With increased consumer engagement, user-generated content and rising beauty influencers, social media is changing the way beauty brands do business.

The CEW Beauty Insider panel held Thursday evening at the Harmonie Club focused on social media and how it has disrupted traditional practices of beauty brands with the advent and proliferation of new platforms. The discussion, which was moderated by WWD Beauty Inc editor Jenny B. Fine, brought together three industry experts for insight on how they run their companies to respond and keep up with social media changes.

The panel began with presentations from each panelist starting with the cofounder and president of Tribe Dynamics, Conor Begley, who discussed how social media has changed consumer behavior. “Access to information has changed,” he said. “Now the cost to create content has dropped exponentially and it’s made the creation of products significantly more important.” He went on to explain that since information is so accessible through smartphones and social media, consumers will be more influenced by editorial content than paid advertising when making purchases.

Laura Elkins, senior vice president of global and North American marketing for MAC Cosmetics, then took the stage, discussing how important it is to have a balance between the brand and social media influence. “Protecting our brand DNA is critically important and becoming more challenging in this day because the consumer voice is becoming louder and the influencer voice has become more important,” she said. “We have to balance our brand voice, our consumer voice and the influencer voice.”

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After discussing new beauty trends started on social media, cofounder and ceo of Trendalytics, Karen Moon, explained how social media is advancing the industry. “Today the beauty industry has disruption, but consumer interest and experimentation is driving the industry forward,” she said. “There is a ton of opportunity as we think of the changing pace in innovation.” She went on to emphasize the opportunity brands have with incorporating augmented reality in the way they interact with consumers and how the category has much more room to grow.

The panel began with Fine asking the panelists how social media itself is changing. While Elkins noted that social media hasn’t hit a plateau, especially with the recent releases of Instagram Stories and Facebook Live, Moon explained that beauty executives will be looking to derive more value out of the data coming from social media. “What’s interesting is people say the fashion or beauty industry is slow, but I think what will happen is now people will pick things up faster,” she said. “It’s cool to be the first to do something and people aren’t afraid anymore.”

Fine then shifted the conversation to discuss the changes in trend cycles. Moon expressed that the length of trend cycles will most likely stay the same, but interest will drop off more rapidly as content becomes more available. Begley had a similar remark, explaining how editorial content is a driving influencer for trend cycles. “For a long time brands controlled the messaging and decided what products people should read about,” he said. “Now because editorial content is becoming more important, it’s making it harder to predict if a product will be successful.”

When discussing the power of beauty influencers, the panel agreed that authenticity and being relatable are crucial when reaching out to consumers. “Consumers are craving unbiased advice,” Elkins said. “They go to that influencer because they relate to them. It makes it relatable for the consumer, almost like [the influencer] is their friend.”

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