What Nail Polish Can Teach You About Amazing Customer Engagement

Social Media Best Practices

I bet you didn’t think that a company about makeup and nail polish could school you on creating amazing customer engagement. One of the many benefits of working at Rival IQ is that we can use our own product to follow our favorite companies. A company that I’ve been following for a while now is ipsy, a beauty subscription service founded by Michelle Phan in 2011. In terms of promoting engagement and building a community around its product, this company nails it. Therefore, if you are struggling to create a similar environment in your company, ipsy could be the company for you to learn from.

Before we dive into ipsy’s amazing marketing approach, let me give you a little company background starting with the founder, Michelle. Michelle’s creative beauty videos have landed her on the list of Youtube’s most subscribed to people. After years of subscribers asking what her favorite beauty products were, she decided to create a service that would allow people to try full size and deluxe sized samples of products she loves. Now, only a couple years later, ipsy has 140,263 Facebook likes and 18,673 Twitter followers. This fast growth is a direct result of their outstanding marketing strategy, one that I think we can all learn from.

The Importance of Community

If there is one thing that you should take home from ipsy’s marketing strategy, it is the importance of creating strong sense of community for your followers. Their mission to create a tight knit, supportive, and encouraging community is clearly stated in their guidelines:

“At ipsy, we’re about more than just beauty products. We’re about motivation, inspiration, and fostering a community that supports beauty both outside and in. We want to create a safe place (on our website, on Facebook, and elsewhere) for ipsters to share their passions and more. We’re all here to support one another and learn new things, so please be on your best behavior!”

You might be asking: Danielle, what steps should I take to create a community like Ipsy’s? I’m glad you asked – because lucky for you, I’m going to answer this question by walking you through the areas I feel ipsy excels at and that you can try to emulate.

Make your website more than a place to sell your product

Ipsy sells “Glam Bags”, a monthly subscription beauty bag filled with deluxe samples and full size products of cosmetics. This is what they sell – BUT their website is so much more than just a giant ad for their Glam Bag. When you become an “Ipsyer”, you’re given your own channel where you can tell a little bit about yourself as well as upload videos, makeup looks, and fashion and beauty pictures that inspire you. Users can even “love” and comment on other Ipsyers channel pages. As you can see, in creating this environment, ipsy has essentially created their very own social site.

While this exact approach may not translate to every company model, there is one takeaway that every company on the planet can benefit from: Don’t be afraid to make your site about more than just your product. Ipsy offers a service that provides their customers with beauty products. It’s pretty safe to say that people who are interested in beauty are also interested in fashion and celebrities, all topics that ipsy posts about on their blog. In order to create a sense of community, you need to get to know your potential customers and understand what their interests are. Once you’ve determined their interests, a good place to introduce relevant topics is on your blog and social media profiles.

Create a fun and stimulating environment on your social media profiles

Now that you’ve identified the interests of your followers (or potential followers), it’s time to take to social media full force! Ipsy does a ridiculously good job on social media, so let’s see what we can take away from their approach and apply to our own.

Vary your content

Remember how earlier I hinted at the importance of getting to know your potential customers? Well, I’m gonna say it again: Get to know your potential customers! Ipsy’s Facebook page is filled with posts on fashion, beauty, health, fitness, celebrities, you name it! They know their followers interests inside and out, and it shows by just how much engagement every post gets.

Looking at ipsy's Facebook post engagement total in the last 14 days makes it clear that their engagement strategy is working.

Looking at ipsy’s Facebook post engagement total in the last 14 days makes it clear that their engagement strategy is working.

If you’re a company that sells wine then post about cheese. If you own a brewery then post fun drinking games. If you own a pet shop then you’re in luck because you can choose from over a trillion cat gifs that infest the internet. Kissmetrics, a web analytics service, posts about content marketing, SEO, and conversion because they know that people who’ve taken an interest in metrics are likely interested in these topics as well. Every community needs a good leader to drive things forward – take on the role of community leader by posting content that encourages others to engage. Ask questions, tell jokes, or share inspirational quotes. Whatever you do just be sure to keep in mind your audience and their interests and ask yourself, “What will get them talking?”. Once you’ve figured that out, everything else will fall into place.

