LONDON — President and founder of the Rodial Group Maria Hatzistefanis learned quickly that social media can be both a boon — and a curse.

The high-end, independent skin-care brand was founded in 1999, and includes the labels Rodial, Nip + Fab and Nip + Man.

The company chose not to hire social media experts, but to manage everything in-house, and learned though experience and by making mistakes.

On the plus side, Hatzistefanis met Kylie Jenner via Instagram in 2014 and eventually tapped her as face of Nip + Fab, which is the company’s lower-priced line of treatment products.

RELATED STORY: Kylie Jenner Talks Beauty Rituals With Maria Hatzistefanis >>

“The story couldn’t have unfolded better,” said Hatzistefanis. “One day Kylie came across our products at a shoot and she went on Instagram saying how much she liked them to her 22 million followers. It got half a million likes in one picture.

“Now, we could have just retweeted it and left it at that but instead, we elevated this moment into a strategic asset and decided to work with her. Here was someone who already had a connection with the brand, including me, so we brought her to London to launch her as the Nip + Fab ambassador and we created a competition to invite her fans to join us and we committed to all the assets that we used over the course of six months.”

Hatzistefanis said the collaboration with Kylie helped the company expand its U.S. distribution and add to its overall distribution channels. “It also gave us U.S. brand awareness while gaining a new audience. On the social media front, this collaboration increased our followers from 30k to almost 100k in a few weeks and our likes reached record numbers.”

Hatzistefanis said she is personally involved with the brand’s social media accounts and has developed her own voice for a separate, personal Instagram account where she shares her likes, dislikes and experiences.

Authenticity is key when it comes to social media, Hatzistefanis said, adding that the various channels must be handled with care.

“Social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. As much as it is a platform and a tool to develop your brand, it can turn against you, if your customer senses that all you want is selling product. We learned very early on that our force has to be our own voice, it cannot be forced, promotional or boring. You always want to offer authenticity and what we try to do at Rodial is connect our stories to the customer and the brand, and by connecting they’ll come back and check the Web site regularly or visit our social media platforms regularly to check what’s happening. You need to become the friend, you need to be part of their lives and you need to get them to listen to you and the brand.”

Hatzistefanis also shared tips on creating a social media following, including “finding the right platform that your customer uses. It’s always tempting to go and get on the latest platform,” said Hatzistefanis. “But you need to be persistent and you need to keep updating, otherwise there’s no point in being there.”

She noted that while Snapchat is a popular platform it didn’t work for her when she first tried it out, but she aims to take another chance with it. She considers YouTube a great asset and launched the “Mrs. Rodial Project,” a reality show with guest appearances from designer Henry Holland and model Erin O’ Connor.

“We take our customers behind the scenes and show them the drama and the glamour of Rodial and the world of beauty, fashion and celebrities,” said Hatzistefanis. “The series has had phenomenal success, and we received over half a million views, but not only that. We got real customer engagement and created brand awareness.”

She also said companies should find a brand ambassador, and partner with someone that resonates with the audience, like she did with Jenner. “A long-term partnership is also very important,” she said, adding that the relationship should not be one-off, but last between three to six months.

If a brand cannot afford supermodel-grade ambassadors or top celebrities, Hatzistefanis suggested that brands tap talents who are just beginning to make their mark.

“Ambassadors come in all shapes and forms,” said Hatzistefanis. “You can work with bloggers, YouTubers, with international personalities or model personalities, so just look at your audience and stick to your budget.”

“There are options these days for any kind of budget and the other thing that really made it work for us is trying to identify new talent and people who are starting, so that you can get them for cheaper.”

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