Since I’ve had blogs I’ve always wanted to devote a series to profiling women I love unconditionally. Public figures, I mean, that anybody could look up to.
Before you ask, no, it’s not a duplicate of my ‘styling icon’ series, even though they also are all women. If that series is about professional profiles linked to the styling profession, this one is about females across the board of professions and personalities. The only common trait they have is that I feel for them that complex feeling that is half “ohmygod I love everything she does” and half “I want to die and come back as her”. In a word, this is a more frivolous series, and only occasionally professionally relevant.
Today’s post is the exception to the rule, because it’s devoted to Caroline Hirons, aka “the queen of beauty”.
In fact, a crucial reason why I (and thousand of others like me) love CH is because of her influencer role and how she plays it.
‘Influencer’ takes what I do and makes it about what I can do for a marketing team or brand. I’m a blogger/YouTuber. I have influence, but it’s not why I do what I do.– Caroline Hirons, interview March 21, 2018
For starters, Caroline Hirons didn’t start in her profession to become an influencer. Quite simply she developed a passion for what she was doing (selling skincare), she trained for it, worked with it, and then naturally went on to open a blog, a YouTube channel, a Facebook group, and eventually an Instagram feed that could revive discontinued products and make them into bestsellers just because she mentions them.
Breathe. That was a handful, I know. But that’s the breathless feeling you get whenever she launches anything.
On May 1 she sold out her Spring kits in around an hour (featuring skincare products from some of the best brands globally, some of which were produced in a limited edition for the kit). Some 60 thousand kits went in 60 minutes distributed over half a day, because her well-prepared website would crash every other minute (with up to 100 thousand connections at a time). On May 4, when she announced discount codes from the same brands in the kit, most of the brands’ global e-commerce websites crashed in a matter of thirty minutes. Some of the brands ran out of the products included in the kit in a couple of days.
You cannot fake these metrics, and this is the kind of numbers you should ask a prospect influencer about when you’re considering working with them.
Not the number of Instagram followers they have (CH has just over 400 thousand, but she had around 300 thousand a few months ago). Then you should look at how they operate and at the kind of engagement they generate.
On the website of the agency representing her, Caroline Hirons is said to be “honest, informative and extremely helpful when distributing skincare advice”, and that’s not a marketing spiel. I personally have a history of DM on Instagram where I asked her for advice and she answered, always in person (her dry and assertive style is pretty unmistakeable).
The same kind of interaction happens in comments on her social media posts and during her lives. Again, you cannot fake this kind of interaction with numbers, nor numbers can adequately describe it.
The reasons why I love Caroline Hirons and why you should go check her out now if you don’t follow her already, are also a large contribution to the engagement she generates.
Many women are tremendously competent about what they do, or about their passion, but they convey that either with arrogant self-centredness, or fake humbleness, or self-deprecation. Instead, CH states what she knows without frills or embellishments, with assertiveness and a clear sense of purpose. In short she puts her competence to use to help people and to provide advice and guidance.
I’m sure this has to do with how she acquired that competence. She naturally transitioned from selling beauty products in real life (at beauty counters) to consulting brands on how to best sell their products, then moving onto effectively selling beauty through the Internet. It took her twenty years to get there, and before that, she had trained, tried, worked for the industry she influences about.
That level of competence cannot be faked. It provides a consistent stance on the topic at hand that maybe won’t register immediately with fans, but over time it will get traction. Some wannabe influencers don’t realize that talking about every product they are submitted as if it was their favorite, relaying the spiel they’ve been fed by the brand, makes them much less impactful and more interchangeable over time.
In terms of working with bloggers in a sponsored situation, it works best if you leave the script at home and let the blogger advise on what will work. We know our reader/viewer better than anyone. And brands that won’t listen/think they know better are best avoided, no matter how much money they wave in front of you. The reader comes first.– Caroline Hirons, interview March 21, 2018
It’s not just a matter of credibility (as I said, I doubt most fans give it enough attention to notice), it’s definitely more about relevance and impact.
If you’ve never heard Caroline Hirons rage against novaxxers you’re missing out. But even if you don’t agree with her opinion you can appreciate her coherence and the strength of her beliefs.
Coherence leads her to turn down collaborations and to publically state she had changed opinion on a product or brand, generating backlash (as it happened recently with Drunk Elephant) as well as waves of support.
I can’t give specific brand examples, that would be beyond unprofessional, but I am asked to endorse products that I don’t use all the time. We all are. It may be turning down a fortune but it’s not worth your reputation with your reader.– Caroline Hirons, interview March 21, 2018
This level of integrity conveys substance to any statement Caroline Hirons make. I’m not the only one trusting her as the sole source of information on how to care for my skin (check with Francesca Marano and Daniela Scapoli).
What makes it even more natural to trust Caroline Hirons is the frequencey with which she shows awareness of her role and of her impact. And of the consequences of her actions.
She constantly warns her followers not to “credit card their skincare”, and she always provides alternatives in any price range for the products she mentions and promotes. Furthermore, she uses her influence to affect change. Like at the beginning of the pandemic, when she was very vocal about calling out retailers for laying off employees or for keeping them home without pay.
It’s not common to find that level of self-awareness, but I believe it’s the mark of true greatness.
So yes, I will die happy if I can have an inch of that greatness when I get her age (in seven years). I know, it’s impossible, but a woman can dream.