Why Benefit UK wants to turn its staff into video bloggers

As brands expand to more social platforms, the pressure — and cost — to keep them stocked with content is high. So rather than hiring expensive social “influencers,” beauty brand Benefit’s U.K. team is tapping into its own staff.

This month, Benefit’s YouTube channel rolled out the first staff makeup tutorial on YouTube from an employee, Amelia Forster, who works at a Benefit counter at the pharmacy chain Boots’ location in Chichester, a city in the south east of England. Forster, who competed against 19 other submissions to win the pitch, produced the video herself.

The brand is managing the staff-generated content via video platform Seen It to create “micro-influencers” who are cost-effective and on-message.

“We know that influencer-style content works so much better than super polished brand-led content, [and] Seen It allows us to easily create content that fits with this,” said Michelle Stoodley, Benefit UK’s head of digital marketing. “[It’s] a digital version of the experience customers get when visiting our counters, just in the comfort of their own home.”

Benefit’s 2,200 retail employees – also known as “benebabes” – are already active on social media (see #LifeAtBenefit). A number of them are also vloggers who looking to grow their audience and match the success of ex-counter girl and social influencer Lauren Curtis, whose prom makeup tutorial has had over 8 million views.

The idea is that in exchange for reaching a bigger audience, these creators will deliver content for free. Benefit has the final say in what gets published, and it can select and edit the footage quickly. (For its regular YouTube content, the team spent a whole day last week in the studio shooting 10 videos back-to-back).

Twice a month, these staff videos will appear on its channel alongside its regular mix of beauty tips and lifestyle content. If the videos prove popular – though there is no metric for success yet – Stoodley says Benefit may up their output and bring them into its Facebook stream on a more regular basis. Beyond this, Benefit may even make the leap into fan-generated content – displaying it alongside its glossy, high-spec video.

“We’re not your typical sleek, polished beauty brand, which is why we’re happy to try this – we’re a bit more rough around the edges,” Stoodley said.

User-generated content is now a crucial form of “social proof” for consumers, particularly millennials, who are skeptical of traditional brand messaging. A recent survey from Crowdtap revealed 18 to 36-year-olds trusted user-generated content 50 percent more than other forms of media. UGC was also found to be 20 percent more influential on their purchase decisions.

One way Benefit hopes to use its staff-generated content is to capitalize on the growing interest in brow products. The sector represents only 3 percent of the beauty market, and as many customers have never bought brow products, lends itself to video tutorials. “It’s what our customers want to see and what we’re seeing the best engagement on,” Stoodley said.

In addition to YouTube and Facebook, Benefit’s five-person social team is experimenting with videos on Snapchat and Periscope. They are also exploring Facebook Live through partnerships with other brands and publishers such as Glamour. So far, its Facebook Live video on Birchbox’s channel, which features head makeup artist Lisa Potter-Dixon, has racked up nearly 17,000 views.

“It’s about a one-to-one connection,” Stoodley said. “We want to move firmly away from doing content for the sake of it and create content that will seamlessly fit within our customers’ lives. Whenever we do anything now, we stop and think, ‘Is this relevant to our girls at this point in their day?’”

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