Encourage followers to share their own content

While it’s important to have a community leader, there is really no point to a leader if there aren’t any followers. Who would Regina George be without Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith (yes, I’m obsessed with Mean Girls)? Ipsy encourages their followers to post their nail art creations, makeup looks, and outfits of the day on Twitter and Facebook. This past month’s Glam Bag included a full sized Zoya nail polish, which ipsy found was the perfect way to get Ipsyers sharing on Facebook. On May 14th, two weeks after the Glam Bag shipped, ipsy posted the following to Facebook:

“What beautiful spring nail designs have you created with the pastel perfect Zoya Nail Polishes from your May “Spring Fling” Glam Bag? On our wall, post a picture of your pretty mani or pedi using your Zoya nail colors by 5/31 at 4PM PST for your chance to win a prize from Zoya Nail Polish and Treatments! We will announce the lucky winners ON 5/31 at 5PM PST.”

Within minutes of posting, Ipsyers’ nail polish designs began to flood ipsy’s Facebook page. As of May 20th, 300 pictures have been submitted and almost all have been liked and commented on. The increase in engagement is made clear in this Rival IQ graph:

The day ipsy posted their competition, their Facebook engagement immediately shot up.

The day ipsy posted their competition, their Facebook engagement immediately shot up.

With this one post, ipsy succeeded in three ways:

  1. With all of the posting, sharing, commenting, and liking ipsy is killing it on Facebook’s search.
  2. Many people who were following ipsy on Facebook but weren’t subscribed to their monthly Glam Bag, might be so impressed with the full sized nail polish that they’ll decide to sign up for next month’s Glam Bag (WOOHOO CONVERSION!).
  3. With everyone posting and commenting on each other’s pictures, there is no denying that there is a strong, supportive, and inviting community on ipsy’s Facebook page. They prompted the conversation and then sat back and watched it take off.

We all want our followers to engage, because who thinks a Facebook page with one hundred company posts and zero likes or comments is sexy? Not me. So take a hint from ipsy and ASK for your followers to engage. It’s the easiest and most straightforward way to get people talking, but most of us (including myself) fail to take advantage of this approach. Eloqua, a marketing automation service, also uses this approach in their “share your flair” post on Facebook. They posted, “represent your city by showing off your Eloqua flair in front of your favorite landmarks.” While ipsy and Eloqua couldn’t be more different if they tried, this approach still works for both companies. The possibilities are pretty much endless, so get creative and have fun with it!

Show you’re listening

Getting people to engage is the first step to success on social media, but if you check out ipsy’s Facebook page you’ll see it’s not the only step. Company engagement is just as important, if not more important, as follower engagement – one of the worst things you can do as a company is not be involved in the conversation that is taking place on your social media pages. Ipsy comments on every single post on their Facebook page. If someone posts a picture of their nails, ipsy tells them how awesome they look. If someone asks a question, ipsy answers it. They even go as far as re-posting their followers’ content for all the ipsy followers to see.

Ipsy let's their followers know they are "listening" by reposting their pictures.

Ipsy lets their followers know they are “listening” by reposting their pictures.

Take a hint from ipsy and let your presence be known, show you’re accessible, and most importantly – show you’re listening.


Earlier I talked about the nail art competition ipsy held on their Facebook page, and I showed you just how much engagement that post generated. Competitions are a great way to get people talking about your brand and make it possible to reach more and more people – just imagine how many newsfeeds those nail polish pictures reached! Ipsy does a great job at coming up with competitions that are not only fun and have great prizes, but also spread brand awareness across multiple channels, reaching hundreds of people.

One of their recurring competitions is the “Look Challenge”. Ipsy subscribers are asked to create and share a Youtube video using the products they received in their Glam Bag. If they are selected as the Look Challenge winner, they will receive a full size product from one of the brands featured in their Glam Bag. Ipsy has well over 100,000 customers, so lets say that 5,000 people enter their competition. Now imagine that each of those people has 15 people subscribed to them on Youtube – that means that over 45,000 people are learning about ipsy, and these are VERY frugal numbers!


