How to Build an Influencer Marketing Community
IMAGE Skincare is a global skincare brand that is known for its proven ingredients, smart botanicals, and results-first technology. Similar to other skincare brands, IMAGE has been able to tap into the power of influencer marketing to build an influencer community that created sales.
However, influencer marketing has been around long enough to evolve several times over (think mommy bloggers, YouTube beauty gurus, TikTok dancers). Now the big focus for most brands? Community. More specifically, how do you build a loyal influencer community that can drive long term impact?
In the article below, Linda Popowytsch, director of social media, influencer, and PR, shares how IMAGE Skincare built a loyal and impactful influencer community, and provides some tips for brands who want to do the same.
Find influencers in your niche and embed them in your brand
“The term ‘influencer’ can mean so many things. There are many marketers that are constantly adapting who is influential for their brand. At IMAGE Skincare we determine who is influential by focusing on who is aspirational for our customers.” — Linda Popowytsch, director of social media, influencer, and PR at IMAGE Skincare
Influencers have the potential to be incredible brand ambassadors and advocates, but finding the right niche can be difficult. IMAGE Skincare is unique in that its niche influencer community has been ingrained in the brand since inception. Their founder, Janna Ronert, is an esthetician who is deeply connected in the skin professional industry. Not only has she drawn inspiration and loyalty from the esthetician community, many in the community now partner with the brand as influencers.
So what are some of Popowytsch’s biggest tips for finding and leveraging your niche community?
Start with your values. Sometimes finding your influencer niche is as simple as defining the core principles of your brand! IMAGE Skincare has been successful because they hold true to two main values: education and science. These values not only drew organic love from licensed skin professionals, it created a clear vision of which niche community would make good partners.
Conduct community research. IMAGE Skincare takes its partnership with the esthetician community beyond influencer marketing. The brand has a long history of involving estheticians in their product creation process. They regularly check in with their esthetician community and ask for feedback — this builds trust, but also makes sure there is true product affinity. IMAGE is in good company with this strategy! Walmart and P&G also did this when they launched their Gen Z hair care brand, NOU. Before launching their product line they gathered a panel of Gen Zers and asked them what they wanted from hair care — this resulted in some new findings (e.g. Gen Z cares about hair porosity), and a unique product line!
Find influencers with data
“We are data focused when it comes to working with influencers! While we use a variety of different measurements to gauge performance and success, engagements are our primary identifier.” — Linda Popowytsch, director of social media, influencer, and PR at IMAGE Skincare
Even if you have a niche community selected, there is still some amount of influencer vetting that takes place. How do you find the folks in that community that will perform best?
IMAGE Skincare always starts with data.
Popowytsch and her team analyze past performance of potential partners, with a specific focus on engagement rates. By focusing on engagement rates — instead of total engagements or video views — they are able to identify folks that create compelling content, regardless of their audience size. In fact, this is how the brand discovered that estheticians with “smaller” followings (nano, micro, macro) make powerful partners.
This is not something that is unique to the esthetician community! In Traackr’s recent Influencer Marketing Impact Report, data shows that nano and micro influencers are posting more and seeing improved results this year.
However, IMAGE Skincare doesn’t stop at engagement rates. Popowytsch and her team also conduct content “audits”, making sure that each esthetician and influencer fits well with the brand’s messaging and tone. More specifically, they use the quality of comment on potential partner’s posts as soft data points. What’s the sentiment from the audience? Are they just commenting emojis or are they discussing the products in the post? Is it a discussion or just a string of single commenters?
Focus on consistent influencer connections
“Behind the scenes work is incredibly important! A lot of marketers get caught up in creating big public campaigns, but there’s actually a lot of important foundational work that happens behind closed doors.” — Linda Popowytsch, director of social media, influencer, and PR at IMAGE Skincare
Influencer marketing may have started as a flashy, attention grabbing tactic where brands partnered with celebrities to get 15 minutes of fame. But now, influencer marketing is a lot more complex — there are a plethora of ways to succeed at many different goals.
When it comes to creating content campaigns with niche influencer partners, IMAGE Skincare has found that it’s better to prioritize connection and consistency over splashy moments.
For traditional influencer marketing campaigns, IMAGE Skincare achieves connection and consistency through evergreen content. For example, the brand has an evergreen campaign called “Esty Besty”, where consumers are encouraged to ask their estheticians any and all questions. The goal of this campaign is to break down barriers between estheticians and their clients — there are no bad questions!
To inspire connection on a deeper, community level, IMAGE Skincare also hosts a private Facebook group for estheticians. The brand hosts and moderates an esthetician Facebook group that inspires conversation and feedback. What are they loving? What do they want? What are some cool tips and tricks of the trade? Not only does this help Popowytsch and her team stay dialed in to their esthetician community, the conversations that take place within the group inspire marketing material, campaigns, products, and more! This community-style forum has worked so well that a few other Facebook groups have popped up that are moderated by professionals.
Tip: Community has been earmarked by some reporters as the next area of focus for influencers. Instead of chasing follower counts, they’ll be looking to create intimate community experiences. If your brand is able to help facilitate this, you might attract some great partners!
How IMAGE Skincare’s strategy paid off
The impact that IMAGE Skincare has seen from this niche community/influencer marketing strategy is quite impressive. Their approach to data, creative thinking, and strong vision has led to noticeable improvements across the funnel.
- Brand awareness. Estheticians now make up the majority of IMAGE Skincare’s social community! While there are less estheticians than influencers in their influencer marketing program, they still pack a big punch. Estheticians alone have driven over 60% of IMAGE Skincare’s share of voice in the past year!
- Brand engagement. On average, esthetician creator content performs 46% better (in engagements and video views) than non-esthetician content, and 43% better than owned content.
- Conversions and sales. Image Skincare has seen upwards of an 8% conversion rate on ad creative that features estheticians. They are also seeing incredible traction with estheticians driving discount code purchases! Since the start of 2022, the brand’s discount code campaign with estheticians has seen higher revenue, on average, compared to campaigns using non-professionals. Their top performing esthetician is driving a ROAS of 27 year-to-date! They also employ quite a few estheticians as affiliates. One of their top performing esthetician affiliates drives an average order value (AOV) that is 10% higher than that of their site benchmark.
If you want to stay up to date on the amazing work that the IMAGE Skincare team is doing, follow them on Instagram at @imageskincare! If you’re curious to learn more about influencer marketing best practices from industry experts, subscribe to our newsletter.