How e.l.f Cosmetics Got Over 3 Billion Views on TikTok

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Host: Thank you, everyone, for joining us on our first episode of the Seriously Social Podcast, where we’re going to be bringing you behind the scenes of social media strategies of some of the world’s largest brands.

My name is Keith Kakadia, I’m the founder and CEO of Sociallyin, which is a social media marketing agency in Birmingham, AL.

Today we have Samantha De Castro, the social media manager at e.l.f Cosmetics. Sam, thank you so much for joining us! Before we jump into it, how are you?

Guest: I’m good, thank you. I’m originally from Los Angeles, but right now I’m in New York. We were shooting this week for an event tomorrow, so I’m here embracing the cold, I guess? *laughs*

Host: I got you, very cool. Well, thank you for taking the time to do this first episode with us. I’d like to just jump right into it, so can you start off by just telling us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the role of social media marketing?

Guest: Sure! So, I’ve been in the beauty industry for about seven years, kind of similar roles. I started off, I got my BS in marketing, and didn’t really know, like, once I finished school, what I wanted to get into, like marketing is so broad, where am I going to go?

So I kind of temp-ed around for a little bit, and when I moved to Los Angeles, I worked at some marketing agencies, some ad agencies and did some marketing assistant jobs.

I kind of landed in a hair care company as an assistant as well, interning and PR kind of activations. And the person who was in the role that I ended up taking over, I was kind of doing a lot of their work, so I got a lot of hands on experience and was able to kind of like figure out that, you know, this was my passion, this is what I like to do. And that was a digital communications role, and so I just kind of expanded into that when the other person left that role and I had positioned myself to kind of take over that role.

That ended up working out and I was able to become a little more passionate about everything that I was doing, I was, you know, I brought in platforms for social, worked with our agency on some digital activations, platforms for influencers, and influencers weren’t really a big thing when it came to the hair care industry, specifically when it came to professional hair stylists and colorists.

So kind of like having the brand be introduced to them, and how they can work together with them, because you get a lot of social media coverage from these people organically, and how can we make sure that we create these permissions with them.

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That role was kind of more of a morph of digital, so that included everything from blogs to emails to social media to emails to influencer marketing, and I was there for five years, and then kind of decided that my role wasn’t very strategic in that I couldn’t focus on one thing, or able to, you know, completely concentrate on the social media or influencer part and that was the part that I really enjoyed and really loved and thus wanted to expand and grow, so I began to look outside of the company for other companies that had this sort of role, just because that company didn’t have the capacity to make sure that that was the specific role for someone else.

So I did that, and then landed OPI, which is where I know you from! And that allowed me to secure that role there, and we did a lot of different things. They needed a social media manager, they hadn’t had one for like, I don’t know, over six months, so I came in and jumped right into the action, my boss was very- she wanted to accomplish things quickly and found out that I was particularly interested in that and since then kind of just, based on things that were happening within the company, I was able to find another opportunity outside the company and then moved here to E.L.F.

I guess my one tip is just get your feet wet and see once, if you have something as broad as like a marketing BS, what can you do with it, what are the different parts of that, that you can tap into and find out what your passions are because I’ve been doing social media full time as a social media manager for over two years now and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Host: Nice! So you started off your career doing digital marketing as a whole: emails, blogs, etc, and then from there you started focusing in more on social media specifically and the first role you had in social was at OPI. Before that, did you do any internships or, I’m trying to get a better idea for our listeners who are trying to get into social media marketing, how would they get their feet wet?

Is it any internship? Are they going out and doing some free work for somebody? How did you get into the digital marketing side of things?

Guest: So yeah, like I said, I temp-ed around a lot, just because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I didn’t know that social media was like gonna be so big as it was, you know none of us going back to 2010 knew that social media was exploding the way that it was and that it would eventually take on it’s own role.

So you kind of, I temp-ed around for a little bit, and I would say either get yourself into a temp job or intern, because a lot of my interns that I even had at OPI I was able to bring over to E.L.F, and give them a position. So the internships do help, it doesn’t always mean that there’s a position at the of the day, but just stacking those on your resume, if this is what you’re passionate about, people look at that and see that, and then they know it’s what you’re passionate about and they’ll be able to help you.

