How Beauty Influencers are feeding psychological needs for belonging and esteem

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Over the past few years, the beauty industry has been booming and with this growth comes the popularity of Beauty Influencers. Some Beauty Influencers are surpassing five million subscribers on YoutTube and have partnered with beauty companies to create their own lines and successfully sell out their own very successful product lines. One sales promotion that is prominent in this industry is limited edition. Hype is created for a product initially so sales start off fast and demand accelerates. Consumers inherently think the product has more value because of its claimed scarcity.

I would not say I’m a beauty enthusiastic but after working on a advertising pitch for Ulta, the importance of influencers in the industry became clear beyond my own on social media engagement. You cannot just take anyone and make him or her a beauty influencer. But why do these people have a following? The psychological reasoning is two fold. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People desire social belonging and self-esteem. The families that these beauty influencers create online give people an outlet where their interests are shared with others. They feel accepted in these communities and have a shared source for conversation.

 

Yet more importantly, is the solution that beauty influencers offer to improve how we are seen on social media. Social media has created an environment where your face can be shown to anyone over Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat and selfies in general. The people we perceive as beautiful online often have huge following because we as a society value attractiveness. The general sentiment is how can I look like that. Makeup is an easy way to change your appearance and less permanent than plastic surgery, although surgical modifications are also popular on social media. Social media alters how we feel about our appearance and makeup allows us to fulfill our need for greater self-esteem. It gives us the power to control our looks and therefore feel better about the way we look. The makeup industry is entertaining and engaging but it is also about appearances and the need to be respected and revered by others. The beauty influencer fulfills basic human psychological needs and that is why they are so successful.

This industry, though progressive and having an affinity to the LGBTQ community, is mostly fueled by women. Women are creating new makeup brands startups and representing and growing the industry. Though women are succeeding in this industry it is important to remember the counter argument to the obsession with beauty. The Beauty Myth written by Naomi Wolf is a great resource to illustrate how beauty can be used against women as a form of societal control.

Social media creates the environment that makes us think that appearances give us value. Beauty influencers fulfill psychological needs for both belonging and self-esteem fueling a growing beauty industry and profiting off of their looks and skills. After all who wouldn’t want to look flawless just like their favorite beauty influencer? 

Check out this blog post for more info.

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Belonging: Social Media Creation of Company Cults

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I recently finished reading Brené Brown’s new book Braving the Wilderness, which in short, is about belonging. It made me think about how a sense of belonging is created by brands, which is most visible on social media.  Think about how many pictures you see on Instagram with someone holding a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts cup. People are defining themselves by their preferred coffee brand. These companies create a sense of belonging, enough so, that they become a part of the consumer’s identity. We belong to these brands. Yet these brands did not create this sense of belonging.

Brands do create belonging through loyalty programs but it is something more organic when people identify with a brand. On social media, pictures reveal that consumers define themselves by the brand and want others to perceive them as part of the brand's consumer base. But where does this belonging originate?

My hypothesis is reliability and lifestyle habits. Belonging can stem from reliability. Brené Brown defines reliability as, “You do what you say you’ll do.” In an interview about Starbucks, a respondent once told me they go there because it’s consistent; they know what they're going to get, wherever they are. Additionally, the brand becomes a part of lifestyle habit. Different triggers during the day cause us to want coffee whether it’s a lag in our day or a need for reward. Coffee shops have brands that integrate with these important triggers in a socially acceptable way. Because they satisfy a trigger, consumers feel affinity toward the product.  

Consumers then share their experiences with others on social media, sharing their belonging and creating an identity for the brand by associating themselves with that brand. It is no longer do you prefer Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts but are you a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts person? Consumers have created cults for companies via social media. Are your customers willing to identify themselves with your brand and declare that they belong?