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From Content Creator to Brand Builder: Susan Yara Talks Growing a Passionate Community Online and Off

From Content Creator to Brand Builder: Susan Yara Talks Growing a Passionate Community Online and Off

In Episode 53 of Earned, Conor sits down with beauty and skincare veteran Susan Yara. Not only has Susan amassed over one million subscribers on her YouTube channel Mixed Makeup, but her affordable, ingredient-focused skincare line NATURIUM, which launched in 2020, is growing rapidly, achieving a 59% year-over-year growth in EMV and a 74% YoY community expansion.

We start the episode by diving into Susan’s career path, from her stint as a broadcast news reporter to her time as an online beauty editor. After recapping these experiences, Susan shares why she decided to transition to launching her own beauty-focused YouTube channel, Mixed Makeup. Susan reveals how the name represents her unique perspective as a half Latina, half Korean woman, and explains why she wanted to focus her channel on skincare concerns for women aged 25-40. Susan also gives advice for building and growing a community by creating valuable content that people can learn from and connect with. Additionally, we discuss the importance of mastering one social media platform rather than spreading your efforts too thin across them all, and why building a passionate community spurs longevity for your career. We then switch gears to NATURIUM, and Susan emphasizes how having a team of industry veterans has helped the brand navigate the pandemic and recent supply chain issues. Finally, Susan shares why she believes it’s a mistake to focus on creating viral products, before explaining why NATURIUM prioritizes relationships with micro-influencers.  

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts!

The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.

“The number one thing to always remember is that they follow you:” Susan Yara on How to Grow Your Social Media Community

Conor Begley: What made you decide to create your YouTube channel Mixed Makeup? And talk to me about what makes successful content. Because people didn't just subscribe to your channel for no reason, right? So when you think about what makes a good piece of content, what boxes does it need to check? 

Susan Yara: Yeah, so Mixed Makeup. Originally it was just a personal blog about both of the cultures that I grew up in. I'm half Mexican, half Korean. I grew up in this Latino community in New Mexico, but as a half Korean girl at the time, it was interesting to grow up with a different perspective, because even though I was half Latino, the Latino kids didn't see me as Latino at all. I was Asian to them. But then if I ever hung out with anyone Korean, I was absolutely not Korean to them. And so when I came up with the blog name “Mixed Makeup,” it was really a play on words because I was in beauty, I was a beauty editor and everything, but I was also doing a little play on words with my mixed biological makeup. So I just really wanted to focus on that.

I did not intend to be the main talent on camera for the channel. In fact, sometimes I get exhausted by this whole concept of always having to get ready and have this certain appearance online. So I really didn't intend to be the main face of the channel—I really wanted it to be pretty broad, but you could see the trends kind of shifting with social media at the time. And I think the big issue with media companies even now is that it takes them so long to catch up to what the trends are. Even if they can see what's happening, there's so much bureaucracy, everything is already set into place, and they can't just make this quick shift. And social media moves so quickly that if they can't make any changes quickly, then they're not going to keep up.

So with social media, the big shift has been towards the personality. I think the big thing to remember is that when people follow you, they're following you because they either feel like they're learning something from you, they're being entertained by you, or they feel like they connect with you in some way. If I look at my following, a lot of my following is Asian moms or Latina moms. I actually realized recently that there are a lot of people of mixed biological race that follow me as well, because we have this unique perspective. So people are seeing something that they connect with in you as the creator. So the number one thing to always remember is that they follow you, right? You are the person that they are following, and there's a reason for that. 

I think the second thing to remember goes back to the idea that you’re either entertaining or you're educating, or you're doing both, right? And so you have to always do that. I think especially with TikTok, I see a lot of young creators who are trying to build their social media, but they don't add any value. Like sure, you could be cute and maybe you'll get lucky and you'll get really popular because you have really cute outfits on and stuff, but there are a lot of people doing that, and there are a lot of cute people out there. What is it that stands out about you? You have to add some type of value.

For me, it was talking about stuff in beauty and the beauty space that I felt like really didn't get the attention that it needed, and that was cosmetic treatments and skincare. I am a very informed consumer because I've been in the space for so long. And so when I left to start Mixed Makeup, I never saw it as, I'm going to become an influencer. I saw it as, I'm going to start a media company, I'm starting a brand. And then it wasn't until I got pregnant and I started to experience all the changes that happened with my body and my face and my skin and everything that it really clicked for me that there is a demographic out there that's underserved when it comes to skincare. Because I can't even find this information for myself, at least not good information. I'm not trying to find the latest viral product for my skin—I'm trying to find real answers here. Luckily I had access as an ex beauty editor, as a person who already had a following at that point, I think I had about 400,000 subscribers on YouTube, so I had pretty good access to experts, to dermatologists and plastic surgeons and estheticians and everything. So I really started to put that focus there, and I think that was the really big shift for me. I decided I was going to focus the channel on me as the main talent, and focus on skincare. 

