Jasmine Brown

Influencers have earned their title.

No matter how slick social-media spots by beauty brands are getting, a new study by video advertising technology firm Pixability provides evidence that brand-generated digital content is falling behind the content produced by individual creators. The study, called “Digital Makeover: The Social Video Beauty Ecosystem,” found beauty brands commanded a mere 2.6 percent of the beauty conversation on YouTube this year, down from 4.6 percent last year, and 86 percent of the top 200 beauty YouTube videos are produced by creators.

This story first appeared in the September 29, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Creators have dominated this space, and that continues to be true, and what I think is interesting is that brands have lost their share of voice year-over-year,” said Jackie Swansburg Paulino, vice president of customer success at Pixability. “This is not just because of the growth of the top creators, but YouTube is so accessible to everyone. Everyone can make a beauty tutorial and everyone sort of is, and brands need to pay to play to be part of that world.”

Digital influencers that have reigned for a while over beauty topics on social media remain prominent. By YouTube views, Michelle Phan, Rachel Levin, Bunny Meyer, Promise Tamang Phan, Bethany Mota, Mindy McKnight, Zoe Elizabeth Sugg, Lindy Tsang, Carli Bybel and Sandi Crystal Ball are the 10 most-watched beauty influencers so far in 2016. The 10 beauty creators that have notched the most growth in subscriber bases of late are Jasmine Brown, Stef Sanjati, Cristine Rotenberg, Jordan Hanz, Charlotte Letitia Crosby, Nikki Perkins, Kitti Milkgore, Natalie Alz, Ellie Kodia and Gabriella Demartino.

“Michelle Phan has been the queen of beauty and maintains that crown. She is still holding on for number of views, but she’s been unseated for subscribers, which is interesting. There are definitely people who are coming on the scene growing really fast, but the top people still seem to be maintaining that top 20 or top 10 ranking,” said Swansburg Paulino. “The creators who are growing the fastest are growing over 400 to 500 percent year-over-year and the top brands are growing 30 to 40 percent. There is a huge difference.”

Beauty buffs on social media are apparently makeup tutorial junkies. Makeup tutorial videos are responsible for 68.5 percent of the views recorded for the top 200 beauty videos, up from 45 percent last year. Trailing behind makeup tutorials in terms of share of views are commercials (7 percent share), branding videos (7 percent), beauty tips (5 percent), routines (4.5 percent), vlogs (3 percent), product demos (2 percent), and the rest (3 percent), including video fare focused on reviews and men’s grooming.

Even as Snapchat ascends, YouTube’s stranglehold on beauty hasn’t ebbed. On the video platform, Pixability calculated total beauty views soared 65 percent year-over-year. The YouTube beauty audience is three-quarters female, and females aged 13 to 24 account for nearly half of it. “The beauty space continues to be one of the most dynamic on YouTube, with a sophisticated and influential creator community and a massive — and constantly diversifying — amount of brand-owned and user-generated content,” the firm stated in its study, adding, “While other social video platforms are investing heavily to lure top creators onto their platforms, the loyal…subscribership that creators enjoy on YouTube cannot yet be beat.”

Pixability pointed to skin care as a promising category for video content. Though it follows cosmetics and hair in racking up video views, skin care has achieved the highest year-over-year growth rate for views at 96 percent. Views of videos centered upon cosmetics climbed 82 percent and views of hair-oriented videos gained 42 percent. Pixability also highlighted mature beauty, men’s grooming, natural beauty and social causes as subject matters ripe for video content.

“Skin care is becoming more important because the creators who are really big and have become really famous on YouTube are getting older, so skin care is becoming more important to them,” said Swansburg Paulino. “People who watched YouTube starting in their teens are also getting into their 20s and 30s, and are realizing that skin care is gaining in importance. They are not just interested in the next smoky eye tutorial.”