In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
All entrepreneurs hope that they can turn what they love into a thriving business. For popular vlogger and beauty guru Laura Lee, a love of cosmetics and a devoted social media following helped her launch a line of eye shadow called Laura Lee Los Angeles.
The first product, a vegan, cruelty-free $40 eye shadow palette of 10 fall color options called Cat's Pajamas, sold out in days -- which is not surprising since Lee has more than 4.3 million subscribers on YouTube and 2.1 million followers on Instagram.
Lee says that the first product is only the beginning. “We're looking to grow the brand,” she tells Entrepreneur. “We want to be a full makeup line and turn into something great. So we're just getting started. But we know it's going to be huge. We just have to stay working at it every single day.”
We caught up with Lee to get her insights about how to grow an audience and make sure that your passion always shines through.
How did you get your start with Instagram?
I always loved makeup, and where I'm from in Alabama, there just wasn't a lot of cool artistry going on. So I started my Instagram page. I started posting pictures of just my eye with my makeup done really cool over and over and over again.
What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram
YouTube is the main social media outlet I use. I post three videos a week on YouTube and I normally post one piece of content a day on my Instagram, whether it be a video, picture or a boomerang. But it's so much faster to create content for Instagram than it is for YouTube. I spend a little more time on YouTube. I also do my Insta-Stories. And I also do my Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.
How much of your time do you devote to it?
It is my career. I would say every day we probably spend 10 plus hours working on some odd or end that ends up being for social media, whether it be filming a video or getting ready to film the video of prepping or pulling makeup or applying makeup, it all leads back to social media. So I would say around 10 hours a day because we work seven days a week right now.
How do you promote your account? What's your number one way to gain followers?
I think hashtags are very helpful as long as you're using them correctly. You're making sure that you're hashtagging things that have to do with what your post is about. I also think posting videos on Instagram helps, because on the Explore page on Instagram, they don't really share pictures as much. They share way more videos, so your chance of getting it exposed on the Explore page [improves] by posting videos. And also a lot of my friends and I will team up and we'll post a picture together on both of our pages so we can kind of interchange our audiences.
What's your content strategy?
I try to read into and see what got the most likes. Typically pictures with my husband and family get tons of integration so that lets me know my audience doesn't just want to see makeup because they want to see who I am. I try to focus in on what was pulls in the attention and try to recreate that in different variations.
What's your best storytelling trick?
I would say that my aesthetic -- [it is consistent and] very girly. It's very positive I think and very much so about cosmetics.
How do you set yourself apart from others on the platform?
I definitely think it's all about personality. You can show a lot of personality in a picture. And you can also do this with your captions [and a sense of humor]. I think it's all in the personality because we can all post you know 10 million bronze-y eyes but you’ve got to have something that sets you apart.
How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?
I'll have brands that I work with. They will come to me and say, "Hey, we'd love to pay you to make a post," and then we negotiate [what will go into] the post. It's very important for my posts to be super organic and for me to believe in the product. I'll do maybe two sponsored posts a month.
What advice do you have for other Instagram influencers or people who want to build brands on the platform?
I’ll say the number one thing people miss is being consistent and that social media grows super slow at first for everyone. And it's just a matter of who's going to hang in there and keep posting and doing all the hard work. So it's the consistency that's key. And I also find that your following sees how passionate you are whether you think they can or not. And I think they become as passionate about you as you are about your work. And if they see you’re half-assing it or not putting in 100 percent then they're not going to put that into your channel either.
What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?
I think that people don't realize that it's not easy just because you have the social media background to sell your product, people don't realize that you are under a microscope vs. another brand who doesn't have a face behind it. So whenever I come out with a product, people see my face. They just see me. They hold when I come out with and all they do is think of me. You know you hold an Urban Decay palette, you don't think of the creator, you just think of Urban Decay.
So with that being said, I think we're looked at under a microscope and our product is picked apart. If there's a complaint or something people don't like, people are very vocal about it and take it to your personal page. Whereas [with a bigger brand] if there is a complaint, you would never go hunt down the founder and say something. It's very, very important for us to have happy customers, because we don't get to hide behind the brand. We are the brand.