Beauty influencers: Treading the thin line between selling and selling out

Da Hye, Weylie, Jen Chae ... You may not recognise their names, but the clued-in can rattle off their YouTube channels by heart: SunnyDahye, IloveWeylie and From Head To Toe. These three YouTube beauty video bloggers, along with others such as Dani Song (sister of mega social media star Aimee Song) are part of the 10-strong contingent of social media and YouTube stars who have descended on Singapore this week for local skincare brand SkinInc’s Beauty Hackathon event.

Social media darlings and YouTube stars have fully infiltrated the space that was previously solely occupied by a select group of renowned fashion and beauty bloggers. With hundreds of thousands of subscribers or followers, and with some going into the millions, the reach they have in the digital realm on fashion and beauty fans is hard to ignore.

Whether they offer helpful makeup tips via video tutorials or fashion inspiration through perfectly styled snapshots via their blogs, YouTube or social media platforms, these highly successful digital influencers wield tremendous, well, influence, in the crowded digital universe. And their ability to directly impact the purchasing decision-making of their viewers or followers has attracted the attention of the corporate world.

Style-focussed Instagrammers such as Chiara Ferragni (aka The Blonde Salad) and Aimee Song (aka Song Of Style) get flown around the world to red carpet events and Fashion Weeks to don designer gear sponsored by luxury fashion brands, while the pioneering beauty YouTube sensation Michelle Phan scored a contract with beauty giant Lancome in 2010 as its official video makeup artist and spokesperson.

On the local scene, Instagrammers with substantial followings such as Bella Koh (@CatSlavery) and Andrea Chong (@dreachong) are frequent fixtures on the social scene and have garnered brand sponsorships as diverse as Benefit Cosmetics to Repetto shoes.

With the digital space fast getting oversaturated with bloggers and social media stars touting products from brand endorsements, the issue of authenticity is clearly the pillar by which this fledgling industry will be scrutinised. In a universe where everything hinges on a simple click of the “Like” or “Follow” icon, it can often be quicker to lose fans than to gain them if they are not engaged — or feel such as that they are being subjected to hard-sell tactics.

The tightrope between authenticity and commerce is one that anyone making money off his or her online platform has to walk, some more successfully than others. This, argues Deborah Tan, founder of content marketing agency Material World, is not so much an issue of influencers accepting sponsorships or advertising fees, but in the quality of the content created for these sponsorships.

“I don’t think commerce and authenticity are mutually exclusive,” she said. “You can be authentic and still make money from (your online platform). The key, in my personal opinion, is to not allow the brands to pressure you into saying or writing things you don’t believe in, or promote benefits you have not personally experienced.”

The largely commercialised feel of a lot of local digital influencers here, she continues, is “due perhaps to a combination of clients’ expectations, their own inexperience in content creation, and a lack of good local examples of quality sponsored content”.

Renee Lorentzen, a veteran beauty blogger based in Singapore, and whose blog BlogForBeauty (formerly known as Beautifille) has been placed in several international blog awards and editorial mentions in publications such as Vogue Italia, concurred.

[By Marianne Wee Slater] [Read More] [From Today] [Image From Runwaynewsroom]