Content and Social Media Manager
Since Melissa Sowry joined Burt’s Bees in July 2010, she’s grown the brand’s Facebook fan base from 98,000 to more than 370,000 by creating compelling content that consumers want to interact with and discuss. That content, ranging from quizzes and video to sampling offers and behind-the-scenes access into the world of Burt’s Bees, is helping extend brand loyalty and generate powerful online viral engagement.
Sowry and her colleague Gabrielle Prohn, manager of public relations, spoke with eMarketer writer/analyst Tobi Elkin about the role word-of-mouth plays in beauty purchases, the brand’s Facebook content strategy and what gets people talking about beauty products.
eMarketer: What role does word-of-mouth (online and offline) play in the health and beauty purchase process?
Melissa Sowry: Our company was essentially built on word-of-mouth over 25 years ago. It’s very important to health and beauty brand purchase consideration—if you like a product or brand, you’re more likely to share that positive experience with friends. Consumers were introduced to Burt’s Bees through friends and sharing their experiences with the products. Our experience in the social space has allowed us to continue and extend that part of our brand heritage. We see and interact with passionate consumers every day on our Facebook wall.
eMarketer: What drives online word-of-mouth for your brand?
Sowry: Beauty is a category where people take recommendations from their friends and talk about what’s new. They also look to experts for suggestions. For example, if we get a placement in Marie Claire or Lucky where they’re raving about the new tinted lip balm, we might share the link to the page.
We also find fans of the brand are recommending products to one another in this space. That’s the normal activity that takes place around beauty products. It’s mostly women talking to other women and finding out what works, but it’s taking place online in social media venues. For example, a mother might ask other moms about products that stop diaper rash: “What works for you?” These are important conversations and I think online social media is a place where people trust one another to get that information.
eMarketer: What is the brand’s approach to Facebook?
Sowry: Facebook is a channel for us to provide compelling content. When I came on board, we started doing simple things—posting content and behind-the-scenes images on a daily basis and discussing new products coming to market.
We use social media and Facebook in particular as relationship-building tools. We also create opportunities for consumer education around skin care, for example, and sampling offers. We ran successful sampling programs on Facebook for our relaunched body lotions and new tinted lip balm.
We talk about our products on Facebook but we also spend time talking about the culture at Burt’s Bees through our involvement with Habitat for Humanity, sustainability efforts, product ingredients and so forth.
eMarketer: How do you track the ROI from your social media activity and how do sampling efforts impact sales down the line?
Sowry: We monitor the traffic we have going from Facebook to Burtsbees.com. We’re constantly looking at ways that we can monitor traffic, fan growth and sentiment about the brand.
We’d like to be able to say that because we launched a Facebook sampling tab we’ve increased our fan count and increased sales by a certain percentage, but we’re not in that place yet to have those sorts of metrics. But we do know that we’re driving more traffic to our ecommerce site due to the activity on Facebook.
Gabrielle Prohn: There are a lot of metrics we look at that are less about driving sales for this particular channel and more about listening and having a conversation. At the end of the day, consumer trust and the access to information we’re offering are going to drive people to purchase.
We’ll probably continue to look for ways that we can validate that. We’ll also continue to look at what traffic is going from Facebook to the ecommerce site because that’s an easy metric to look at. We can also look at our brand health metrics and brand equity and how to measure them as our Facebook fan base grows. We want to be able to see a lift in those brand health metrics.
eMarketer: Burt’s Bees has a “Shop & Share” feature on Facebook where brand fans can ask their friends about a purchase. How successful has it been?
Sowry: That tab was designed as a first generation of us looking at shopping on Facebook. You can’t complete a transaction with the Shop & Share tab—the technology is not at that stage yet. When you click on a product, we can import a product feed. We could have all of our products up there if we want, but can only display 10 products per page. If you click on the “Shop” button on the tab, you go to Burtsbees.com, our ecommerce site, to complete the transaction and the order.
Shop & Share was sort of a test to see if it’s something that we should invest in. We’ll be looking at it in the next fiscal year since more brands are starting to offer the ability to complete transactions within Facebook. People want to stay within the Facebook environment.
Prohn: Shop & Share provides a nice way for people who love a product and want to recommend it to a friend to just send the product image with a link.
eMarketer: What kind of content gets the most traction on your Facebook page?
Sowry: Everything from video, product recommendations, news about new products, ingredients, guidance in selecting the right products.
One thing that really engages people are questions. For example, we asked people on a Friday what they’re thankful for. We said we were thankful for honey. We did one around lip care: “What makes your lips like nobody else’s?” We had 106 comments on that post in a day.
Prohn: We’re a natural beauty company that’s sustainable in our practices. There are a lot of passionate people out there looking for information about what’s safe for their family, trying to understand ingredients and what they should be avoiding. They’re also looking for the benefits certain ingredients provide. We do a lot of education around natural personal care products because, quite frankly, a lot of people don’t understand about ingredients and sourcing.