Part focus group, part influencer campaign planner, and part social club, online private label groups are gaining popularity among DTC startups.
Organized on a variety of social platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and Geneva, these B2B mini-communities are often made up of influencers, friends of founders and, sometimes, loyal customers. For smaller brands that don’t have the massive market research budgets of big beauty conglomerates, groups help founders get honest feedback in real time.
When the founder of the hair care brand Ceremonia, Babba Rivera, was preparing to launch her brand before the pandemic, she organized an “insider community” of influencers. who would meet for lunch to provide product feedback and ideas. When the pandemic hit, the search for an effective way for the group to go virtual was underway.
“It started on WhatsApp and then we quickly realized that there were a lot of limitations with WhatsApp,” especially when it comes to group size, Rivera said. Eventually, she stumbled across the Slack-style messaging startup in Geneva, where she interacts with a group of 150 members every week. Before its official launch in May 2021, Geneva in beta version was used by the wellness brand Golde and the e-merchant Geenie.
Members of the Ceremonia Insider Group “are all part of our product development, ”Rivera said. “We ask them what they think about it. They can test our first samples in the lab, and they can provide feedback on it, iterate on that formula, and be part of it from ideation to sampling to launch.
Golde, meanwhile, has been using Geneva for his #ClubGolde ambassador program for over six months.
“I was looking for a place for them to connect with each other beyond commenting on others’ photos on Instagram or [using] messaging channels, ”said Maitreya Brooks, Head of Partnerships and Community at Golde. She said if Geneva didn’t exist, Slack would be the next choice, but Geneva offers additional features, including group videos and an event calendar. “Slack, to me, just feels more work-oriented to me, and Geneva feels like it’s fostering more of a community,” said Brooks. “Community is Golde’s backbone. This is definitely our top priority whenever we think about anything like new products or what is the most important aspect of the brand.
In the group, Golde shares campaign instructions, while influencers share their content ideas and posts with each other for inspiration. Beyond the business side, it has also morphed into a social club, with conversations on lifestyle topics including wellness, recipes and home decor, as well as recommendations from restaurants and natural wines. Members also use it to schedule social gatherings in real life.
“It feels more supportive and community-based than Instagram because you don’t just DM individual people,” Brooks said.
Members of these groups often blur the line between enthusiastic customers and influencers, and groups create branded evangelists from those who join them. Ceremonia, for example, includes not only influencers, but also microinfluencers and clients of its Geneva group. Instagram followers can send a DM to the brand and fill out a form to be added.
Another way to organize these groups is private Instagram accounts. Newly launched Gen-Z wig Waeve boot uses Instagram to organize his private group of 300 members which he calls his “Waeve Baes”. The brand looks to the group for influencer marketing and product development.
“Basically we ask them about everything, like ‘What do you want to see in the package?’ “What styles do you like? “‘What’s important to you, when it comes to the tutorial videos you want?'” Said Mary Imevbore, co-founder and CEO of Waeve. “Everything we do, we share with them first. “
“They’re part of our team, basically,” she said. “Yes, there are three founders, but there are so many more people in our community who are helping us create this thing and take it forward. I want people to care. ”
These groups are decidedly more business-oriented than the private consumer groups organized by brands. The latter is a marketing strategy that beauty labels in particular More shiny, Versed, Glow Recipe, and Curology are now using or have used in the past. Glow Recipe, for example, now has over 20,000 members on his private Instagram account @realglowgang, which he uses for sampling and product reviews.
But brands are thinking about alternative options, in order to open their micro-communities to a larger group of customers. “We’re planning to open, but for now it’s a closed group,” Rivera said.