Currently 70% of Instagram users live outside of the U.S., which means smart, global brands will adapt their Instagram strategy. Among all categories studied in L2’s Intelligence Report: Instagram, Beauty has done the best work in international. Benefit Cosmetics, Maybelline, and L’Oréal Paris have excelled at regionalization, but Benefit Cosmetic stands out as the dominant international force in Beauty. Not only does it have more regional accounts than any other Beauty brand in the study, the size of its regional accounts is multiple that of others. The average Benefit regional account had 75K followers at the end of 2014 vs. 33K for Maybelline and 23 K for L’Oréal Paris. Benefit’s number of engaged users is higher as well, 8.6K vs. 3.0K and 1.2K. We spoke with Benefit Cosmetics Senior Director of Global Digital Marketing Toto HaBa to get the scoop on their success. HaBa’s tips point to a very local strategy that relies more on local advocates than translated content.

instagram-2015-benefit-cosmetics-regional-performanceBenefit’s irreverent voice, coined by founders Jean and Jane ford in 1976, is a large part of what drives its popularity. Outside of the U.S., it has been particularly in the U.K., Middle East, Australia, Korea, and France despite the fact that certain phrases (e.g. TGIF: Thank Goodness I’m Fabulous) cannot be translated. The solution is local advocates, primarily social media managers who work with social media influencers and oversee the quality of Benefit’s retail sites. This repost from @anniegesela on the Benefit Hong Kong Instagram account shows how influencers can fit in the brand strategy.


Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.15.38 PM


And this post from the Benefit Middle East account wishes followers a happy Ramadan.


Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.59.21 PM


Benefit Canada posted a picture of Benetint next to the iconic maple leaf. Hyper local and untranslatable on any other country.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.59.33 PM


So what about commerce and conversion? Do the 33 regional accounts linked to commerce? Toto says the company has explored linking pages to commerce, but found most options to be a clunky route to purchase. “We don’t want to introduce commerce if it isn’t a good user experience,” he says, adding that it’s only a matter of time before Facebook introduces a native commerce solution for Instagram.

Benefit was an early adopter of Instagram, realizing ways to incorporate the selfies women were already sharing in its marketing strategy. So what’s next for Benefit? He sees an opportunity in messaging services, a U.S.-based service that will give brands the reach and interaction of WeChat and Kakao.

Full Q&A with Toto HaBa below:

Benefit Cosmetics was one of the first Beauty brands to reach a million followers on Instagram. What sets this brand’s Instagram account apart from others?

I think our Instagram pages stand out because we’re such a different brand than other makeup companies. We always stay true to our DNA and our posts are consistently fun, bold, and girly. Customers are really responding to it. Take this post for example: It’s a short video talking about our bestselling mascara, They’re Real!. We’re not trying to impress you with endless makeup looks like other brands. People are looking for little fun diversions on Instagram and this post proves the point. It has almost 10 times the comments of a normal post.

When did Benefit start encouraging users to share makeup looks using Benefit products on social media?

Cosmetics has benefited from our obsession with selfies more than any other industry. We didn’t have to encourage our fans to post images with our products. They already were! We started to get serious about aggregating the love when we launched #realsies in 2013.

When did Benefit start to post user-generated content on its profile pages?

We integrated social imagery in our product detail pages in 2014.  We partnered with a company named Chute to drive this.

Have you seen an increase in posts or conversions since you posted the content online?

We’ve seen increases in engagement, time spent on pages, and conversion. I can’t share the exact numbers with you right now.

You were recognized in L2’s Instagram Intelligence Report as the most dominant international force on Instagram among Beauty brands based on metrics such as your average regional account size (75k), number of regional accounts, and post frequency (8 per week). What drives your international social success?

I think there are three primary things that drive our success. 1. Having awesome digital advocates in each country managing our pages, 2. Producing great content that resonates with our fans, and 3. Having a strong global team that can share best practices, invest in global tools, and hold countries accountable for hitting growth goals. We have incredibly ambitious goals as a company and we hold our digital marketing to very high standards.

Do you translate content or do you curate content specifically for various regions?

We do both. Our global team produces a lot of photos & videos for international markets to translate, but we also encourage our local digital advocates to produce content themselves. Take this post for example: It’s from our Canadian team and it shows Benetint by an iconic maple leaf. It’s perfect. Hyperlocal and beautifully shot. We couldn’t produce content like that at our global offices for 40+ countries.

Do you have separate social teams for each region?

We actually have separate digital advocates in almost every country we’re sold in. So much of our brand voice is based in humor that it’s really important to have people on the ground who speak the language and understand the culture. Translating a post like “TGIF: Thank Goodness I’m Fabulous” requires more than just translation skills. You need to know if the phrase is culturally relevant and you can’t just swap in translations because it has to match the acronym for the joke to work. It’s a lot of people to coordinate, but isn’t engaging people the best thing about social media? Having someone to moderate discussions and engage our fans in every country is super important to us.

What do you think of e-commerce being integrated into Instagram?

We’re looking into it and have met with a lot of companies. We don’t want to introduce commerce if it isn’t a good user experience. Companies are hacking a lot of different solutions together that don’t always make sense. I think it’s only a matter of time for when Instagram introduces commerce themselves. You can see Facebook moving in this direction.

Are you familiar with platforms such as Like2Buy and and find them useful?

We are familiar with them and think they could be great. Commerce in Instagram isn’t a priority of ours right now. There are a lot of different and more cost effective alternatives to drive e-commerce growth than social right now.

For more on how brands are leveraging Instagram, download a copy of L2’s latest Intelligence Report:

[reportdownloadlinks report_post_id=”100678″]

Daily Insights in Your Inbox