Should you have an in-house beauty influencer? Figure out the best way to work with an influencer

The term influencer has become commonplace, and the world’s most popular ones can have millions of followers across social media channels, particularly the beauty influencer. When they heap praise on a product, their followers listen so well that things can sell out in minutes. But what is an influencer, and what’s a beauty influencer (or “skinfluencer“) in particular? And do you need to hire one in house?

What is an influencer?

First, a quick refresher. Our previous article Time to try influencer marketing says “for the uninitiated, influencer marketing is marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers – individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche,”

Media Kix influencer marketing agency defines a beauty influencer as “Most simply, a beauty influencer is a social media user who is well known for his/her expertise on the topics of skincare, hair care, and makeup. Popular beauty influencers amass enormous audiences who come to trust their beauty advice and product recommendations. Influencers within the niche create content of all types but maintain an overarching focus on beauty.”

These are (mostly) women (and several high-profile men) who have huge, loyal followings who trust the influencer’s product and treatment recommendations without reserve. LOOKFANTASTIC’s Influencer Index notes that the top Aussie beauty influencers have millions of followers.  That’s a lot of eyeballs potentially looking at your product or watching a video of your treatment device in action. And while this might seem very Gen Z, it might also be one of the most effective ways to spread brand and product awareness in the beauty industry (even B2B), now that we all live online.

Lookfantastic says “It can be a great place to learn more about just about anything, and one area where this is particularly popular is skincare and beauty. Many influencers are not only sharing their favourite products, but are giving helpful tips, a closer look at skincare routines, and offering a space for skin positivity, providing an honest and vulnerable insight into life with skin conditions such as acne.”

A new influencer trend: Taking it in house (a subsidiary of the LOOKFANTASTIC group) just launched a competition to find an in-house TikTok trend tester, essentially creating an in-house influencer role. Mecca have a team of eight women (#MECCAbeautyjunkie) posting content on Instagram and YouTube, each with a Mecca-branded Instagram handle. Mammamia have been recruiting beauty reviewers via their Beauty Facebook Group, who then written, record or photograph their reviews to be broadcast across the Mammamia network.

The influencer marketing team at New York-based Upfluence tells Professional Beauty that “Given the explosion of TikTok’s popularity in the beauty industry, is right on time with their strategy of hiring in-house influencers. We see it as the extension and professionalization of a brand ambassador program. It shows a new trend; the expansion of an influencer’s role to encompass that of a social media consultant, photographer, content creator and focus group. In this case the brand is looking to leverage a specific set of skills that go beyond a typical ‘outsourced’ influencer’s remit.”

Paul Heslop, Founder of Spa Stack, says “Working with influencers is about their audience and reach, but it’s also about creating quality content. Influencers have shown they can grow an audience, they have had their hands in the dirt and understand nuances brands do not. They know how to be relevant, stay relevant and create content. This helps a business a lot in today’s landscape.”

By the very nature of the role, in-house influencers tend to be micro- to mid-tier influencers, and that has some benefits, according to recent statistics on this group of influencers and fan loyalty and perceived authenticity. “Micro and mid-tier influencers typically have a very loyal fan base and receive a higher engagement rate than top-tier influencers. One of the best benefits about partnering with a micro influencer is that they are viewed as more trustworthy by their following. Working with trusted influencers raises a brand’s credibility of both the products and the brand with the consumer. Leveraging with these influencers’ reach in the beauty community will spread the word, create conversations and increase overall engagement.,” says Katelyn Winker in a Digital Beauty article.

In house or influence at large?

But should you have an in-house influencer? Or simply collaborate with established beauty influencers, hire them ad hoc? And how does it work for a B2B beauty brand or, say, a spa or nail salon versus a multi-brand beauty retailer? Marketing strategies are necessarily different from those selling a single brand – or a beauty device to spas – or offering treatments at a waxing salon.

Upfluence thinks it could be beneficial in that “hiring in-house influencers is advantageous as brands have instant access to expert content creators without the time and effort needed to start an influencer campaign from scratch. Working with in-house influencers effectively gives brands direct ownership of their content. Both of these factors are particularly advantageous, saving brands both time and money (at least in the short-term).” But they are also quick to point out that “big brands are most likely to have the budget to expand their in-house team to include influencers.”

When we asked Heslop whether he thought having an in-house influencer was a good idea, he said “Yes and no. A full time in-house influencer can be great if they have the business acumen to drive more social following and more importantly: sales. What type of business experience do they have? How have they shown that they can grow a business or just create content. How creative are they in their content production? If you find someone that can give you exposure, gain influence, drive sales and has the ability to create professional content that you are proud to host on your website – you’ve got yourself an amazing asset.” 

