The brands that are excelling right now on the platform are using similar tactics to accomplish one main goal: create a sense of community with their partners. Their most successful influencer collaborations include not only branded partnerships anchored in inclusivity, but also community-building exercises such as hosting virtual events and masterclasses, maintaining messaging groups to keep creators engaged, and unique gifting models. In an ever-changing industry, we can look to these brands – giants like Ulta Beauty and Parade – as leaders in the influencer marketing space because of all the things they’re doing right.

Creating a community through virtual events

Creating a sense of community through virtual events is a key component of influencer marketing that brands should prioritise. One brand at the forefront of this virtual expansion that is excelling at community building is Ulta Beauty. Their development of the Ulta Beauty Collective, a year-long partnership with 50 diverse creators in 2020, and now 25 partners in 2021, has elevated their community-driven approach to influencer marketing.

At the inception of their 2021 Collective, Ulta Beauty, in partnership with Obviously, a leading influencer agency, hosted a virtual kick-off where the Collective members could have a meet-and-greet moment. Fostering this sense of community from the start has led to a palpable outpouring of positivity amongst the Collective, with members regularly reposting the work of their fellow creators. Beyond the introduction event, members of the Ulta Beauty Collective also have access to interactive masterclasses hosted by noteworthy brands carried at Ulta Beauty, such as Beekman 1802, KVD Beauty, and more.

The goal of these masterclasses is twofold. While education is at the core of these events, growing relationships with creators by dedicating an hour to chat directly with them is arguably more important.

Alleyoop, a beauty brand grounded in efficiency, dedicates time to their ‘team’ of creators by hosting interactive product introduction calls aimed at giving creators an overview of their new lines in a personal, exclusive way. From the brand side, educating partners on the ingredients in certain products, their sourcing, and benefits are massively important in encouraging content creation. More compellingly, from the creator side, these face-to-face moments with brands, especially with CEOs like Leila Kashani Manshoory of Alleyoop, inspire brand loyalty and will keep creators engaged, translating to more user-generated content.

Personal relationships

Fostering this sense of community does not end with masterclasses. One-off community events extend into daily life through the use of Instagram DM groups, private Facebook groups, or Slack channels. Beyond hosting monthly wellness events for their Ambassadors, Sweet Reason, a CBD-infused Sparkling Waters beverage brand, maintains an active Slack channel to connect with their community. Ulta Beauty has opted for an Instagram DM group since that is where their Collective members spend time on a daily basis. Any tactic to continue the creator dialogue beyond tentpole moments or virtual events is hugely beneficial in maintaining strong influencer relationships.

Inclusivity is key

Beyond these community-driven components to influencer marketing, it is also important to note that brands excelling in the space are anchored in inclusivity. Parade, an underwear brand that focuses on, ‘supersoft, sustainable fabrics’ and vibrant colors, sees beyond the one size fits all approach to marketing. Their partners are diverse, representing all skin colors and body types. By tapping into creators who resemble their consumers, they are bridging the gap between these worlds in a relatable way – somewhat unthinkable in an industry that was previously represented by six-foot models wearing giant wings on their backs.

Parade is also inclusive in the size of the partners they bring onboard. They have an army of Nano (1-10k Followers) and Micro (10-75k) creators sharing their products organically, and also leverage Mid-Tiers (75-300k) and Macros (300+) for key moments. Creating a community of brand-aligned partners who are outspoken, creative, and authentic is no easy feat, but Parade has accomplished this with full-spectrum flying colors.

Parade also thought outside the box by sending products to creators that spark intrigue and creativity. Despite their main product being underwear, they often send their partners Parade branded scarves, which have essentially taken over the internet. Creators have shared their scarves inventively as tops, bras, and headbands – you name it; the Parade scarves are everywhere. By sending partners a branded accessory, Parade invokes creativity and sustained brand awareness.

The team behind the brand Sweet Reason took a similar approach around the holidays. They sent their community branded wrapping paper to potentially feature in content, leading to an influx of posts featuring presents wrapped lovingly in Sweet Reason paper. These personal touches to product mailers set brands apart, encouraging organic unboxings and increased visibility on Instagram, a very active platform that requires brand saturation to stand out.

Mastering the art of influencer marketing can be a puzzle for emerging brands and established brands alike; however, Ulta Beauty, Alleyoop, Sweet Reason, and Parade lead by example. The tactics they employ, from hosting virtual events and maintaining messaging groups, to sending creative products to their communities make them stand out not only to followers on Instagram but also in the eyes of their creators who immensely value their personalised approaches to community engagement.

The strategies outlined here, although time-consuming to implement, are worth emulating to help your brand succeed on an ever-evolving platform like Instagram.

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