How to build a successful Instagram beauty brand

If you own an Instagram account, it’s likely at some stage you’ve seen Sand & Sky face masks pop into your feed. With over 290K+ followers on Instagram since launching in April 2017, Sand & Sky has quickly become an influencer’s favourite – with big name content creators such as Huda Beauty, Jefree Star and Buzzfeed Ladylike all taking to social media to profess their love for the product.

What began as a direct e-commerce company has now expanded into over 33 stockists including Harvey Nichols, Sephora France, and ASOS… to name a few. To say Sand & Sky has been a success story is a massive understatement – and social media (teamed with a great product) has played a huge part in the brand’s accomplishments.

Intrigued by Sand & Sky’s impressive ability to negotiate the influencer space, we decided to pull co-founders and twin sisters Sarah and Emily Hamilton aside to find out just how they managed to do it and what advice they have for other brands trying to grow their brand via Instagram.

First up, congratulations on the brand’s success. Do you credit this mostly on your social media prowess?
Sarah: Thank you! Social media has definitely played a huge part. Most women are on social media every day and beauty tutorials are so huge online. When we created the mask, we knew we had to get the beauty girls to try it and share their reviews to make it work. When they started showing their followers how to use the mask and people could see the results for themselves, it just took off! Social media is powerful, but ultimately delivering a product that works is most important to any brand’s success.

The brand gained 270K+ followers in under 18 months. Can you give us a little insight into how you did this?
Sarah: By constantly engaging with and listening to our customers on social media to create content they love and want to share. Influencer relationships have also helped us grow our following. When their audience sees the glowing reviews of our products, they come to our page to learn more and they fall in love with our Australian holiday vibes.

Why do you think you’ve managed to successfully traverse this landscape at a time where other brands are struggling to get noticed?
Emily: We have a great balance of a unique product that works, knowing who we are, and being very agile in changing our content to keep customers engaged and to create new stories around the brand. There is always something exciting and new to talk about at Sand & Sky!

You’ve been talked about by lots of influencers. Who do you choose who to work with?
Sarah: We choose to work with people who believe in the brand, create amazing content, have great engagement, and are an authority in beauty.

How much time do you spend on influencer engagement each day?
Sarah: We do our influencer marketing in-house, so it’s a full time job.

Has the brand spent much on influencer marketing campaigns? What is your advice when it comes to influencer campaigns?
Emily: We are a small company so budgets vary. We do a lot of gifting and also paid partnerships – the mix is always changing. The best advice we can give is to create genuine relationships with influencers so they can become advocates for your brand.

Have there been any “pinch me” moments with a particular influencer or Instagram posts?
Sarah: Early on, we got reposted by the absolute beauty goddess, Hudabeauty. Buzzfeed Ladylike also created an organic video that literally broke our website. That was an amazing feeling!

Have there been any mistakes you’ve made when it comes to influencer marketing that you’ve learnt from? What did you learn from your mistakes?
Emily: The biggest lesson in this area is to have clear communication and sometimes over-communicate to make sure both the brand and creator share the same vision.

What are your five top pieces of advice for other brands when it comes to growing their brand via Instagram?

  • Be true to the brand you want to create, don’t follow others, and create your own niche.
  • Be engaging, think about what you like to see.
  • Always post content that is relevant to your brand.
  • Listen, reply and be humble – your customer will tell you what they want from the brand.
  • Be open to opportunities and evolve your brand.

Where do you hope to see the brand in the next 5 years?
Emily: We want to get better and better each year and continue to learn about what customers want, while bringing quality Australian products to customers around the world. Our first 18 months have been great, so we are happy if we can continue at this pace.

Who would be the ultimate influencer to use the product and why?
Sarah: Glam Life Guru is one that immediately comes to mind – she is such an authority in beauty. But really, anyone who loves our product and can see themselves hanging out on one of our beautiful Australian beaches! And maybe some guys for all of the girls in the S&S office? Chris Hemsworth would be nice, haha.

Sand & Sky co-founders Sarah and Emily Hamilton

Main image: Sand & Sky

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