B2B expectations

Expectations for B2Bs utilizing influencers in-house need to be tempered, however, as results often take longer to see and audience sizes and purchasing funnels are very different from B2C scenarios. “For B2B companies, people don’t tend to go directly to your website and buy software or service. This purchasing process can involve many people and departments, which could take up to months from start to end. For this reason, you should set your expectations realistically in terms of timeline and performance. According to analysts at Convince and Convert, B2C results can be expected as quickly as 30 days, while B2B results can take at least 6 months,’ says Kevin Creusy on Upfluence.

“People do business with people; always have, always will. Whether you sell direct-to-consumer or B2B – people buy from people,” says Heslop. Putting a human face and voice to your brand is always a good idea. 

How to use the influence you already have

Upfluence doesn’t think you should eschew using influencers if you don’t have a big budget. There are ways to harness that sort of powerful word-of-mouth marketing without tons of cash to put behind it. But you do need to be creative and think outside the traditonal influencer box, so to speak, if your marketing budget isn’t vast.

Influential customers

One way to do this is harness the power of your current customer database! Influencers might have loyal followers, but you probably do too.  “For smaller brands a good alternative is launching a brand ambassador program by recruiting influential customers to promote their brand online. Brands can use free product sampling and VIP brand benefits to keep activation costs low,” says Upfluence.

Referral programs

Specifically for beauty spas and salons, they recommend “to start with your existing client base, by launching a client referral campaign for example. When it comes to choosing where to get their nails done or get their next spray tan, word-of-mouth marketing goes a long way to convincing new customers. A great way to combine word-of-mouth and influencer marketing is to work with influential customers and brand advocates to offer giveaways and discounts on services. Your customers are your most authentic content creators! 

Masterclasses and event promotion

Non-retail brands can work with influential make-up artists and stylists to reach a professional audience by promoting events, or masterclasses.” 

User-generated content

This gets you into the realm of user-generated content (UGC), which Director of Flo Social Lynsey Fraser calls “a gift from God.”

She says, “Seriously, you virtually don’t have to do much. Your users do all the work for you, and all you have to learn to do is leverage its potential. Followers are always eager to get recognition, particularly if they tag you in. It might pay to double-check with them before using it for advertising, but the less polished content comes across as more genuine. Brand followers related to ‘normal’ Instagram users who have trialled your products. It’s a sure way to gain trust.

Use incentives for your customers to tag your brand or leave a review in stories, Reels and newsfeed posts. Not only are you saving yourself a lot of work creating content, your users will see it as their 5-minutes of fame and either re-share and/or tag their closest friends in, expanding your reach.”

Where do influencers live?

This one is easy. The majority are on Instagram. Upfluence has found that “influencers account for up to 90% of Instagram engagement for cosmetics brands.” The original influencer channel was YouTube, which still has plenty on it, and TikTok is the latest channel, and is fast becoming the preferred platform.

Elle UK recently detailed why it thinks TikTok is becoming the new home to beauty influencers and why brands are flocking there. “As well as elevating how beauty brands can market their products online, TikTok also allows beauty influencers to connect with their followers (and potential shoppers) on a level that’s currently unmatched by Instagram and Facebook. With TikTok, you consume content by browsing your FYO (‘For Your Page’) or a hashtag: as you swipe, influencers and content creators will talk directly to you, as if you’re close friends who have swapped skincare secrets for years.”

How do you choose influencer partners?

First, keep in mind, the bigger the following, the bigger the price tag. It’s a business, influencing, and you will be hard pressed to find legitimate ones who will create and broadcast content for you in exchange for products and services, like in the aughts.

If you see a beauty influencer who aligns to your brand values, talks about stuff that is relevant to your brand and you think would be a good fit to talk about your brand, contact them. But be targeted and thoughtful in your approach. Start a database of who you want to reach out to and the progress you’re making on outreach. This will be a partnership, albeit a paid one, in the end so you want to make sure you have a plan.

Heslop says “I have personally worked with many influencers in multiple of my own product brands. What we need to understand and focus on isn’t what an influencer can do for us…but rather what we can do for them. Each individual influencer cares about different things. They of course have status and want more of it. What can we provide them that gives them status? Yes they care about money, but it’s more than that. Influencers should be treated as human beings that need to ultimately be creatively pitched and approached like you would a prospect you really want to sell to. Mass DM’s don’t work. Consider putting together a well curated, designed influencer pitch kit you send directly to them with a message personalized to them like “Hey Jamie, we want to work with you for reason 1, 2 & 3 (that is personal to them). Do your research, figure out what they care about, what food they like, color scheme, favorite sports team, anything you can find out. Now create a personalized creative approach to work with them to make them look better. When you can make someone look better and make it personal – they’ll listen.”

In the end, bringing a beauty influencer in house might be right for your brand if you have the budget and think they can produce the right content (at the right frequency) and maintain the authenticity that audiences/followers crave. If it’s not for you, don’t fret. Whether other brands talk about it or not many (many many) of them work with influencers and there are many ways for you to do it too, if you’re so inclined. You want your product to get talked about where everyone is hanging out and right now that’s on social channels (Instagram, YouTube , TikTok and Facebook) via our various screens, mainly on smartphones.

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