The whole concept of the channel from the get-go was that there was this demographic of women, especially those who were 25 to 40 years old, which seemed like an “old” demographic, but we are the people spending the money, we’re the people with the issues, and we need content, too. So when I was starting Mixed Makeup, I was like, there is this population of women who are not getting the content they need. Everyone thought that you should only be serving content to teenagers because they were the only ones on YouTube at the time. And I remember I was trying to get investors and everything, and they were like, “Oh, you're a little bit old.” I was like, 31. They were like, “You're a little old to be on camera. You should really be looking at some teenagers, or at least like an 18 year old to bring on as talent.” And I was like, “You're not getting the point. If you create the content, it has to be better researched. It has to be better produced. It has to be high quality content. If you produce the content, they will come.” And so all these men were like, “Oh, we don't know about this.” 

So I was like, you know what, I'm going to do this myself. So that's when I went in full force, just trying to find that demographic of women who were between the ages of 25 to 40. And it turned out I was right—surprise, surprise. It turned out they wanted that content. And now, I think the channel really spans as far as anyone between the ages of 18 to 50, which is kind of wild to think about. 

The real turn for me was when I started something called “Skincare Reaction” videos. I think the reason why that clicked for everybody was because it really simplified skincare, but it made it educational and also very fun and entertaining. And so once that started to happen, it just clicked for everybody. At the time, there was nobody talking about skincare. There were maybe a handful of people talking about skincare. There was no community. And then after my skincare reaction videos started, the community exploded. I feel like skincare has been this growing topic and focus on social media. And I think it's because for a lot of people—and I'm not saying it was because of me entirely, obviously there are a lot of people talking about skincare, but I know for my followers especially—skincare reaction videos really helped skincare education click for them, because it just simplified everything. It made it less intimidating.

Conor Begley: I think what’s interesting is, obviously you launched NATURIUM, and one of the things that you mentioned earlier is that there are all these celebrity skincare lines. There are all these brands that people are slapping their name on and trying to sell because they're trying to take their moment in the sun and make it a long-lasting thing. And I think the fact that you have become known for skincare is a big part of the reason that NATURIUM is successful in skincare, right? You didn't just go out and try and start a product in a category you didn't understand. 

Susan Yara: Yeah, it would be ridiculous. Like if I said I wanted to start a CBD line right now, or something that I just never talk about, people would be like, that doesn't make any sense. You gotta focus on what you know. 

“They are so much more invested in the brand with you:” Why NATURIUM Prioritizes Relationships With Micro-Influencers 

Conor Begley: So you know the creator side, you know the brand side, and NATURIUM has gone up the rankings rapidly over the last couple of years in terms of creator coverage. What has been your approach to working with other creators on behalf of NATURIUM? What have been your philosophies? 

Susan Yara: I go back to community. If people are skincare creators, there's a very good chance that they've seen some of my content or actually follow me. I remember what it was like just a few years ago to be a content creator who was struggling to get brands to notice me, to get my following to be consistent, and stay in the good graces of brands, too. You want them to notice you, and when you're a smaller creator, they don't. And I think this is obviously shifting with TikTok trends, but being a micro-influencer back in the day was so unglamorous. It was not fun, and you felt the struggle hard. 

And so I really focus on micro-influencers and the community of smaller creators. I think they're very important. And I think that if you don't focus on them, then you're making a big mistake. With big influencers, when they have massive followings, they can't keep up. They are astronomically expensive. Sometimes you're like, the ROI on this just makes zero sense. Why would I want to work with somebody, even if they have 10 million followers, why would I want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to work with them, if we can't even guarantee that I'm going to get that money back at the very least, right? And by the way, they don't even care about your content. You're just another drop in the bucket for them. 

Obviously there are some amazing huge creators out there, and I'm so grateful for those relationships too. But if I could only choose one, it would be the micro-influencers, because they are so much more important. They are so much more invested in the brand with you. They actually are excited about your new launches, they want to know about all the little details. We do so much research on innovation and new ingredients, and do you think a big influencer cares about that? They do not care, right? But when it comes to your community, the smaller influencers, this is what they live for. They're like, this is the good stuff, right? 

They want your brand because they know that you put all this time and effort into it. And you're not trying to create a viral product. I think this is a big mistake that a lot of brands have made. They’re trying to create a viral product, and while a viral product will give you money in the meantime, how are you going to keep customers coming back to your brand, or sticking with a consistent skincare routine? Especially with skincare. With makeup, I get it, it's seasonal, it's like fashion, it comes and goes. But your skincare, you have to be consistent. You cannot be focused on making viral products all the time. You have to make products that are really good. And it is your smaller micro-influencers who care about that. They want to hear from you. They want to know about all this stuff. They love incentives. They love when you acknowledge them. I'm all about the micro-influencers. 

You can watch the entire interview here, or listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. To catch up on our other 52 episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Milk Makeup, Gymshark, Gucci, and Summer Fridays, visit our Earned Podcast page

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“Working with Tribe Dynamics over the past 5+ years has been a true partnership in every sense of the word. The sophistication in their data is unmatched in the industry, and the level of insight in their analysis has become indispensable for any marketer in the beauty space today. They’re truly best-in-class.”

Mehdi Mehdi, VP Digital & eCommerce,
NYX Professional Makeup