Host: Yeah, sure. No, very good advice. So just shifting gears a little bit from how you got into the social media marketing side of the business to what you’re doing today and now, could you touch a little bit about what you’re doing at E.L.F cosmetics, what is your day to day look like, if you could talk a little bit about that.

Guest: So yeah, like I said social media wasn’t as big as it is now, companies are like utilizing social media, like the CMO the CEO they know how important social media is to the company and they know that this is the outward facing, this is where consumers go first.

If I have something I want to tag, or talk about and I’m really excited about a product, for example, or a service, I go to social media and talk about it. And people exchange that sort of information that way. So because it has so many eyeballs on it, it’s really become a bigger strategy for the company, the company wasn’t as focused on it even two years ago, maybe.

The one thing they were doing was that they were just focusing on Instagram, for example, as their one platform because they didn’t really have the capacity to focus on more than one platform at the time, so the one thing I was tasked with when I came on about six months ago was to develop a strategy for the rest of the platforms.

And then another thing that we were also tasked with is not only just the rest of the platforms and how much were we investing and spending time on the others, but what were some new, emerging platforms? So, like, TikTok is a huge one for us right now. We just recently did a paid campaign with them, we did the Eyes, Lips, Face challenge.

And that, of course, came out of paid media, but then of course we had to start building the strategy and constant content on TikTok.

So that is also something that we are always looking for, where is the emerging stuff, like where is GenZ, our audience is big on GenZ, because we have our quality products, but they’re mass products and you can get them for less than a prestige brand.

Host: Got you.

Guest: You know, like an eyeliner for, what, $5, so a lot of our audience is GenZ and college kids, so my day to day...what my day to day looks like, it’s...like when I first came on a big part of it was very much building out the team. Like now I have two community management interns because of just the influx of how much mentions, DMs and comments we get daily because now we have 5 million followers on Instagram, millions of followers on Twitter- there’s a lot happening.

Host: So I’d love to talk about that specifically, because you’d mentioned that you’re building out your internal team and a lot of people listening are in the same position, where they’re looking to expand their business on social and they’re looking to build out that team, so #1 how are you finding these community managers, and #2, with an audience of 5 million people, do you think that two people is sufficient and are y’all doing 24/7 community management?

Guest: Yeah, so, it’s not enough. *laughs* When I started we had one community manager who lives in New York and she was doing everything. And it wasn’t 24/7 community management, but she was on as much as possible. She was also unable to touch every platform. So like Twitter got missed, Facebook got missed, Pinterest got missed. All these other platforms got missed because it’s a lot and the audience is so big.

So I was of course looking for someone else to be community manager, but I’ve reached my cap on community managers, though I’m like, you know, if y’all expect us to explore these new and emerging platforms, you know, it’s extra volume coming in and so I’m like, can we get some interns in here or something or is someone else in here that can help, you know.

They couldn’t approve an extra head count, but interns are always something we can leverage, you know, it helps us out for a few months and it’s something and then we can kind of just rotate people in and it adds a learning experience too.

So how we’re doing that is just, you know, we post it on LinkedIn, I’ll make public posts of my own and we’ve had a few people, because I’m in that industry where people are coming in and I’m just like “oh, I know somebody!” or somebody gets recommended to me, so what we’re looking for is just a couple of community management positions for people who are passionate about social and beauty as a whole, and want to interact with our audience.

Host: Awesome, thank you! So I want to dive in a little more on TikTok. That’s kind of the hot topic around with all the brands, even when we talk to brands at Sociallyin, they’re always asking about TikTok, so I’d love to explore that some- so what did y’all actually do on TikTok and can you explain what the campaign was and would you be able to talk a little bit about what those results are? Is the campaign still going or is it finished?

Guest: The campaign ended on the 15th of November. We were pressed to get a billion views, but we actually got 3.5 billion.

Host: Wow.

