How important has Instagram been for Glossier's success? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I've been a user ofsince it launched in 2014, and a follower of its predecessor blog (ITG) since before that. I'm also an obsessive user of Instagram and like to follow brands and influencers. I think Glossier's use of Instagram has been the most successful use of social media I have ever seen. I would argue that Instagram has been crucial to Glossier's success.
A bit of context:, ITG/Glossier founder, had built up a cult of personality for herself in the ITG early days. After appearing alongside Lauren Conrad in The Hills, the "super-intern" started gaining popularity and notoriety, and really started to get known after launching her fashion/beauty/lifestyle blog Into The Gloss. One of readers' favorite ITG features is their " " series, where we get to sneak a peak at the bathroom shelves and beauty habits of everyone from Planned Parenthood execs, models, Kardashians, and more. Even cooler, they launched the hashtag for fans to use and potentially be featured on ITG. These interviews are compelling because they're entirely in the voice of the interviewee, and they feature snapshots from that person's life, usually pulled from Instagram. While the content is primarily beauty-related, there's a really human aspect--it feels like you're sitting down with a friend swapping secrets and makeup tips, whether that person is or a random girl they found on Instagram.
In interviews, Glossier teams have always emphasized the personal, accessible aspect of their content and products. They are not the first to start a brand geared towards "real" women, but they have been one of the first to do so successfully because it feels like them, and their customers, are real women. Their interviews are chatty and candid, they crowdsource ideas for products, and they feature a diverse range of models.
(^a splash from their website that gets at their philosophy)
is a dream to browse and their is almost better (incredibly rare for a hashtag page to be so cohesive and fun to look at). However, Emily and the Glossier team insist that this is mostly organic:
"It hasn't been through paid or built marketing spend," she said. "It's been mostly word-of-mouth." ... "That power of the individual person--just the girl--is infinite," she said.
As previously mentioned, I have used both Instagram and ITG/Glossier for a while. For a long time, it seemed like most people hadn't heard of Glossier. About a year ago, I noticed more and more people on Instagram posting about Glossier (both people I know and from posts on my explore page). Now, if you're at all interested in beauty, it's impossible not to know about.
So why and how did Glossier get to where it is today, and what role did Instagram play in that? Here's my take:
- ITG was started by Emily Weiss, who was quickly making a name for herself in the beauty industry as an incredibly talented go-getter. She was able to use her connections from Teen Vogue and elsewhere to start with a strong and credible base that people in the industry respected and trusted.
- By emphasizing photographs and the personalities of people interviewed on ITG, the website gained a reputation for being the destination for fun and accessible beauty advice. They also interviewed a wide range of people--not just celebrities who exclusively use $100+ products, but students and working women who talked about their favorite drugstore mascaras and juggling multiple jobs.
- ITG took advantage early on of social media and its cult following by amplifying the #ITGTopShelfie hashtag that allowed normal women to be discovered and interviewed.
- When Glossier launched, it used the same open communication style and philosophy as ITG--focused on quality, accessibility, and fun. Many of their models are their own employees or Glossier fans discovered through social media.
- Their products are gorgeous and they pay incredible attention to detail, down to the pink box and your products arrive in, complete with stickers to decorate. It's hard to overemphasize how important this specific piece of their brand is--their products beg to be photographed.
- Their visual brand is clear and cohesive, and they repost pictures from users on their Instagram. This incentivizes people to post images of their products because 1) they look good, 2) the company might see them.
- They crowdsource product ideas through ITG and Instagram. They also respond to user questions about products and application on Instagram, and post updates about when things will be available, inside tips, etc.
- They create organic hype around product launches by distributing products before-hand to influencers and their biggest fans. These women are brand evangelists for Glossier who post detailed product reviews, videos, and pictures--all on Instagram, and all easily searchable with the different product hashtags. They aren't paid for what they do, you know they do it because they want to and because they love the brand.
- This creates a snowball effect, now everyone wants to be a Glossier girl. The company values are admirable. Their stuff is pretty and affordable. Their models are interesting and diverse and most of them aren't actually models at all. Instagram is now flooded with Glossier related content: , , , , ,
So, in summary, Glossier started strong with a loyal fan base and demonstrated values of quality, fun, and accessibility. This combined with their smart early use of social media led to a growing audience on Instagram, many of whom were normal women excited to see products that worked for them. Glossier rewarded these early fans and made many of them models, brand evangelists, and even employees. This led to the growth/explosion of their product. They expertly took advantage and leaned into this, using Instagram as a primary communication tool both with customers and for product launches, and also maintaining an appealing and cohesive visual image as a brand that translates perfectly to a photo sharing app.
Some examples of Glossier Instagram content (source: Glossier on Instagram)
Some further reading:
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