Sara Lee and Jenn Im

In a saturated beauty market, brands often turn to social media to convey their message.

Sarah Lee, who is cofounder of Korean skincare brand Glow Recipe, and Jenn Im, founder of video blog Clothes Encounters, discussed the practice of brands partnering with influencers from both sides of the equation with WWD West Coast beauty editor Rachel Brown.

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“I need to partner with influencers who convey an unedited and un-staged message,” Lee said. “Korean beauty works for all women, and I needed to speak to what it did for the skin and the whys and hows, and that led to conversion.”

She added that in the evolving social media landscape, the concept of “let me show you or tell you” has become “watch me,” and now with platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook Live, it has become “join me.” “It’s a really smart and efficient way for brands to get closer to viewers and followers,” Lee said.

She found that when choosing the best influencer, often a large following doesn’t mean the influencer can offer extensive engagement or knowledge.

Im, who creates videos with style and beauty content, has found that although it can be tough to juggle multiple platforms, it’s up to the vlogger to prioritize what works best. For her, YouTube is the best way to engage, followed by Instagram and most recently, Facebook Live. “People are lazy and they don’t like reading,” she said.

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Im has found that it’s most effective to work with fewer brands. Otherwise, influencers “spread themselves thin and their authenticity is questioned.” For a brand partnership, she said, she tends to “keep it simple,” with, for example, three YouTube videos and some social media spread out over a four-month period.

She also emphasized what has become a resounding theme in social media and in marketing: authenticity. She pushed back on brands that try to be “too controlling,” adding that a viewer is more likely to try a product if the delivery isn’t forced. “Brands need to trust the creator. I put the information out there but not in a pushy way,” she said.

She has found that working with an agent, who can negotiate on her behalf, has allowed her more creative freedom. Lee, on the brand side, agreed that it is more efficient.

Im said while brands are often focused on the “back end,” meaning the numbers and data, she focuses on creating something that is “honest and vulnerable.”

“Sharing something you are scared to has the highest engagement, even if you get a backlash,” she said.

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