NEW YORK — The beauty industry is rich with opportunities to do a better job in the digital space.

That was the consensus of five leaders from major beauty firms, who shared their experiences, challenges and plans to master social media during a panel that took place on June 10 at the HBA Global Expo and Conference held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Aligning communications strategies to help trigger a spark around key campaigns and initiatives was a point made by Heather Park, director of digital media for Nars Cosmetics. She illustrated her point with two examples: the launch of Satin Lip Pencils, which tapped top pinners on Pinterest, and the debut of the Guy Bourdin-inspired line, first shown on a Snapchat message.

The use of social media in these cases demonstrates how the message should be tailored to the strength of each platform. Goals and expectations are crucial and need to be clearly identified. “If you try to accomplish too much, none of your objectives are met,” Park told the audience. “Make sure to keep an open and honest dialogue about what’s working. Never stop optimizing, never be afraid to re-assess.”

Nars’ reach has expanded dramatically, gaining more than 200 percent on Twitter and more than 800 percent on Instagram.

Nancy Trent, president of Trent & Co., a marketing communications firm, explained that the challenges with social media are that it happens in real time and news “gets old fast.” Her presentation highlighted some tweets that were topical, but perhaps too controversial, with the message to make sure you are prudent in messages. “Listening is as important, if not more important, than talking,” she said. Traditional media, Trent said, is also needed to build awareness. “No YouTube post goes viral without a mention somewhere,” she noted.

Catherine Littlefield, director of public relations for Alchimie Forever, agreed, and her remarks highlighted the importance of promoting social media campaigns with traditional media platforms. “There is value in using social media influencers who are not necessarily in your category — for example, reaching out to interior design bloggers — for a makeup campaign because they are less likely to be approached,” she said. Social media strategies have played a major role in building awareness of Alchimie Forever, including the attention chief executive officer Ada Polla has gained through blogs and articles on the Huffington Post.

Robert Ricci, chief of digital strategy and social media strategy, Marina Maher Communications, Omnicom Co., opened attendees’ eyes to what the next generation of social media will usher in. The power of digital is that it can be global, mass, personal, visual, immediate, helpful and disruptive.

Ricci told of how he was saved by a mobile pop-up shop at an airport after he realized he lacked some essential needs. He simply scanned the UPC codes and his items were waiting for him in his hotel upon his arrival. “This has tremendous applications for beauty,” he said, referring to airline restrictions, in part. Another vision for the future that can disrupt the traditional beauty business is the new Mink 3-D printer, which can duplicate any color in cosmetics form. The future of fragrance sampling, he said, could come in technology that would distribute scents via cell phones.   

Conversion from social media followers to customers is the quest for marketers. Sarah Kugelman, president and founder of Skyn Iceland, cited statistics that 90 percent of Americans have cell phones and 42 percent have tablets. Use of social media on phones, computers or tablets is translating into customers with 52 percent of marketers gaining customers via Facebook and 35 percent via Twitter. “But we shouldn’t overlook the importance of Web sites,” said Kugelman, who added her company recently relaunched its site.

She said the goal of the new site is to be very visual, offer a consistent message and provide credibility. “The digital world has made the playing field more competitive and yet more level at the same time. Smaller brands with smaller budgets can reach a million people in a way never possible before,” she said. “And many smaller brands have been early adapters, versus the larger companies that were too hesitant to take the digital world seriously.”

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