In 2019, Sephora announced #SephoraSquad, a partnership with 24 diverse influencers. The program has grown since then, and this year’s class will comprise 70 influencers, including Iyana, a Black creator with albinism; Young, a TikTok skinfluencer who wants to reduce the stigma of men doing skin care; and Stephania, a Hispanic creator who represents the disabled community and creates content in Spanish and English.
Sephora’s hope is twofold. First, by partnering with influencers, the company can reach audiences that otherwise might not use its products. Second, by helping these influencers gain larger followings, the partnership can broaden society’s understanding of beauty and help solve beauty problems for everyone.
“We think of them as a small business,” Abigail Jacobs, Sephora’s senior vice president of integrated market and brand, tells Fast Company.
Influencers can apply on Sephora’s website, and must ask followers to submit testimonials on why they should be a squad member. This year’s squad members were chosen from over 9,000 applicants and have a collective reach of over 5 million followers on Instagram, 14 million on TikTok, and 4 million on YouTube. Members of the squad receive a year-long paid contract (Sephora declined to reveal how much), where they agree to support various Sephora campaigns and feature Sephora products. According to Sephora, there is no set post count, and contract requirements are specific to each influencer.
Members also receive training sessions on topics such as contract law, private workshops on social media platforms to explore new features or discuss best practices, and access to events such as a meet-and-greet with Jennifer Lopez to talk about her beauty products.
Last year, Sephora Squad influencers saw their follower count grow 32%, and this year applications are up by 40%. Over time, the program has become more hands-off with its influencers, Jacob says, trusting them to know how to best reach their respective audiences, as well as appreciating that some influencers will come up with new and unique ways to market products.
“One of our goals is not to find the biggest influencer, but to find someone with a unique perspective,” Jacobs says. “We measure our success with diversity. We want to have a diversity of voices and make sure the squad looks like our customers.”