Guest: Which was, pretty. Pretty great for a beauty brand. We were put against EOS and MAC cosmetics. And EOS I think had a little more views than we did, and so when we first started out we were aiming for one billion and we’re now at 3.5 billion and we entered the campaign that way.

Host: That’s amazing.

Guest: And our TikTok was a hashtag Eyes, Lips, Face challenge, so we worked with a rapper and he created a song for us that’s like eyes, lips, face song. So basically we put it out there and we worked with TikTok to identify influencers on the platform because TikTok influencers are very different from influencers anywhere else.

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You can be popular on TikTok and have no following anywhere else, for example. So TikTok has a whole platform on there that shows you their best content creators, whose right for your campaign, so we worked with these TikTok specific influencers to create the content, so we launched with that and they were dancing and moving to the song, and so we had about 6-8 in the beginning, and then people took to it organically and as it grew, we thought, “OK, let’s make this a little bit bigger” once we saw how big things were getting, and so we included some extra influencers in there to make sure we could really contribute to the hashtag challenge.

Host: Yeah, wow. I love that. So you talked about influencers, and you mentioned how influencers on TikTok are very different than influencers on other channels like Instagram, Twitter, etc.

So were these considered like micro influencers, or were these like people with massive, multi-million people following them?

Guest: These were people with like, massive followers. It’s just a matter of, they’ve done really well for themselves. I mean, TikTok has a very, like, you have to have some sort of comedy, some sort of movement, some sort of surprise and delight, I guess you could say? Because I feel like, you know, It’s not like you watching an Instagram Video, I mean a TikTok video can be like, what, six seconds? And it’s really quick and it has to capture your attention and people start to like these types of people who create these kinds of content, because it’s very different than what’s being created anywhere else.

And so people have created these sort of followings online, like one of them is Brittney and she’s the kombucha meme girl, and we got her for the campaign and she did really well for us as well, but these are the sorts of people who don’t have this opportunity to be influencers anywhere else and they’re just really creating really great, buzz-worthy video content on TikTok.

Host: Gotcha. I love that. So did the TikTok team help you guys identify these influencers? Did y’all do this on your own? Were they a part of the negotiation process, can you talk a little bit about how, like the coordination of the influencers actually works on the platform?

Guest: So, yeah, TikTok was a completely new platform for us and they helped us at first, just based on the size of the investment and how we were working with them, and of course they sent us over a bunch of influencers and we just kind of just figured out like, whose right for the brand and then they did initial introductions and then from there we just negotiated. They kind of stepped back after that, but they did the initial introductions, and I think they’re doing that now especially because it’s such a different audience and kind of like setting the groundwork and expectations for these influencers and what they’ll be doing now.

And so I think as TikTok continues to grow I think more people will move there. I mean, I’ve noticed several Instagram influencers say they’ll be moving to TikTok in the last several months. Also because they love the algorithm. The algorithm isn’t like Instagram, based on people who you follow you’re able to see better content that like, suits you, and so people are just finding that they like the algorithm and how many views they could get on TikTok.

Host: Interesting. And who was the artist? You want to shout them out? Who was the rapper?

Guest: It was iLL Wayno, the Eyes, Lips, Face song.

Host: So did y’all get in touch with him directly, or was TikTok also involved with that coordination?

Guest: So actually that came via recommendation from another agency that we had help us create the song, so they helped us create the song and kind of like, the concept behind it and about what the challenge was going to be, so they reached out to this artist that they knew and helped create the song.

We went through several versions of the song before we felt comfortable with one and thought it might really blow up, so we did that.

Host: I love that, I love that. I’ll definitely have to check out that campaign. So I don’t want to hammer too much on TIkTok, I want to swap our conversation over to Instagram because it seems like that’s kind of where the biggest following actually is, so can you talk to me a little bit about what the organic Instagram strategy actually is, do y’all focus on UGC are you publishing short form video, you know, if you could just touch a little on what you guys are doing on Instagram on the organic side, I would love that.