What better way is there to thank your customers than to reward them with free stuff? That was a trick question because there is nothing that says thank you like a gift wrapped box with a bow on it – BUT before you go running off to give all your customers rewards, it’s important to make sure that you do so in a way that also benefits your company. What we want to create is a reward system in which both parties benefit (the company and the consumer). Since this post is about just how awesome of a company ipsy is, I’m going to use their two rewards systems as examples of what you should be striving for.

ipsyPoints Referral Program

This one is pretty self explanatory. Ipsy offers rewards as an incentive for their existing subscribers to invite others to the ipsy Glam Bag service.

Ipsy's referral program rewards existing customers for spreading brand awareness.

Ipsy’s referral program rewards existing customers for spreading brand awareness.

The obvious advantage of a referral program is the expansion of your client base – but while it is a very easy addition to your marketing strategy, there are a few things you must keep in mind to ensure the program’s success. If you look at the picture above, you’ll see that ipsy has provided their existing subscribers not one, but three ways to invite their friends to join ipsy. They’ve made sharing on Facebook and Twitter as easy as clicking a button, which greatly increases the chance of people actually sharing. The amount of success you’ll have with your reward program will likely depend on just how easy you make it for your existing customers to “spread the word”.

Something else to keep in mind is to ask for a realistic number of referrals. Yes, we’d all like to have each person refer 1000 people to our product or service, but that’s just plain crazy talk. Unless your existing customer is Amanda Bynes, there is no way 1000 people are paying that close of attention to their Tweets. Ipsy asks for only two referrals, a number that is not so large it scares you away, but is small enough to draw you in.

Participate and Profit

Remember how earlier I mentioned how important it is to show your followers that you’re listening? Well here’s another way to let them know that you’re “all ears” – go above and beyond and reward your active “community members” with a gift like ipsy does.

Ipsy gives their followers an incentive to engage by offering a bonus beauty product for those who are active members of the ipsy community.

Ipsy gives their followers an incentive to engage by offering active community members a bonus beauty product.

Unlike a competition, a reward program like this one encourages continued engagement – and if you’re already attentive and aware of who is posting to your social media accounts (which you should be!), then this system will require very little effort on your part.


I mentioned earlier that ipsy was founded by Michelle Phan, one of the most subscribed to people on Youtube. If you aren’t familiar with the Youtube beauty community, it is HUGE! There are hundreds of thousands of people posting their own beauty videos and millions of people following other “beauty gurus” channels. Michelle Phan leveraged the position she had in the beauty community by bringing on some of the most subscribed to beauty gurus to the ipsy team as “ipsy Stylists”.

The ipsy stylists all have enormous followings on Youtube.

The ipsy stylists all have enormous followings on Youtube.

The ipsy Stylists consist of:

Each month, each of the ipsy stylists make a Youtube video featuring that month’s Glam Bag products. Now let’s do some math. Combined, these five girls have 9,205,361 subscribers! Now obviously there is a large amount subscriber overlap, and the more accurate number is probably around four million – but that is still a mammoth number of people. If you are subscribed to any one of these five Beauty Gurus, there is no way you won’t be hearing about ipsy’s Glam bags. More importantly, if you are subscribed to any one of these five Beauty Gurus, there is no way you won’t want to subscribe to ipsy’s Glam Bag. Bam, Wham, Shazaam they’ve got people converting!

So how can you apply this concept to your business? This goes back to the very important point that I just can’t seem to shut up about: get to know your potential customer! Ask yourself, “what products or services are they using?”. Once you’ve come up with an answer, think about which of those companies have a large following and would also benefit from joining forces with your company. Even if it’s as small of a collaboration as guest posting on their blog, you’ll still be reaching people you might have not had access to otherwise.

Some Key Takeaways

Hopefully at this point you can see why I admire ipsy, and more specifically their marketing strategy. If you’re ever at a loss for creative ways to interact and engage with your followers, I encourage you to head on over to ipsy’s website and social media pages for some inspiration. But before you run off, let’s revisit the key marketing ideas you should be “borrowing” from ipsy.

Now for a few questions. What companies inspire your marketing strategy?  What is the most effective technique you’ve adopted by watching them? Let me know in the comment section below.



Danielle Prager

Danielle is a digital marketing expert. She is always searching for or helping others learn the latest tips and tricks to improving social media, content marketing and other digital areas. When she's not working, she likes to spend her time keeping up to date on pop culture, getting her yoga on, and obsessing over how awesome the 90s were. You can find her on Twitter, @Danielle_Prager , and on Google+.

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