Influencer monetization platform Like to Know It is known for connecting brands with influencers, but now the company has inked an “#ad” deal of its own.
Starting this month, Like to Know It begins a paid partnership with Ulta Beauty, including weekly posts on Like to Know It’s own Instagram account. This is the first time Like to Know It has sold this type of advertising on its Instagram handle, @liketoknow.it, and Ulta is the first beauty brand to receive guaranteed content featured on Like to Know It, as the popularity of beauty content continues to rise.
For 17 weeks, lasting through August, Like to Know It will post a Wednesday Instagram post and Story featuring new content from a Like to Know It influencer created using products from Ulta Beauty, tagged with #LTKxUltaBeauty. The 17 participating influencers, who are part of the Like to Know It platform, will make a commission on any sales they drive through Ulta.
Though this is not the first time the brand has worked with Ulta, and Like to Know It has worked on smaller partnerships with fashion brands Rebecca Minkoff and Misha Nonoo, this is the first long-term partnership and the first to explore beauty, said Sarah Bertness, senior manager of Like to Know It’s global content strategy. “Ulta really wants to grow their Instagram persona and their reach, and so they came to [parent company] Reward Style and Like to Know It as the aficionados on influencers,” she said. “They were really interested in expanding their actionable presence in the social space in 2018.”
The Like to Know It Instagram handle has almost 3 million followers, and Ulta Beauty has 4.6 million. Sephora, by way of comparison, has 14.3 million. This comes at a time when influencers and celebrities are driving major excitement in beauty: @kyliecosmetics has 16 million followers, and Rihanna’s @fentybeauty has 3.8 million.
By harnessing Like to Know It’s network (which represents about 30,000 influencers and 3 million consumers), Ulta hopes to amplify its social media efforts, said Ulta Beauty senior vice president of brand marketing Shelley Haus in a statement, adding that she hopes this will “challenge traditional retail models” and help the brand “focus on an increasingly mobile-first shopper.”
Like to Know It used historical performance data to recommend influencers to Ulta. “If Ulta says, ‘I am looking for four girls who will talk about hair products in Austin, Atlanta and San Francisco,’ we can pair those down and say, ‘Here are 10 girls who fit your criteria,’” Bertness said. Participating influencers include bloggers BYO Beauty’s Courtney Shields, Truly Destiny’s Destiny Thompson and Sassy Red Lipstick’s Sarah Tripp, and YouTuber Sona Gasparian.
The deal will also, ostensibly, help Ulta Beauty make sales. To that end, Instagram users can shop posts tagged with #LTKxUltaBeauty — but not through Instagram (which recently began testing its own native payments feature).
To shop the posts, Instagram users must first download the Like to Know It app, which matches screenshots of influencer content with corresponding posts within the app. So, for example, when an Instagram follower of @liketoknow.it screenshots a Wednesday post featuring Ulta Beauty, they’ll then receive a notification that the post is ready to shop in the Like to Know It app. Products in the posts appear below the image, which link out to corresponding product pages on the Ulta’s website.
This comes at a time when the relationship between Like to Know It and Instagram is in flux. In April, Instagram abruptly shut down its existing application programming interface, which meant that Like to Know It’s original functionality — an Instagrammer receives an email with purchase info when they “like” an influencer post — no longer works.
In anticipation of potential disruptive changes like this, Like to Know It founder Amber Venz Box doubled down on the standalone app, which uses screenshots to match participating influencer content found anywhere online — like Pinterest, Facebook or a blog — with corresponding purchase information. The company maintains that it’s not a social media platform, but rather a shopping destination.
The same month that Instagram retired its API, the Like to Know It app added a “Wishlist” capability, allowing users to curate their own “dream mood board” of products, Bertness said. Users generally follow about 18 influencers on the app, suggesting a tightly curated feed.
“[Consumers] want to have control over what they are seeing, when they are seeing it, how they are seeing it and how they can act upon it. It’s a bigger trend that we are seeing over time,” she said.
The company reports that more than one million products were saved in Wishlist within the first 21 days, and 20 million screenshots have been matched since the launch of the app a year ago.
Like to Know It is also seeing growth in users shopping beauty content, reporting a 14 percent quarter-over-quarter growth in beauty sales. Nearly 20 percent of content is now beauty-related.
Bertness anticipates beauty content will increase as influencers expand out of categorical silos. “Influencers aren’t in one vertical. They’ve moved away from, ‘I am a beauty or fashion person.’ I see [beauty] being almost an expected and necessary part of every influencer’s lifestyle content,” she said. “It’s a bit of a renaissance.”