In this post, GlobalWebIndex's Senior Trends Analyst, Katie Young discusses how beauty and personal care brands can maximise their use of social to gain traction with the right audiences and stand out online.

The beauty and personal care sector is crowded and highly competitive. In today’s digital environment brands need to be omnipresent, reaching potential customers at as many points of the purchase journey as possible. But how should personal care and beauty brands expand their digital presence to stand out from the rest?

Leverage User-Generated Content on Social
Tapping into the power of user-generated content by arming customers with hashtags has become key for many beauty and personal care brands. Social remains the origin of much of this content, particularly Instagram where customers often go to post honest reviews and visuals of themselves interacting with a product. Beauty brand Glossier cites this content as a main reason behind its growing success, with a loyal and engaged fanbase who echo its message to their followers. Glossier regularly shares these posts across Instagram and the power of this user-generated content has even shaped the way the brand thinks about product design; it’s started creating packaging and labels that help products look good when their customers photograph them.

As well as sharing content from fans, brands need to encourage followers to share theirs back. The key is to craft engaging social content that is shareable and interesting, rather than just focusing on promoting products. Get it right and brands could get a big boost to their social messages and expand their reach. According to our research, over a quarter of Personal Care Buyers have visited a brand’s social network page in the last month and they’re about 15% more likely than average to be sharing branded social posts.

Employ Influencers Carefully
Influencer marketing has become a marketer’s hot go-to strategy. Beauty and personal care brands are among the heaviest investors in this, attracted by the opportunity to amplify their content and organically build new relationships. In our research 6 in 10 Personal Care Buyers are using social media to keep up with celebrities, and are following actors, comedians, singers or TV presenters. And with this audience more likely than average to discover new brands via celebrity endorsements, there’s certainly the potential to spread brand awareness via influencers.

There’s a balance to be made with influencer marketing, though. The space is becoming more and more saturated and influencers are not always authentic, running the risk of disengaging followers. Brands need to be smart, focusing on sincerity and building long-term relationships only with those who fit with their messaging. Part of the reason why L’Oréal has seen success here is because its ‘Beauty Squad’ is made up with micro-influencers, and by allowing these women to critique the products they aren’t happy with, the content appears authentic and believable.

Take AR Seriously
Beauty brands have brought augmented reality from an interesting idea to an effective marketing tool on mobile. For beauty, AR is a strategy that makes complete sense; it can allow customers to ‘try on’ different looks and virtually test out make up before purchasing. And it’s set to become even bigger as the tech becomes embedded in phones. With Apple’s iPhone X being created with augmented reality in mind, one of the world’s most innovative mobile brands clearly sees a future in this kind of tech. Brands need to get on board with the tech sooner rather than later to get ahead of the curve here.

Two examples of brands who have seized the power of this form of marketing are L’Oréal and Benefit. L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app allows customers to virtually test out makeup before purchasing, while Benefit details how users should shape their brows by virtually transforming users’ brows in pictures, to promote its brow-shaping products and services.

In such a competitive and saturated market, there’s no forgetting the importance of more traditional channels like print and TV advertising, but simply pushing out promotional content is not going to set brands apart in this competitive sector. Rather, it’s also about creating engaging content and services that add value to a consumer’s experience – whether that’s via inspirational and positive social campaigns, or simply by saving their time searching for a certain make up shade in store.