What Online Buzz Really Means, According to Mascara Numbers


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Benefit Yes They're RealWhen Tribe Dynamics compared the earned media value (EMV) of five different mascara brands over the course of last month, they found a crazy range of audience interaction, with online views and mentions reaching into the millions for some brands and at practically nothing for others.  The leader of the group they studied, Benefit’s Yes They’re Real mascara, saw 3,176,839 online impressions over the course of June alone.  The bottom of the group, Yves Saint Laurent’s Mascara Volume Effet, had 359. Both Benefit and YSL are household names.  Why the disparity?

What the social analytics start-up found was a specific cocktail for online visibility: a combination of online user reviews (the more the better), mentions or placement in YouTube videos with a huge reach (showing up on a channel with a million subscribers is pretty nice, it turns out), and some kind of competition hosted by a respected media outlet (in Benefit’s case, Elle).  These three factors take a beauty product’s EMV and blow it out of the water.  For Benefit, being mentioned by 86 content publishers — on blogs, traditional media outlets, and social media — seemed to be just as significant as its huge number of online reviews — 526 pages of reviews on Sephora alone (and prevalently excellent, another important factor).  YSL’s mascara, by comparison, had 8 pages of reviews at the time of the study.

What matters here is that online reviews actually generate sales.  According to a study by Reevoo, 50 or more reviews for a product can amount to a 4.6% increase in conversion, while the overall existence of user reviews generates an average sales lift of 18%.  Oh, and people trust customer reviews around 12 times more than they trust manufacturer descriptions.  Meanwhile, contests that get consumers engaged are still a great way to interact with the public. Benefit’s mascara was mentioned on Elle‘s Facebook page more than anywhere else it showed up online, due to Elle‘s 716,457 fans plus a Facebook competition the magazine hosted for the mascara, asking the audience to create and post makeup looks with the product.

At a point when returns on social media seem to be tanking (or just proving they were never there to begin with), Tribe’s study shows 1) the outlet still matters! and 2) it matters more when it’s coupled with online engagement in the form of video mentions, contests, and good old fashioned customer reviews.  Tribe put Benefit’s EMV (the estimated ad equivalence) for June at $1,542,414.   Yves Saint Laurent’s, for Mascara Volume Effet, was a paltry $2500.

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All data is provided by Tribe Dynamics.  For more information on the study, check out the full PDF


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