“Rainbow Highlighter”, a product created by Bitter Lace Beauty, became a seemingly overnight sensation back in April of 2016, and was featured in countless blog posts and magazine articles. This product is an example of the redistribution of power. The creator of the rainbow highlighter was not, and is not, a big time makeup company executive. She did not have an elaborate and expensive factory to manufacture her products. However, what she did have was a good idea, and a platform in which to share it - Instagram. Luckily for her, this platform facilitated the virality her product received online, which translated to actual monetary sales. Or as Jenkins and Green wrote, her success was at least partially a result of “the technical affordances that make it easier to circulate some kinds of media content than others” (2011, 112).
In a similar vein, another product – well, brand – that got popular as a result of social media is ColourPop. Only three years old, the brand has amassed more than 4 million Instagram followers alone. However, their journey to the top was quite a bit different to that of Bitter Lace Beauty. Subsidiary of Seed Beauty, the parent company of another famous beauty brand, Kylie Cosmetics, ColourPop sought internet prominence aggressively. With financial support most indie sellers cannot compete with, ColourPop began to achieve fame as a result of a predominantly online focused ad campaign. A study of their Instagram feed reveals three common tactics for appealing to their millennial target audience:
1. Product pictures, with and without packaging
2. Pictures of people (generally attractive) using and wearing their products
3. Swatches (typically on forearm) of their products to show pigment
And it was successful… simple, but successful. ColourPop understands their target market, and their strong visual style has caught the attention of consumers. Almost 2 million times has #ColourPop been posted on Instagram, often accompanied by at least one of the above - Effectively, creating their advertising for them.
This is just one example of creating content, and a brand image, that consumers want to share and spread to others - A phenomenon which has become a legitimate, if not essential form of advertising online. According to millennials, content created by fellow users is around 20% more influential than other types of content (Macalalag, 2016). In fact, 92% of all consumers trust word-of-mouth more than any other type of advertising (Nielson, 2012). This, too, is at least a partial contributor of why ColourPop’s advertising was so effective, and subsequently why they became such a prevalent cosmetics brand in the Instagram public.
The popularity and following celebrity of ColourPop and Bitter Lace Beauty’s Rainbow Highlighter are both examples of how a social network can be used to successfully forgo traditional forms of sales and advertising. Instead opting in favour of a modern alternative, which now offers the opportunity for individuals without large sums of capital to create and sell their products on a large scale; a luxury not available just a few decades ago (Rosen, 2006). Arguably, neither Bitter Lace Beauty nor ColourPop could have achieved the same amount of notoriety so rapidly, had it not been for the affordances, namely the high velocity of shareability, Instagram facilitates.