Like most industries, social media has taken a big hit thanks to lock-down and Covid 19 in general. Many beauty brands have production facilities in China, France and Italy that have ground to a halt, and are only just seeing a glimmer of resurgence. Combined with the closure of retail outlets across the world and ingredients hard to source, beauty world in general is having to pivot hard to keep home-bound beauty consumers interested in doing more than plucking the odd chin hair and performing a lacklustre cleanse.
No matter how you may view ‘influencers’, they’re a barometer for trends and a visual indicator of the mood of the moment. That in itself is helpful for brands to understand what their consumer wants and be able to supply and act accordingly. With face masks rapidly becoming more popular will anyone buy lipstick anymore? Or will non-transfer colours experience a surge? Mascara, which had taken a downturn thanks to two big social media trends – natural lashes and false lashes – may see a pick up in sales as eyes will be the focus of an otherwise covered face. Now could well be a good time to pay care and attention to lashes – Sarah Chapman’s Skinesis Lash Boosting Eye Cleanse (£33) is a good place to start.
A clear upsurge on Instagram is self-care – masking and basking, basically. Women in particular often need permission to stop being multi-tasking wonder workers so if you fall into that camp, consider permission well and truly given. That half hour in the bath can be a restorative like no other – play a podcast, burn a candle, drop fragrant oils into the water… in other words, make it count. Forest Therapy Bath & Shower Oil, £49, from Aromatherapy Associates is an expertly blended wash of calm – a bit of a bath-time tree hug if you like with none of the discomfort (have you ever tried to actually hug a tree in real life? It’s not nearly as nice as it sounds) but if sleep is elusive you need Deep Relax (£49) from the same brand. If you prefer something to sharpen your senses, Mrs White’s Old Soak Bath Salts (£15) in West Indian Grapefruit & Lime will do the trick.
While no industry has had to face a global pandemic before, social media is such a new arena that there is no Plan B. Even Plan A is such a transitory, moveable feast that we will have to see a major shake-up in how beauty brands interact with social platforms and content creators. We all know it got ugly – it’s easy to lose confidence in opinions that are paid for and harder still to decipher what’s real and what isn’t. I predict that authenticity and expertise will become key, with a move away from the one-look-suits-all approach.
Does the shake-up mean the rise of the older influencer? I hope so – at 55 I am definitely in a minority but so much less prone to brand seduction and therefore happy to give unbiased views. It matters, when delving into social media, that you find voices that resonate with you and currently, all social media slants towards younger users. Brands, hoping to convert Gen Z to customers, ignored their existing following (studies show that older women are far more loyal in their beauty purchases than younger generations) who often find themselves excluded from new launches and baffled by the prospect of uploading images of themselves in bath robe and face mask to the ‘Gram. It may well be that beauty brands hold on harder to their core consumer at this stage.
Speaking of masks (bath robe optional), Hibiscus Face Mask (£15.50) by Balm Balm is a joyful bathing companion and equally happy to be your hydrating friend while you read a book, catch up on Twitter or watch a box set. Social media impacts almost all of us in one way or another and mostly we don’t realise how ‘noisy’ it is – it’s often rather brain cluttering so sometimes you need to switch off to switch off and it’s absolutely fine to shove your phone under a cushion to focus on yourself as and when you can.
Instagram is in something of a holding pattern at the moment – content creators still creating, shifting content focus slightly and seeing what sticks and resonates with their audience but not making any radical moves. Comfort time, positivity messages, mindfulness, interiors and yoga are all resonating with audiences who previously took their pleasure from perfecting a cat-eye with a black liner. The big question is whether creators can move with their changing audience and do so on reduced or zero budget as brands reign in their spend. If you’ve only ever done one thing, it can be difficult to segue into something else particularly with the right tone of voice for a crisis. It’s a bit like asking a potter to try their hand at lacework. But, social media is nothing if not adaptable – change can be good – and we have some interesting and challenging days ahead in beauty world.