The Benefit Brow Collection.

For all the overused authenticity talk in marketing today, the reality is it’s what will pay dividends for brands in social.

That was the point reiterated again and again in a panel discussion and presentation Tuesday evening put on by the group Cosmetic Executive Women in Los Angeles. Executives from more than 120 brands and beauty companies gathered to hear Benefit Cosmetics vice president of U.S. Marketing Nicole Frusci, Olapic vice president of account management Jon Drennan and Tribe Dynamics cofounder and president Conor Begley pore over what has and hasn’t worked when it comes to social and beauty brands.

Executives who spend their time looking for an exact return on investment figure to attach to a single post may have difficulty doing so. Instead, success should be gauged in aggregate, the panel said.

Great products, building relationships, having others (such as influencers) telling your brand story and doing all of this in volume all help create successful social media campaigns, said Begley, whose firm helps brands refine their digital marketing strategies.

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“If you have a crappy product, it doesn’t matter how many editors you send your product to, they’re not going to talk about it,” said Begley, pointing out the keystone to any marketing campaign.

More recently, it’s the rise of the influencer and inclusivity that has become the main story around beauty companies’ social media strategies. Begley pointed to Tarte Cosmetics, which reached out to YouTuber Bunny Marie Meyer, who is not necessarily someone beauty brands may have historically chosen to collaborate with. Tarte saw the value in Meyer’s loyal following and collaborated with her on a “Swamp Queen” eye and cheek palette and other items. There’s also successes notched for Anastasia Beverly Hills, whose founder often directly responds to followers on social media, or Becca Cosmetics’ work with YouTuber Jaclyn Hill. The brand saw a surge in sales and was able to track it back to Hill, who had been chatting up some of its products to her loyal following, leading to a collaboration between the two.

“This really is about building relationships,” Begley said. “At the end of the day these [influencers] really are editors in the same way Glamour has a beauty editor.”

People are five times more dependent on content than they were five years ago, according to Drennan, making the impact of an influencer’s review that much more important when it comes to translating that into sales.

“[Social media’s] fundamentally changing how we do business,” Frusci said. “I think we can all agree it’s changed the landscape.”

The rub is really in recognizing “how a brand lives online is very different from how a person lives online,” she added.

Benefit sees more and more shoppers coming into its stores with lists based off of what they’ve seen on social, according to Frusci.

For Benefit, it’s more about scale across all marketing channels than it is about focusing on any single method. She pointed, by way of example, to the company’s release of a Snapchat national lens in conjunction with its June Brow Collection launch. Frusci called it an “incredible success,” but to directly correlate sales to that Snapchat lens would be difficult since the company was “pulling all levers” it had in its marketing arsenal.

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