By implementing a new, beauty-focused team, Instagram is ensuring it will continue to play an integral role in the lifestyles of its users.
On April 30, the social media platform, which boasts over 800 million users worldwide, hired Kristie Dash, previously on the fashion partnerships team, as its beauty partnerships team lead. The timing is right: The beauty industry is booming, reportedly worth $445 billion and growing at a rate of 6.4 percent per year.
According to an Instagram spokesperson, the beauty partnerships team will operate much the same as the fashion partnerships team, which provides a resource for the fashion community to learn about Instagram’s best practices and new features, and delivers product feedback from the community back to the company’s developers.
In her new role, Dash will focus on the platform’s relationship with beauty brands and hair and makeup artists, many of whom — like celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin — have become stars in their own right. At the same time, she will need to consider the industry’s biggest challenges, including the saturation of the influencer economy, lightning-fast changes to consumer trends, and federal advertising and disclosure guidelines.
There’s little question about how critical Instagram is for beauty brands and influencers in terms of reaching shoppers. Beyond marketing, the platform influences how beauty brands approach product development: They look at what’s trending on the platform and translate that into new product formulations and aesthetically relevant packaging. The platform has helped brands like Anastasia Beverly Hills and ColourPop see explosive growth. And of course, Instagram inspires a vast amount of beauty purchases (even before the platform rolled out in-app shopping features).
Blue Wheel Media, a digital marketing agency that has carved out a niche in the cosmetics and luxury skin-care spaces, began focusing on Instagram’s role in the beauty space in late 2014. Today, Jonathan McGraw, the company’s director of strategy and planning, calls it the “most important platform” for any beauty brand.
McGraw said influencer marketing is one of the keys to growing a brand on Instagram, but Blue Wheel Media is wary of dilution, when it comes to influencers hawking products on the platform. “It’s difficult to trust a skin-care influencer who says, ‘This is the only product I use,’ but when you look at their body of work, you see seven or eight different brands. Authenticity from influencers is a big issue right now.”
He said that will contribute to an eventual tipping point in the beauty influencer economy, about two to three years down the line. At that point, it will be necessary to enforce advertising regulations.
In the meantime, industry giants like Sephora (which has more than 14 million Instagram followers) are continuing to focus on how they can leverage Instagram for sales. In December 2016, Sephora launched an in-house content studio in Los Angeles for video production, photo shoots and hosting media and influencers, said Sephora’s svp of marketing, Deborah Yeh. As a result, Sephora produced almost 90 percent more videos for social media in 2017 than in 2016, totaling nearly 400 for the year.
The intention is to keep up with ever-shifting consumer interests, Yeh said in an email.
“One of the biggest challenges is fueling the content demand for our mobile-first clients, whose social behaviors and beauty interests are constantly evolving,” she said. “To stay relevant, act as a source of inspiration and a place of learning, and produce top-quality content, we must be committed to modernizing our means of staying connected to clients, partners and collaborators in an authentic way.”
Along with duties like making sure brands and influencers abide by Federal Trade Commission guidelines for disclosing paid partnerships, which the fashion team must also address, Dash will need to contend with users’ increasing safety concerns surrounding beauty content.
Danielle Gray, a fashion and beauty micro-influencer who uses Instagram to share her content, said she, for one, worries about the kind of health and beauty information accounts share on the platform. She said she recently watched a do-it-yourself skin-care video by an influencer that encouraged women to lighten the color of their vulvas using kitchen ingredients. The featured influencer has millions of followers, and the post seemed dangerous to Gray, who noted that instances of non-FDA-approved beauty solutions make their way onto Instagram daily.
“Young girls and older women who don’t know any better might follow that information,” she said. “I don’t know if Instagram can police that, but maybe they have a tool that offers a disclosure to consult a physician first, or something that regulates the kind of advice and information that’s out there.”
Instagram’s beauty partnerships team might be new, but its to-do list is already long.