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How Beauty and Fashion Brands Can Win on Instagram

The research group L2 has released its latest Instagram study. Here's what works for the companies it surveyed.
Instagram: the official pastime of the fashion industry. Photo: Imaxtree

Instagram: the official pastime of the fashion industry. Photo: Imaxtree

When Estée Lauder hired Kendall Jenner as its newest face, it did so with the intention of capturing a fan shopper base — Jenner's immense popularity on social media being one major factor in accomplishing that goal. According to a new study on brands' use of Instagram from the research group L2 Inc, Estée Lauder has, in fact, made strides on that front. Just 24 hours after announcing Jenner's contract, the beauty line's Instagram follower count jumped 18 percent. It now sits at 434,000, which is pretty good, if still a far cry from the model's 21 million-strong followership.

L2 points out that, when it comes to beauty brands, some cult color brands like MAC, Nyx and Urban Decay rely on their ardent fan bases for Instagram love, while others, like Proactiv and Estée Lauder, push celebrity influencers to boost growth and engagement. It's true that Jenner has brought Estée Lauder products to new eyeballs: a video post on her account generated 56 times the likes that an identical post on the brand's handle received.

That said, it was Jenner's least popular video of the year. That might be because, as L2 puts it, "consumers are wary of inauthenticity when it comes to brand endorsements." While any sort of presence on a celebrity like Jenner's Instagram is a win for Estée Lauder, the real success would be figuring out how not to appear inauthentic while doing so.

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Estée Lauder is now pretty well above the 2014 average for beauty brands' Instagram follower counts, which sits at about 318,000, and beauty is one of the smaller consumer sectors overall. Thanks to social powerhouses Nike and Adidas, athleticwear brands have the most followers on average: 1.3 million, with an engagement rate of 1.27 percent. Fashion is just a step behind at an average of 1.2 million followers.

Among the best Instagram strategies called out in L2's report is Benefit, Maybelline and L'Oreal Paris's shared tactic of creating north of 25 active regional accounts in order to cater to the platform's international population, which represents 70 percent of users at this point. 

Another smart move? Posting lots of product pictures. According to L2, those photos receive, by far, the most engagement, with lifestyle, influencer, event-focused and explicit regrams following in order of descending engagement. 

Just don't try building an account based solely on sales event pictures. Those have the absolute lowest engagement.