According to a recent study by ShareIQ, Maybelline has seen the highest levels of engagement for a cosmetics brand across visual social media platforms so far this year. 

It has generated nearly 60m likes on Instagram, which is 49x the amount of rival brand Revlon. Meanwhile, Maybelline now has over 100,000 followers on Pinterest, while brands like Estee Lauder and CoverGirl are trailing behind with an average of 60,000.

So what’s behind Maybelline’s success on social? Here’s a deep-dive into its strategy, and how it has mastered the art of visual content.

1. Digital influencers become brand ambassadors

While influencer marketing is now commonplace for cosmetics brands, Maybelline has gone one step further by embracing the new trend for using influencers as brand ambassadors.

Instead of merely paying them to post content on Instagram, this involves featuring influencers in campaigns on a mainstream scale and across multiple channels. 

This shows the extent to which influencers have infiltrated the industry, with beauty brands capitalising on the authenticity and credibility of make-up bloggers and vloggers. Alongside this, Maybelline also uses influencers to expand its focus on diversity. Earlier this year, it enlisted Manny Gutierrez (or ‘Manny MUA’) as its first-ever male brand ambassador, capitalising on his 3m Instagram followers and 2.1m YouTube subscribers.

To mark the campaign, it released two commercials on its YouTube channel, with each one generating over 8.3m views. 

Similarly, influencer content continually drives engagement on Instagram, with the brand also reaping the benefits of the influencers' large and active audiences. Model Adriana Lima often posts using the hashtag #maybellinegirls, with one post in particular generating 290,000 engagements.

2. Hyping product-releases

As well as using influencer-driven content for continual engagement, Maybelline also uses visual platforms to create spikes of interest in the lead up to new product releases. 

It recently launched a new make-up range in collaboration with Gigi Hadid – a partnership that in itself is sure to generate interest. However, with the hashtag #GigixMaybelline, it has cleverly built up anticipation for the launch, with Gigi dedicating the majority of her entire Instagram to it for the month of October.

Maybelline is particularly focused on making platforms like Instagram a place for interaction and involvement. While the platform can offer a largely passive user experience (with some users simply scrolling rather than ever stopping to like or comment), the brand often asks questions or encourages followers to tag friends in order to prompt real engagement.

3. Creating platform-specific content

With Instagram offering up huge potential for reach, many beauty brands fail to utilise other platforms like Pinterest or Facebook, or if they do, roll out the same or similar content.

In contrast, Maybelline takes a channel-specific approach, creating high quality and bespoke content for various different platforms. On Pinterest, it uses visual content to deliver helpful and informative tips and make-up how-to’s, with its ‘Get the Look’ feature proving popular.

It takes a more entertaining approach elsewhere, creating a challenge-themed series with influencer NikkieTutorials specifically for YouTube. This allows the brand to reach consumers looking for this kind of content online, giving them a reason to subscribe and return.

Of course, YouTube is another hotbed for influencer engagement, which is why Maybelline previously focused on the platform for its Nudes Palette campaign. It worked with 13 beauty vloggers to roll out content, plus enlisted a number of models to star in a short video made by Vice's fashion culture magazine, i-D.

Data from Google suggests that the campaign was a success. It resulted in a 2.4x to 2.9x lift in brand awareness, with the initial i-D trailer garnering more than 1.8m views, and an average play-through of 54%. Meanwhile, the 13 YouTube vloggers are said to have accounted for 58% of overall watch time for the entire campaign.

Not only does this prove the benefits of visual content in general, but also how a platform-specific approach can yield the best results.

4. Putting consumers centre stage 

Finally, Maybelline ensures the cycle of engagement continues by involving its online audience as much as possible, particularly encouraging user-generated content. One way it does this is by sending out free samples of its products to consumers in order to encourage them to post reviews or product-related content on social media.

These consumers do not always have a large online presence, which means they don’t necessarily count as ‘influencers’. Maybelline recognises the power of everyday consumers in this sense, specifically when it comes to promoting the brand to a larger audience. While influencers can promote the glossier, perhaps slightly more high-end aspects of the brand, user-generated content tends to be more authentic, showing others that it can be accessible and affordable for everyone.

Maybelline largely creates this type of content via brand-related hashtags, which it also sets up in relation to events and occasions. For example, during New York fashion week and BeautyCon (a festival-type event for brands and beauty fans), it uses #MNYFashionWeek and #MNYBeautyCon – with the now-recognisable formula being repeated by online users. 

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 2 November, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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