How to make money from beauty blogging
Video beauty blogging queen Erica Yuen in one of her demonstrations.
We're obsessed with looking perfect in Hong Kong, so it only makes sense that women who blog about beauty products have a huge following here. Some of these bloggers have figured out how to cash in on their credibility as spokespeople of magic creams and other grooming tools.
"It used to be that when you bought makeup you had to guess and hope that the product will be good," says Francis Fong, founding chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing. "You couldn’t rely on celebrity spokespeople to tell the truth [about the product]. But now, bloggers are very credible and always write about products. When they demonstrate with video blog posts, they gain credibility quickly because you can see them using the products on themselves."
Yuen is probably the most succesful of the lot having made her move from blogger to full-blown entrepreneur. Her flagship store recently opened in Causeway Bay where she sells all the beauty products that she endorses, competing with the likes of Lane Crawford.
Her friend Leung was local beauty magazine More Magazine's most popular blogger in 2009 and gained small-screen fame when she appeared on a hugely popular documentary for TVB about relationship problems of single women aged 30 and above.
The two bloggers tell us about how they monetized their online hobby.
Founder of online shop Mi Ming Mart, actress, Miss Hong Kong pagent finalist 2005 and member of Power Voters. Yuen had monthly sales revenue of HK$3 million in late August, 2010.
CNNGo: When did you think of turning your blogging into a business?
Erica Yuen: I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which meant I was prone to depression and weight gain in winter. Imagine gaining 20 pounds every year when you’re in show business. It’s horrible.
I read health books that taught me to drink alkaline water and eat green vegetables. They mentioned green powder drinks, which could be sold online. The shipping cost about US$20 for the two jars I ordered.
I said, “If anyone is interested in buying this, let me know and I’ll order for you as well.”
From that one remark, I received almost 300 orders worth over HK$100,000. I asked readers to make deposits to my personal account. Then, I met them at Starbucks in Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui to give them their orders. This was before Mi Ming Mart.
CNNGo: Why aren’t there more celebrity beauty bloggers in Hong Kong?
Yuen: Many celebrities don’t have the guts to show their bare faces, which is necessary for demonstrating beauty products.
CNNGo: What stops other popular beauty bloggers, like Winnie Leung and Queenie Chan, from opening their own shops?
Transitioning from a blogger to an entrepreneur is not an easy route. It’s a huge responsibility starting your own business, from staffing to accounting to general day-to-day operations. It's not just about writing a post.
CNNGo: How do you compete with other more established stores?
What sets me apart from other stores is that all products have to be under my personal endorsement.
For example, I’m selling these perfume sticks that are sold at Lane Crawford as well. In my video, I describe the perfume, show it to people and tell them how to apply it. It’s not cheap. It’s quality perfume made in France. But you wouldn’t know that if you walked into Lane Crawford as it is shelved away in some corner. Lane Crawford is high-end but no one will come up to you and tell you to try it.
Plus, I don’t have the burden of expensive rent or too much stock.
CNNGo: Biggest beauty tip?
Use good products. Try to use natural ones that are not harmful. You won’t be able to find that in big brands. Read more books about products.
See locations of Mi Ming Mart at www.mimingmart.com.
Winner of More Magazine's Most Popular Blogger award (2009), Leung is also an author and trainer. Her blog receives over HK$100,000 from sponsorships.
CNNGo: Do sponsorships influence how you review products and services?
I tell the sponsors: “If I don’t think your product is good, I won’t write about it because I won’t betray my readers."
One brand contacted me recently to be their spokesperson. I asked them if it was a paid job and they replied me with an offer. I think that if you approach me, that means you see me as valuable, so this should be a fair deal.
But I will tell them at the start that I do not write advertorials. If I write an advertorial, it means I have to adhere to their requests and show them my copy before it gets published. I think part of the reason my blog is so successful has to do with me being real.
CNNGo: Why do you think companies approach you to promote their products?
They understand that firsthand experience is more valuable than advertorials because everyone knows that advertorials are paid for.
For example, right now I’m wearing Invisalign braces. I don’t have any business deal with them. Because I use them, I write about them on my blog.
The company discovered me and offered to pay for my braces, but I had already paid for everything by then.
They told me that relying on advertorials was useless for them. They need endorsements or firsthand experience.
My style is quite similar to Erica’s. I’m known to be straight about my likes and dislikes. The impression people get is if Winnie says something is good, it must be really good.
CNNGo: How is Hong Kong’s blog business different from overseas?
Hong Kong brands are greedier. They believe in celebrity endorsements more than bloggers. It’s only recently that there has been more advertising through bloggers.
Secondly, they think we should be grateful just because they offer to sponsor us.
CNNGo: Is there potential in Hong Kong to advertise through bloggers?
Of course. I found out when I started writing about beauty. I didn’t realize that after I wrote about products, they would sell out as a result. Everything is through word of mouth.