Pivot Preview: Social & Beauty

an interview with
Bridget Dolan Vice President of Interactive Media, Sephora

Let’s just start with the fact that Sephora has nearly 4 million fans on Facebook and over 700,000 followers on Twitter.  Clearly this is a company that is doing something right on social media and well worth a closer look.  Thanks to the kind folks at Pivot, I got the chance to interview Bridget Dolan, VP of Interactive Media at Sephora, prior to her presentation at the conference next week.  I am certain you will find her comments as enlightening as I did.

Drew: What role(s) does social media play in Sephora’s overall marketing strategy?  Do you assign different roles to different platforms?
Social media plays a major role in Sephora’s overall business strategy. We value the engagement and conversations we have with our customers through our multiple social channels and encourage this social engagement throughout the organization.  After seeing how successful the Sephora Facebook and Twitter pages have been, we implemented a Pinterest integration when we re-vamped Sephora.com in April 2012, and have also since created a Sephora Instagram account. Both have seen a lot of organic growth over the summer and we are always looking at new social platforms for other ways to engage with current and potential clients.

Facebook and Twitter allow us to hear from our clients real-time and react one-on-one; we respond to every single customer question and give our clients a voice. We then learn from our clients and use that information to inform our strategies throughout the organization.

Pinterest and Instagram allow us to react to micro-trends, like showing your spirit with Olympic nails.  We also provide Sephora fans a look behind the scenes of what it is like to work at Sephora, be at our shoots, and which products we are obsessed with. BeautyTalk allows us to foster a beauty community on our site, to get customer questions answered by Sephora experts and other beauty enthusiasts. Tumblr lets us tell our trend and brand stories from another angle – insights from our beauty editors.  YouTube lets us share our expertise and teach customers how to apply makeup and see the latest trends – which encourages them to shop, play and enjoy makeup.

Drew:  A recent Forrester study said social media drove less than 1% of sales for most companies.  Is Sephora performing above that average and if so, why do you think that is the case?
Sephora is a huge company, and driving 1% of overall sales is still a big piece of the pie. I do believe that social media is influencing a lot of sales that can never be tracked: watching a Sephora YouTube video, then shopping at the store on the weekend, or liking an Instagram post on your phone in the coffee line, and buying the products online when back you’re at your desk.

Drew: Have some social platforms proven to be better at driving Sephora sales than others?  If so, please explain.
Facebook is our largest social media platform, and is still driving the most sales for us by far.  But the velocity of Pinterest growth combined with its shopping-centric nature have made it a very promising sales channel since we launched on that platform 6 months ago.

Drew: Is driving sales the wrong metric for social and if so, what metrics do you use to rationalize your investment?
Whenever we can measure direct sales, we do, but it isn’t the only metric to consider – really social media is about engagement.  We are fostering a long-term relationship with our customers.  We want her to be inspired to try new things, find information through sources she trusts, find products that really get her excited, and help her to use the product to its fullest with confidence post-purchase.  Social media helps her with the entire purchase cycle, and keeps her engaged with our brand for all of her beauty needs.  If you can create a venue to engage your most valuable customers, and enlist them to be evangelists for your brand to all of their friends, plus they will answer all of your other customers’ beauty questions because they are just that passionate… it is priceless.

Drew:  A lot of brands would kill to get nearly 4 million fans on Facebook.  How have you been able to attract so many fans?  Media?  Promotions?  Both?
Bridget: Sephora has truly passionate fans that love beauty and love Sephora.  The beauty category is a natural fit for social – our customers have always talked amongst their friends about beauty products they loved, but Facebook makes it much easier to connect with other Sephora fanatics.  We have done a bit of advertising and a few promotions, like Fan Fridays, but we mostly view Facebook as a place to have fun with our customers, and I think they can tell how much we love talking to them.

Drew:  Is there one Sephora social program that you are particularly proud of?
I think BeautyTalk is one of the more innovative undertakings we’ve done in social media.  We created a robust community on our site where our clients can come to ask any beauty question or talk about beauty,  organized by category. This allows our customers to find really rich answers with multiple points of view, combined with real-time advice from our experts.

Drew:  How has Fan Fridays been working for you?
Fan Fridays has been a great program, and our customers love it.  When we have an early access product or really hot promotion, we can be out in as little as 20 minutes.  We keep trying to support the growth, but it can be hard to anticipate which Fan Fridays will go wild until your wall lights up and you realize you need even more for next week… again.

Drew:  You have over 100,000 followers on Pinterest which is way more than most brands.  What are you doing on Pinterest that is gaining so much traction?
Beauty is inherently a visual category, but right now things like nail art and gorgeous product shots are inspiring our customers to re-pin our images. We also have integrated Pinterest deeply in our site so every product and brand image is pinnable. We do all of our own photography in house, and that investment pays off in a place like Pinterest.

Drew:  Is there a brand out there that you think is just killing it in social?  If so, which one and why?
I think it is the “brand” that Eva Chen created for herself.  She is literally on every social media channel – trying innovative things, living the life, inspiring people every day with videos, pictures, products, quotes.  And she is creating a unique footprint in each venue that is relevant to that platform and her followers in each.

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