To find their voice on YouTube, beauty brands need a lot of outside help.
Influencers have a much easier time making a connection with viewers who are searching the platform for tutorials and reviews of beauty products. As a result, brands have latched on to these “creators” — regular people — who pull in hundreds of thousands of video views without paid advertising.
Without them brands struggle to be heard. In the past year, while the number of beauty-related videos created on YouTube increased by 200 percent to 3.2 billion, and views increased by 65 percent to 125 billion, beauty brands’ share of voice decreased, from 5 percent in 2015 to 3 percent, according to a new social beauty report released by video advertising technology company Pixability.
While a bursting of the influencer bubble is often predicted, the creators in the beauty space have shown no sign of slowing down. Pixability data found that of the 200 most-viewed beauty videos on YouTube, 86 percent of them were made by influencers, while 14 percent were made by beauty brands. That wide gap persists when it comes to engagement, as the top influencer videos saw a total 22 million engagements, while brand videos got 1 million.
With beauty influencers an industry mainstay, brands are evolving their strategies to figure out how to work best with the creators who command the majority of the audience watching makeup tutorials. To do so, they have to respond to YouTube’s current beauty category climate. Here’s what’s new in the state of beauty influencers.
YouTube is pay-to-play
Brands need to shell out to reach an audience on YouTube, which has become a pay-to-play platform, akin to Facebook. Influencers dominate organic reach: Bethany Mota, for instance, sees 800 million YouTube views without any paid advertising, and 65 percent of first-page YouTube beauty-related search results aren’t brand content. Brands, meanwhile, have to put money behind True View ads in order to gain significant traction, in order to data from L2.
That awareness play can be powerful. L2 found that 23 percent of beauty customers reported that YouTube is important to their purchase decisions.
Top influencers are practically celebrities — and very expensive
When working with brands, Pixability has found that fewer are now focused on working with top influencers, instead looking to partner with new creators with more niche audiences.
“Brands used to be interested in the biggest influencers,” said Jackie Swansburg Paulino, vp of customer success at Pixability. “Now, rather than who’s on top, they want to know what’s trending and who’s new. That impact is starting to become really important to brands.”
The reason: the biggest influencers have amassed followings so big, they’re on par with celebrities. According to Forbes, top beauty YouTube stars Zoella, Bethany Mota and Michelle Phan pull in around $40,000 per month in advertising alone. Middle-tier influencers are more affordable to work with, are often times younger with younger audiences, and have often built their personal brands around niche topics that help consumer brands determine who makes sense to partner with.
The branded influencer channel is growing
In trying to become influencers in their own right, brands are creating separate YouTube channels, outside of their brand-name channels, and recruiting influencers to create content for them. Estée Lauder’s channel “i love makeup.” is an example of the branded influencer channel, and has more subscribers and views than the main Estée Lauder channel: 541,800 compared to 28,800. L’Oréal’s “Destination Beauty” channel similarly sees more subscribers: 136,000 compared to 73,000.
Disclosure can still get murky
Pixability found that brands are frequently combining their work with influencers into both an organic and paid strategy by repurposing videos. In order to get the most reach, a brand will work with an influencer to host sponsored content on the influencer’s channel, as well as host that same video content on their own channels, in hopes that they’ll get traffic from the influencer. Finally, they’ll run the video as True View ads.
This video, by YouTuber AlyssaForever (941,000 subscribers) appeared both on her channel and on Maybelline’s, under the “Beauty Gurus” category.
“A seasoned brand like Maybelline will partner with these creators, and use that content on the creator channel, the brand channel and as a True View ad,” said Swansburg Paulino. “It becomes both an organic and paid strategy.”
That can create confusion around what content influencers are being paid for, but Swansburg Paulino said recent FTC crackdowns around sponsored celebrity and influencer posts have led to influencers becoming more transparent, as well as more selective when partnering with brands that actually fit their daily routines.
Men’s grooming and skincare videos are on the rise
In a saturated industry, beauty brands are constantly on the hunt for the next up-and-coming tutorial trend, where they can gain more traction. Tutorials still dominate beauty content on YouTube, and they’re only getting bigger: 68 percent of beauty videos were categorized as tutorials last year, compared to 45 percent the year prior.
The biggest growth area found by Pixability were men’s grooming and skincare.
“There’s a big paradigm shift happening,” said Jenifer Ekstein, consultant at branding agency Vivaldi. “It used to be that grooming and skincare for men were not as talked about so there was a lack of knowledge about it to most men and lack of products out there. But with tutorials becoming so popular, men are able to learn about products and how to use them, so they may not be as overwhelmed when walking into a store to buy them.”