Customer chatter for cosmetics

E.L.F.’s CMO Ted Rubin discusses how the brand leverages Twitter, Facebook and blogs to boost engagement 

Q: How has E.L.F. weathered the economic recession?

A: The recession has been good for us in some ways. We’re a value brand, and right now cheap is chic. We manage by word of mouth with no traditional marketing budget. We have scaled social media through Facebook and Twitter. This recession is different than any other in the last 30 years. It is deeper and more widespread. The economy won’t come back in the same way.

Q: What is the top priority as CMO?

A: To grow and leverage what we’ve built in last 18 months in social media and make it an integral thread with everything we do. We’ve built a strong Twitter following of more than 50,000 through @tedrubin, @askelf and @eyeslipsface.

Q: What is your social media strategy?

A: A continual tug of war that CMOs have with the rest of the C-suite is that social media is not an e-mail list. With e-mail, more is better. Three million members are better than two million. Everything is about growing that list. With social media, it’s about how reactive that list is. What I beat up my staff over is you have to respond to every single Tweet. I insist and check it all the time. Engagement is not enough. You need to interact. Not only must you answer Tweets, but you cannot use automated answers. You have to let people know you are listening and that you will solve their problems.

Q: What is your contact strategy with customers?

A: I look at Facebook and Twitter as seeding media, not broadcast media. It is about having them picked up by blogs and coupon sites and other static places. We also use e-mail. I e-mail people who have an audience, and it is a direct e-mail from me. There are more than 500 on the list, most of whom are “mommy” bloggers and beauty bloggers. We also “piggyback” with major marketers like Hearst, Condé Nast and Virgin Mobile. We also have an affiliate program, and we do search, both paid and natural. Paid is limited; we can’t afford to compete with the prestige brands.

Q: Your e-mail marketing strategy is limited to the blogger community?

A: No, we send out a significant amount of e-mail, but we make sure it is relevant and targeted. We segment the list. We don’t pound people who aren’t buying. We send out well over 10 million e-mails per month. We don’t use third-party lists where someone opts in. Because our average order value is low, we can’t convert enough people to make it worthwhile.

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