That social media drives beauty trends isn’t news, but this year, the online conversation was dominated largely by independent beauty brands.
“It’s had a tremendous impact on the beauty landscape and what consumers are gravitating towards,” said Helene Heath, a senior editor at visual intelligence platform Dash Hudson. “It’s given everyone a voice in an industry where word of mouth is vital for product discovery.”
A Facebook report published earlier this year found that mentions of “beauty” on the platform had increased by 18 percent from the year prior, alongside a 20 percent increase in mentions of makeup and a 16 percent increase in mentions of skin care.
And consumers weren’t just chatting online, they were buying, too: 45 percent of beauty shoppers told Facebook that their mobile device was also their most important shopping tool for the category. Even when they did opt to buy in store, the majority of shoppers (72 percent) consulted social media first.
As for what was trending? Skin-care products (from face oils to masks), facial cosmetics like foundation, eyeshadow palettes, liquid lipsticks and dry shampoo, according to recent research from the product discovery and reviews platform Influenster.
“Skin care, in general, has exploded, thanks to authoritative voices on social media spreading the good word with either trendy ‘top shelf’ style posts,” in which people open up their beauty cabinets to followers, or beauty routine-themed videos, said Heath. Masks, she said, have also experienced a renaissance, thanks to their uber-Instagrammable nature.
This conversation was capitalized on particularly well by social media–savvy beauty brands, like Colourpop and Glossier — both part of the independent beauty category, which saw an increase in sales of 43 percent last year, according to The NPD Group.
These younger brands implement engaging video ads on Instagram (often evoking tutorials), partner up with influencers, crowdsource new product ideas and send new launches to beauty bloggers for use in their YouTube series. There are more than 30,600 Glossier “unboxing” videos on YouTube, for example, with some garnering views into the millions.
As a result, these brands are garnering more earned media value than the majority of their older peers.
Anastasia Beverly Hills, also in the independent segment, topped TribeDynamics’ earned media value report this October, scoring a value of $92.7 million from Instagram alone. MAC — which, though owned by Estée Lauder, has a robust influencer collaboration strategy — and NYX Cosmetics followed directly behind, earning $79.7 million and $62.7 million across platforms, respectively.
Ouai, the hair-care brand launched by celebrity stylist Jen Atkin, made the 10th spot on the list, recording $2 million in earned media value. Of that, $105,700 came from the influencer Brittany Xavier, who posted several times on Instagram about the brand’s products during Paris Fashion Week.
The influence of other social media celebrities in the category certainly didn’t wane this year.
Discussions around Kylie Cosmetics increased by 8 times since 2016, while those around Jeffree Starr’s products increased by 5.6 times, according to Influenster. “A brand or item can spread like wildfire after being featured in engaging content produced by an influential social star,” said Heath.
Some older companies are taking note.
When Neiman Marcus began planning its Trending Beauty shop-in-shop, which debuted in November, it assembled a “task force” of on-staff millennials to source products from social media. The result included products by independent brands Ouai, RMS Beauty and Sunday Riley.
Millennials are used to doing their research, often seeking out product reviews on social media or comparison shopping before committing to any one item. According to Influenster, 71 percent of its users have purchased a product because of a review.
Alongside reviews, shoppers are also using social media to voice their demands for the beauty industry, said Heath, especially when it concerns a lack of inclusivity. Rihanna’s impressive launch of Fenty Beauty, which boasted 40 different foundation shades, is a direct result of that noise, she said, as was Milk Makeup’s “Blur the Line” campaign celebrating genderless beauty.
“Social media is a hotbed of free consumer research,” said Heath. “It’s where the trends live and where consumers go for discovery, and brands can really capitalize on that.”