Guest: I pulled the numbers the other day, we have over 60% UGC which makes life a little easier for us, but we just have so much good content, a lot of creators just from anywhere from micro to macro are just using the products and were able to just reach and say, “hey, can we feature you on our Instagram?” but yeah, we do have a marketing plan, and overall the company decides on what the focus will be on, so our plan as part of the strategy is to create content for 50% of the focus, and the rest is the community, which is like the secondary product call-outs, and then evergreen/community.

So we try to tell stories throughout the month. For instance: August was all about brows, so we did a brows campaign with some influencers, we had four youtube tutorial videos, and then one video where they had both talked together about their favorite products. And then we featured them throughout the month and all we did was shoot brow content, specifically 50% of the content on Instagram was brows, and the rest was like Evergreen, story, kind of UGC type of stuff.

That’s how we work as far as strategy, because of course, when you work for a company where you have a big goal and if the goal for the month is to talk about brows, the PR boxes are brows, the influencers that are going to be promoting these are all about brows and are known for their brows, so that’s kind of like how the strategy works.

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So we make that the hero story of the month and the rest kind of falls in line UGC wise, Evergreen wise, story wise.

Host: And are you guys doing anything to help foster that UGC? I mean, y’all have a major following so I’m sure lots of people are just submitting, but do y’all do anything to help foster that UGC content?

Guest: It’s been very natural, we don’t really have a lot, if anything, if we’re looking for something specific that’s not out there then of course we reach out to some of our influencers who are on a content retainer that constantly create content on a monthly basis for us, so we do it that way, but we also just get so much. Like it’s incredible how much UGC we have, it’s amazing.

That’s also why our strategy is to include a lot of UGC across our channels and the best way to do that is through Instagram. Twitter is also a great place because it’s easy to retweet someone or share something. We get so many positive comments and reviews on Twitter, and Twitter is a really fun place for the beauty community. They come on and they want to tell you about a product that they love or show you a makeup look that they did, so that’s definitely become another hustle spot for us as well.

Host: Interesting, interesting. So thank you so much for giving us that strategy round-up. What are y’all doing around Instagram stories?

Guest: So Instagram Stories has been a little bit of a challenge for us, and I’ll just say why. We just kind of didn’t have the creative players on the creative team in place to help us with that, so a lot of that has been just us creating stuff, we work directly with our creative team to create content for Instagram stories, so it’s been sparse at the moment, but they have hired some new designers, so now we have a whole story plan, like we want to post four stories a week, at least now that we can utilize these designers.

So that’s been a hiccup for us, because everything has to be designed even though there are a lot of natural elements. Where we kind of thrive is using peoples reviews whenever we have events, which we have plenty of, or whenever something it happening then we can definitely also post that, but Stories hasn’t been as much of a focus as I wanted it to be and it’s gonna be that way.

Host: Okay, cool. I love that. Okay, so last question for you, we’re rolling right into 2020; what are the major goals you have for ELF Cosmetics when it comes to social media?

Guest: The thing we want to focus on, like I said, is Stories, and we already have a pretty robust plan for Instagram Stories in January just because with Instagram likes being taken away we’ve seen more of a move towards Stories and we’ve also, they want us to move to Youtube and we also have a lot of educational content on Instagram TV, with our global makeup artist. And she’s coming on and just sets up her phone in her studio and just films organic content, like makeup tips, tutorials, things like that.

But educational content is #1 when it comes to our products and our strategy for 2020. Educational content across the board, Instagram TV, Youtube, etc, that’s our main focus for 2020.

Host: Awesome! Well, Sam, thank you so much for spending some time with us today, very insightful, I love what y’all are doing on TikTok and I believe you’re probably one of the first cosmetic brands to do a campaign on TikTok and you blew it out of the water with 3.5 billion views, very impressive. Thank you for your time!

Guest: Thank you!

Tune in bi-weekly for new episodes! You can listen to more behind-the-scenes social media secrets HERE.

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AuthorKeith Kakadia

I am a native of New Orleans, LA with a passion for social media marketing, entrepreneurship, and making new connections. I enjoy the opportunity to work with amazing individuals and brands everyday.

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