Last Tuesday, we were schooled by leading BeautyTech brains in building up and engaging with your online community at Felix Capital’s Beauty Tech London meetup at Huckletree West.
BeautyTech is booming, and a social media presence can take a brand from beauty aisle anonymity to Glossier tier success. However, it’s not quite as simple as whacking up a swatch shot, whipping up an IG Live tutorial and watching the likes roll in. The reality involves a little more strategic thinking, forging relationships and embracing the dreaded whisper it algorithm…
Senior Beauty Editor at trend forecaster WGSN, Theresa Yee got the lowdown from three exciting new beauty industry talents: CEO and Co-Founder of skincare company The Inkey List, Colette Newberry; Founder of haircare range RadSwan, Freddie Harrel and Founder of Makeup Addiction, Djimbi Djevdet.
First up, Theresa challenged the panel to describe the social media personality of their brands. Colette said The Inkey List is open and non-judgmental. It’s about helping people on their skincare journey and allowing people to ask their beauty questions. Freddie revealed she runs her RadSwan account like her personal blog – with vulnerability, honesty and openness. She really nurtures her community because she knows its power. Djimbi said she pushes Makeup Addiction to be colourful, playful and very personal online. She’s really into discovering new talent on social media, even people with smaller followings.
So, what social media do these beauty entrepreneurs really use? The number one answer was Instagram. “There are only nine of us in the company, so we really focus on doing one platform well,” said Colette. “DMs are huge for us on Instagram. We’ve answered 4000 questions by DM in the past two months and we usually send each person at least four long paragraphs.
We only have one social media person so we just focus on doing Instagram well and getting good response times because people really care about that. We’ve got 35,000 followers organically essentially through hard graft.”
“I’m only on Instagram,” said Freddie. “Hair is very visual and I rely on UGC for my Instagram. I like to encourage word of mouth about my products and it works. Most of my audience get their hair inspiration from Instagram, so that’s where I am.” Djimbi agrees. “On Instagram, we can be colourful and playful, which is what we’re about,” she said. “It’s my favourite platform so we prioritise it.”
And what do they do about that pesky, ever-changing algorithm? What tactics do they employ to try and stay ahead of it? “It’s a constant battle,” said Colette, who said you can really just try and understand what works for your brand and keep doing it.
“UGC feels contrived for us and it doesn’t work so we don’t do it. Our heartland is education and simple posts about skin types or ingredients do really well for us. Really you’ve just got to stay true to who you are, regardless of the algorithm.”
“We have a powerful community because we work with the Global African Diaspora,” said Freddie. She prioritises telling stories that people in her community will want to share.
“You have to lead with intention, rather than always looking at the algorithm”.
This was a recurring message from all three founders. Djimbi said she was trying desperately to outsmart the algorithm and get back her engagement levels after it changed but she just couldn’t – so she took a more renegade approach. “I incorporated myself into the brand so people would know who was behind it and we pick a new person each week to add to our PR,” she said. “We use Instagram insights to work out what times work best for us to post and stick to them. I tried posting eight times a day but it was too much, so now we only do three. That’s really all you can do.”
All three founders also spoke about how important it is to co-create with their customers. When The Inkey List released 15 products in 2018, Colette and her team called on their customers to sample formulas and give real feedback. “We get stuff out there and fail fast,” she said. Freddie, meanwhile, started out with just one texture of hair extensions: her own. She needed to talk to other black women so she could work on other products and build the company together.
“Co-creation is very important,” she said. “You have to focus on the community and work out what it is you’re offering that goes beyond the product.”
Djimbi also relies on her followers to contribute to her business. They try products for her and she regularly asks them for ideas – Makeup Addiction fans have even named an eye shadow and chosen the packaging for a liquid lipstick: “People want to get involved and share their thoughts, that’s why I talk to them all on Instagram”.
Be generous of spirit, keep it personal and give your community the opportunity to make their stamp on the business: stick to these three tenets and you’ll be set up to grow a seriously engaged online community.
Building a BeautyTech business? Missed out on tickets for this soldout BeautyTech LDN meetup? Hop on our newsletter to be the first to get your hands on tickets for the next session.