What do Kylie Jenner, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez have in common? These women share the top ten most Instagram followers for this year. Instagram boasts over one billion users worldwide, which is a staggering amount of people considering the app is, at its core, simply a place to share your photos and videos.
When Instagram first began, we’re pretty sure the founders had no idea that not only would their app become a massive, fast growing monolith on social media, but would also become a primary stakeholder in the beauty industry. The likelihood, especially as a female, of you purchasing a beauty product you saw on Instagram is becoming higher and higher, and beauty companies have already begun to channel its power over the past few years.
It’s clear that Instagram still has a strong hold on today’s society, and is only growing at this point. But how exactly does Instagram shape the beauty industry?
How Instagram shapes what we buy
Word of mouth
We can pretty much guarantee that you’ve purchased something, anything really, based on word of mouth. If someone you know well has recommended a product, you’re going to likely trust them because they have no stake in whether you buy it or not. If a salesman is trying to sell a product to you, you’ll be less likely to purchase because you know they’ll make a profit off of the sale. So how does Instagram influence us to purchase even if we know there’s a profit for those trying to get us to buy? It’s the power of word of mouth.
People trying to sell on Instagram are relying on the personal touch of a real human’s account to spread the word about a new product. Even the people we follow are often influenced by word of mouth. Someone we already don’t know but are “friends” with on Instagram recommends another user, and we click over and start following them as well.
We often tend to believe that the people selling or promoting things on Instagram are in a place of authority, which is usually a degree of perceived power. Even if we don’t want to buy the product being advertised, we often assume if you are selling something, you must have some credibility. If you have thousands of followers and plenty of “likes”, you’ll have even more credibility, similar to word of mouth as explained above. This kind of credibility is something that many regular salespeople strive for. The more trust they can create, the more sales they’ll achieve. If we see that teeth whitening product advertised by people we think have credibility, we’ll be more likely to purchase it.
Instagram Influencers are so influential for a reason. Consumers love that personal touch that we get from a real, live person who is trying the products. For the same reason we’ll go out and buy a new shampoo because of a friend’s recommendation, we’re likely to purchase an influencer’s sponsored lipstick because we can see him or her actually trying it on an Instagram video or photo.
Celebrities like Kylie Jenner often post or share a story about their everyday life and their family or friends, which makes them out to be more relatable. We sometimes feel more connected to people, even if we’ve never met them before, because we get to see an intimate view into their lives.
How Instagram shapes how we look
The beauty industry has always been extremely powerful in shaping how we look and what we buy for our looks, but it seems even more powerful these days.
One reason why Instagram has changed the beauty game is the accessibility of the app. Anyone can follow the same model, influencer, or celebrity, regardless of where you are in the world. This has started to create a more standardised standard of “beauty”, which used to be more specific to the region where you lived. For example, while some places in the world endeavor to be a lighter skin tone, others work on their copper tan. Now, people across the world look to the giant moguls of Instagram to tell them what beauty looks like, which is often all the same, contoured, “Instagram Face”. Ask any hair and beauty salon and you’ll probably find that a huge percentage of customers are attempting to look like an Instagram celebrity.
Instagram is even shaping how our bodies look, with a rise in plastic surgery, especially in young women under 30 years old. More and more women are turning to permanent solutions so they can look more like their favourite celebrity or social media influencer.
It isn’t all terrifying and saddening, however. The power of Instagram is the community it creates, along with influence. Take the #nomakeup hashtag, for example, where women all over the world post selfies of themselves sans makeup. The Instagram community has (mostly) supported and applauded this movement and can inspire us to go makeup free ourselves.
Instagram and social media have also opened up the conversation on ethical and sustainable beauty products, which previously were much less well known than they are today. It used to be extremely difficult to find products that were made ethically, purely due to lack of information. As it becomes more popular on social media platforms, however, and more celebrities endorse products and explain the importance of them, the more we’re able to research them and find the right products for us.
Whether you agree with how Instagram is shaping the beauty industry or not, the truth is that it certainly does have a massive influence on it. Now it’s up to us, the social media consumers, to decide if we’ll continue to use Instagram and the like to shape our decisions and our views on beauty, or if we strike our own #nomakeup type of revolution!