L'Oréal is one of the most well-known and recognizable brands in the world. With a long history of celebrity endorsement and cutting edge campaigns, the 'world leader in beauty' has a presence in more than 130 countries across the world, with more than 32 well-known brands within its group - including Kiehl's, Giorgio Armani Beauty and Ralph Lauren. Given the company's huge presence, managing their social media channels must be an equally enormous task - I got the chance to speak with Emma Williamson, L'Oréal's manager for Consumer Affairs and Social Media for the Australia and New Zealand region, to get some insights into how L'Oréal approaches social and social media engagement.
Owning the Conversation
L'Oréal's social media presence is, as you'd expect, impressive. L'Oréal's main Facebook page has more than 20 million fans and generates more than a thousand likes per post, on average. On Twitter, L'Oréal is represented by many regional variations, with a cumulative audience of more than 600k, while their LinkedIn company page recently surpassed 700k followers. I asked Williamson if there's a core mission or vision L'Oréal aspires to with their social presence, a key statement that might capture their intention in their social media efforts.
"Social media is really important for beauty companies, and at L'Oréal we understand this," Williamson said. "Globally, L'Oréal has an objective of building 100% love for our brands, and social media is crucial to driving engagement and affinity for the brands that sit under the broader L'Oréal group banner."
"We know that consumers are actively looking to online platforms for trend advice, look inspiration and product recommendation. Everyone wants things instantly these days as we're living in a fast paced and ever changing world. We can no longer just rely on TV and print ads to draw attention to our new product launches, we need to own the conversation and drive interest in the market.
"To do this, our vision for our brands on social is to have a conversation with the consumer, we want to entertain them with stories and content that's the right piece at the right time, and that's also meaningful to drive conversion."
"In addition to this, each of our brands have a unique social strategy to ensure that we're keeping or messaging on brand but also relevant to the consumer who loves or is interested in the particular brand offering."
Being present where your customers are is a key element in the use of social media for business purposes - even if you're not overly interested in the medium, it's increasingly likely that your customers are. Major brands like L'Oréal recognize the importance of being where the conversation is and playing an active part in that discussion. Williamson's note on 'owning the conversation' is an important one, and one which all brands should recognize and take into consideration in their own social media planning.
With that core focus on being part of the wider conversation and playing a part in the evolving consumer journey, I asked Williamson which platforms she would consider the brand's primary focus and where they are seeing best response and engagement.
"We need to be present on the most active platforms - in our region that's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But this is also always changing," Williamson said. "By this, I mean we need to keep in touch with where our consumer is going. We need to strive to push the boundaries and be open to trying new platforms such as Snapchat, WeChat and other apps as this is where our core demographic is."
"We know that the young and upwardly mobile female population are looking for information, talking to her friends and family about product innovations and efficacy online, but that's also happening in these newer apps. We know that women are more likely to try a new product or switch brands if their friends or social influencers recommend it, so our goal is to be in or on the place they turn to for trusted advice and information and be a trusted "advisor"
"All channels of social media allow for us to have this relevant and on time discussion with our consumer - we need to be available in multiple channels and don't value one over the other."
This echoes similar sentiments expressed by Karlijn Vogel-Meijer of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in a previous Big Brand Theory interview - Vogel-Meijer's view was that social media is a new world, and it's changing on a daily basis. "If you're afraid to make mistakes, don't go on social", Vogel-Meijer said. This is a key statement that has stuck with me since, and it's interesting to hear similar thoughts expressed by Williamson on L'Oréal. Social platforms are always evolving - as a result, audience behaviors, too, are regularly shifting. Valuing or relying on one platform over another could mean you're missing the bigger picture - that being where your audience is and what they're looking for from your brand.
The Secret Ingredient
Social media ROI and performance measurement metrics are key elements that are constantly being debated and discussed in order to ascertain the best benchmarks to aim for. In this vein, I asked Williamson what analytics and numbers L'Oréal focuses on in social, what measurements they see as important to their strategic goals.
"We use a couple of different social listening tools to understand the sentiment and discussions around our brands and competitors. We use these tools to look for opportunities to directly interact with consumers were possible to either educated or influence brand choice or product selection."
A very interesting note on the decline of fan count and engagement figures - a growing number of brands are starting to separate the gamification elements of social media from the actual business performance numbers that directly relate to ROI. It's not surprising to see leaders like L'Oréal shifting focus in this regard.
Given the focus is not on numbers, I asked Williamson how L'Oréal goes about their actual interactions and where they see value in engagement and interaction with their audience through their social channels - and also, if and how they use influencers to amplify their social voice.
"Social media's really an extension of our customer service program.," Williamson said. "We have a call centre team that is able to take the more technical questions for brands, but we also see social pages as a way for consumers to ask us questions about product use, where to buy an item or even how to find the best product for their needs. Because of this way of thinking we really pride ourselves on our response times and openness with followers on our pages. At the moment, most of our pages are getting responses back to consumers within 2 hours which is pretty great."
"In regards to influencers, obviously our comms teams are always looking to seeing the most active pages, but we're also linking into the "hottest pages" through word of mouth. Seeing what's trending on Twitter helps us identify key people to engage with or work with on special projects."
"For example we've just recently worked with up and coming blogger Yan Yan Chan (@_yanyanchan) on the Shu Ueumura Cosmetics relaunch. We found her through a recommendation from a one of our hip Luxe team members who saw her page, thought she was a good fit for us and believed in taking a risk on an unknown. And hey they were right - she's the perfect fit for the brand. She's fresh, on trend and just happens to have 83,100 followers on Instagram."
These are some great insights, some powerful lessons for all brands looking to utilize social media for business purposes. Responding quickly to online queries is fast becoming a necessity for business - those that meet the growing demand for real-time response are pulling away, and this importance is only underlined by a major brand like L'Oréal putting such an emphasis on this element. Also interesting is the way the brand has used the connectivity of their staff to locate influencers - increasingly, social business is about activating your employees and creating a company-wide culture around social engagement. L'Oréal look to have adopted such an approach amongst their team.
In finishing out what was a fascinating and insightful exchange into how such a massive, global brand is approaching and evolving their social media presence, I asked Williamson to finish this sentence: "The true value of social media is..."
"It's still yet to be set in stone," said Williamson. "What I mean is, while the metrics have come a long way they're still changing regularly - what we measured 12 months ago is no longer relevant. Businesses using social as a brand driver are still yet to crack the nut in terms of 100% confirmed ROI, especially with the low instances of brands having eComm sites to drive direct sales to."
I totally agree with this sentiment, and it's definitely a big help getting such insights as these from a major brand like L'Oréal and seeing how they're approaching those common challenges. What you can take away from this is that brands like L'Oreal, who are seeing high levels of engagement and have a huge audience to cater to, are approaching social in a flexible and adaptable way, and are letting their audience drive their focus in terms of platform use and evolution.
The power of social media is in giving a voice to your communities, in hearing that voice. L'Oréal knows this. Now you do too.