Rachael Ostrom has worked for Aveda for more than a decade. She is responsible for cause-related marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), loyalty marketing, digital marketing, advertising and ecommerce globally. Ostrom spoke with eMarketer writer/analyst Tobi Elkin about the role social media and online word-of-mouth play in influencing beauty product purchase decisions and shared her insights about Aveda’s use of social media.
eMarketer: What role does social media and online word-of-mouth play in decision-making about health and beauty brand purchases?
Rachael Ostrom: With social media, you’re hearing about and seeing what your friends are doing and buying—what they like. It helps facilitate purchase decisions and everything around using a product, applying makeup, qualifying the right product for your skin and skin tone.
eMarketer: Does the beauty category differ from other categories where online word-of-mouth is concerned?
Ostrom: Where we see the difference is in our roots as an environmental company. When we look at word-of-mouth and discussions on our Facebook wall, for example, we see it as a spot where we can tell our stories. It’s difficult sometimes when you look at the limited space in a store to tell the stories that make us who we are.
With Facebook and Twitter and the videos we’re producing and posting on YouTube, we’re able to tell stories that engage our guests on a deeper level.
eMarketer: What’s an example of Aveda’s success in driving engagement via social media and online word-of-mouth?
Ostrom: We had a store in California where employees adopted a sea lion. We shared that story with our Facebook community and showed the video when the sea lion was released back into the ocean. It was very popular so we went back to our community and said, “Hey, if we get 1,000 ‘likes’ within the next 24 hours, we’re going to adopt another sea lion on behalf of our Facebook community.” We ended up with 1,800 “likes” within 24 hours. That was huge and showed how employee activism can help drive brand evangelism.
eMarketer: There’s a debate, as you know, about the value of Facebook “likes.” Can you determine their value and whether the person who “likes” has become a higher-value customer or whether a new customer becomes a regular?
Ostrom: It’s hard to track. We do sampling apps on Facebook and we have access to who these people are. But outside of that, we don’t necessarily. But we track those engagement scores against other brands and how much people are talking about Aveda, engaging with our Facebook page and talking about us on Twitter.
We want people talking about us and learning more about the brand. It really becomes more about the engagement than trying to prove—which is often difficult—that it’s generating a bigger sale.
eMarketer: How does Aveda identify and nurture people it considers influentials?
Ostrom: We have a variety of different programs with bloggers. We handle those kinds of high-authority conversations with blogger outreach. Depending on the type of campaign—hair, skin or environmental—we’ll identify a group of usually six to 10 highly influential bloggers. We engage them on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and their own channels as well. They serve as evangelists for the brand and engage in conversations with our community. We don’t pay bloggers, although there are a lot of brands that do, but we offer them products, and sometimes we’ll give them gift cards if they go above and beyond the call of duty. We’re very adamant about not paying bloggers because we feel that if they are going to influence women, which they do, they really shouldn’t be influenced by our payment. The results from integrating them into our campaigns have been amazing.
We work with a small group of bloggers because we find we can cultivate deeper, more meaningful interactions with a smaller group of influencers. We closely watch the viral activity—the relationship between the bloggers and their followings. When they’re posting on their Twitter channel or their Facebook pages, we often see their fans or followers coming onto our channels and becoming fans of Aveda and interacting on our wall or on our Twitter page.
eMarketer: Can you share some best practices about using social media and online word-of-mouth in the health and beauty category?
Ostrom: Use social media as a place to tell the stories your brand has to tell and that you don’t have the dedicated time or space to tell. It’s about giving your guests a spot where they can engage on a deeper level with your brand. You can also make it a vehicle for promotional activity, but that’s only a small part of how we use the social media space.