Walgreens’ in-house, natural skin-care brand Botanics is taking a homegrown approach to its Instagram account by relying heavily on user-generated content.

Botanics, which debuted in 2016 in select stores before expanding to all U.S. stores at the end of 2017, has over 25,000 followers between its U.S. and U.K. Instagram accounts. Currently, it relies on user-generated content (UGC) to supplement 50 percent of its posts, with the other 50 percent created by the brand, according to Walgreens. And it’s seeing great engagement — around 8.2 percent — compared to the typical 1 to 2 percent that most brands and influencers experience. As a beauty brand with a small following, UGC allows Botanics to connect closely with its customers in a  more authentic way, resulting in consumers engaging more.

Instagram’s beauty fan community has swelled to roughly 200 million people, and over 25 percent of its global audience follows at least one makeup account. This has driven beauty brands to find novel ways to create custom content and find budding influencers in their own backyards. Dior and Chanel have created their own dedicated Instagram accounts for UGC, while Benefit ran a competition in June to incubate its own influencers and form long-lasting partnerships with them.

“Influencers are still relevant because they represent the new media buy, but they will end up being like traditional print magazines, because [for a brand] it’s like buying a media placement on someone’s social channel,” said Amber Atherton, founder and CEO of Zyper, the startup that worked with Botanics to identify and create its UGC to feature on its own channel.

To generate a consistent flow of usable UGC, Botanics first had to identify its fan base. By working with Zyper, Botanics found (what it considers) its No. 1 fans, based on who was talking about and sharing the brand on Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Whatsapp — the social media followings of these fans were not considered. These users were then invited to join a fan community on the Zyper app, where they have access to tiered rewards for creating content like videos or photos of themselves using a product. Botanics fans can unlock prizes such as access to a new product or tickets to an event like U.K. music festival Bestival. So far, Botanics has found 350 fans since it began working with Zyper in the third quarter of 2017.

But aside from simply churning out content, Botanics is hoping to define its brand aesthetic by using UGC. Botanics has identified “subcultures,” based on tags its customers frequently use in their everyday social media posts, according to Atherton. They include #thehappynow for expressions of joy, #thatsdarling for posts with pastel color schemes and cozy vibes, and #passionpassport for travel photos. By finding out who its customers are outside of using Botanics, the brand is hoping to refine the lifestyle perception the brand evokes and then promote that to the public to differentiate and be seen as more authentic.

“It’s what’s happened with Glossier,” Atherton said. “They put out a certain aesthetic, and customers wanted to replicate that. Botanics is determining [its] aesthetic, and placing it into social channels with UGC so [that other] customers will want to represent it,” Atherton said.

By honing in on its customers’ tastes, Botanics is ultimately curating its feed to identify and feel more relatable to fans; it’s even gone so far as to refine its product packaging for a new facial oil product to fit within the specific minimalist but feminine aesthetic that is popular among fans, based on subcultures they belong to. In this case, UGC has helped the beauty brand evolve its story. Moving forward, Botanics plans to scale its community up to 1,000 people and add more fans from the U.S. throughout 2019, according to the brand.

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