status in the way older generations determined celebrity status. We’re living in a time when people think Barbara Corcoran’s claim to fame is reality TV (it’s not; she was a New York real estate BOSS for, like, four decades). On the other hand, Kylie Jenner’s legitimate claim to fame is being gorgeous on Instagram. And boy, is that girl gorgeous.
Some unwitting beauty marketers make the mistake of thinking social media influencers aren’t celebrities. But smart collaborations with social influencers are resulting in twice the dollar volume of traditional celebrity collaborations in the first month after a new product launch, according to a survey by the NPD Group.
In simple terms: My kids’ celebrities are delivering more value to beauty brands than my celebrities.
I think part of Brookelle’s draw – besides being really attractive on Instagram, which is its own form of currency – Brookelle shows a bit more depth with her horror makeup (is that what it’s called) like the looks she created for this post, which got more than 52K likes.
In each of her posts, you can see created a sort of inventory of the tools she used to create both looks.
There are influencers who build brands that have so much impact they can make the transition from being a brand partner to helping brand develop products. One such influencer is Jacklyn Hill.
With 4.7 million followers, Jaclyn Hill (@jacklinhill) is a staple in the beauty industry. She is one of the most well-known makeup artists-turned beauty gurus on YouTube, and got her start as a freelance makeup artist working for MAC cosmetics. In the post below, you see Jacklyn partnered with Allure for their Beauty Box.
Several years ago, she started her own YouTube channel and has been so successful at growing her followership there (currently with 4.6 million followers and 383 million views) that she effectively positioned herself as one of the most credible influencers in the industry.
Jacklyn Hill has partnered with Becca to create the Becca x Jacklyn Hill Champagne Collection and Morphe Cosmetics to create eyeshadow products.
The Wrap Up
Without a doubt, two of THE MOST important parts of any successful influencer campaign are: 1) The quality and utility of the product being promoted, and 2) The brand partner / influencer.
The quality of your product is crucial, as a high-impact influencer is unlikely to want to stake his or her hard-earned reputation on a subpar product. Even for money. That said, if you are quality beauty brand and you’re ready to start your influencer marketing campaign, the team at The Shelf has launched thousands of campaigns for brands just like yours.