In the space of just a couple of years, social media has changed the way that many companies are doing business. Cosmetic and toiletries companies were initially slow to recognise the importance of social media, but many are realising how influential it can be for their brands. Imogen Matthews, consultant to in-cosmetics, looks at what has changed and how social media can be used to create brand awareness and grow sales.
Before social media, brands would rely on traditional methods to engage with customers, which could be costly and often not particularly effective. Although above the line media, including TV and print advertising, are still widely used, smart brands are spreading their budgets online to ensure that they reach those likely to buy their products. An increasingly large part of their marketing budgets are dedicated to growing an online presence through social networking sites such as Twitter, You Tube and Facebook, which play an important part in a consumer’s journey in discovering product.
According to Sean Singleton, group managing director of Skive Group, who talked on social media at this year’s in-cosmetics show in Milan, recent statistics show there are some 200m blogs and 95,000 beauty blogs, with 35-49 year old women proving to be the fastest growing group in the blogosphere.
Estée Lauder Companies employs social media across its portfolio of brands, such as Bobbi Brown, which uses Twitter to provide tips and advice to its followers in real time. Twitter is also used for two-way communication and can give valuable feedback which can be implemented in product development and how to improve products. According to Estée Lauder, social media is delivering in the top five traffic sources for every one of its brands and social media consistently over-indexes in terms of sales conversions.
Alex Moscow*, managing director, 9mm Public Relations, believes that like any marketing strategy, companies must know who they want to target, where they hang out and what they want from you. “The key to the success of any social media campaign is the distribution of valuable content,” he explains. “These are not sales channels. You want to build relationships. Before starting any activity, monitor your target audience and identify what is important to them and how you can join in their conversations. See how you can add value to them as this is an opportunity to immerse your customer in your brand. Help them to experience it in a way that traditional marketing could never do.”
Moscow warns that building a network of fans is worthless unless those fans are active. “The goal may be to sign them up to a newsletter, gain feedback for current products or to test new ones. Whatever it is, the goal should be defined first and foremost.”
This means that brands need to concentrate on the social media channels that offer the best route to their customers. Moscow points out that the way people use Twitter is very different from Facebook and that Facebook usage is very different from LinkedIn. “Brands should have a strategy for each,” he advises.
Importance of bloggers
Beauty blogs feature very highly in Google searches, meaning that in product searches, consumers are likely to find blog reviews on the first couple of pages of results. This can have a significant impact on their purchasing decision, particularly if a product is rated by influential beauty bloggers with a good review sending sales soaring. According to research analysts mymarketmonitor, there are over 8,000 English language blogs dedicated to beauty globally. Their research shows that blogs globally account for over 45% of all online beauty conversations.
Google ranks blogger reviews highly, so if someone is searching for product information online, they can read reviews of people’s real opinions, rather than a generic write up in a magazine. A good blogger is not afraid to offer honest opinions based on having tried the product with pictures of how it looks on the skin or hair.
Moscow believes that the blog should be the focal point of any social media strategy and that channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn should be used to motivate people towards it. “Like the other channels, the blog should not be used as a hard sales tool. It should make people feel valued by the brand and offer content that benefits their lives in some way.” He points out that if Facebook were to close down tomorrow, that all the hard work would disappear with it. “You own your blog. You can therefore set it up to do whatever you want and own all of the data that you generate from it.”
Magazines and social media
The growth in influential blogs is putting print media under pressure. According to mymarketmonitor, younger women are no longer reading magazines but are picking up information on beauty products through blogs. Magazines have had to sharpen up and many are now adding a blog section to their websites as well as incorporating buttons into each web page to allow consumers to share comments on Facebook and Twitter.
One of the questions frequently asked by newcomers to social media is how can they find quality connections. Moscow suggests the following:
• Contact your best customers, find out what they want from a social media relationship and build it for them. Invite them to be the first members and incentivise them to bring their friends.
• Get onto the shop floor and do the same as above. The first stages of any social media planning should be a research phase. You want to find out what customers want from you and what will keep them coming back for more.
• Look at what other brands are doing, not necessarily your competitors, but any brand that attracts a similar type of customer. Build an understanding of what makes their social media presence a success.
* Alex Moscow will participate at in-cosmetics' 2012 marketing trends presentations, taking place in Barcelona on 17-19 April.
Published in COSSMA magazine, http://www.cossma.com