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Why the NARS Social Team is Entering the Metaverse
As more brands enter the metaverse—some of these responsibilities are falling on social teams.
I should probably start with a disclaimer: I am the worst person to write this newsletter. I am extremely skeptical of the metaverse, I think NFTs are lame at best and scams at worst, and I can’t even succinctly explain what Roblox is. But, personal opinions aside, it’s hard to ignore that brands are flocking to build presences in these new digital spaces. Every day it seems like another brand is building an experience in Roblox, running some crypto promo, or releasing NFTs—and it’s often social media teams that are either spearheading or collaborating on these initiatives.
For this week’s newsletter I spoke with Brooke Bunce, Senior Manager of Global Social Media at NARS, about working on these sorts of initiatives for the large beauty brand. We talk about building community on Discord, why social managers are well-equipped to lead Web3 projects, and why she’s hopeful for those just entering their careers as social media professionals.
Rachel Karten: Can you tell me about your current role and any previous social (or not!) roles you've had?
Brooke Bunce: I studied journalism in college, so my career started out as an editorial assistant at a print magazine—which actually has so many similarities to working in social media. In both roles, you’re thinking of ways to package complete stories in formats that are engaging, appealing, and digestible to a specific audience.
When I was working in print (2014-2016), the future of magazines was tenuous, so I knew I wanted to transition to digital media. I found myself jumping into my first social role at Fuse TV. From there, I transitioned to beauty and fashion with roles at Coveteur, Alexander Wang, and Origins.
At NARS, I’m the Senior Manager of Global Social Media, overseeing all global social media strategy for our owned platforms. That means I lead content development and strategy, analytics and reporting, community management, content calendars, researching emerging platforms, and planned social media support for innovation projects (more on that in a minute). Another part of my role that I love is working with NARS makeup artists to bolster their own social media presence and content creation skills.
RK: How did you get into the beauty industry, specifically in social?
BB: Having experience working in fashion helped me get my foot in the door in beauty, and the cool thing about working in social is the flexibility to work across industries—I’ve been able to explore music, beauty, and fashion in my short career, and don’t think I would have otherwise if I weren’t doing social. As long as you have a passion for the subject matter and expertise in strategy and platforms, you have a great chance of working in a subject you find interesting! I love working in beauty because there are endless stories to tell, it’s a visual-driven industry, and everyone has a unique, deeply personal relationship with makeup and skincare.
RK: What does the social team at NARS look like? How big is the team?
BB: I’m truly so fortunate to be able to say I’m part of a team—so many of my past roles involved a team of one. I sit under our Digital Strategy and Innovation team, with an incredible VP and Executive Director who both have extensive experience working in social media. I’ve found it’s a rare experience to work under managers that have hands-on experience with social, let alone understand the nuances—and work—it can take to publish a single post. I’m really thankful I have that at NARS.
I have an associate manager, as well as two consultants, who help with the tactical, executional aspects of day-to-day social; social listening, responding to DMs, gathering metrics, curating UGC, scheduling posts. Having this level of support gives me the time and space for deep-thinking, long-term strategic projects.
RK: How would you describe NARS's social strategy?
BB: What makes NARS a timeless brand with such broad appeal is that we don’t chase trends; in much the same way, we strive to take this same approach to social media engagement. We lean into characteristics that are ingrained into the NARS DNA; artistry, self-expression, creativity, and the unexpected. The last part is key, because it’s led to a lot of exciting work within emerging spaces and platforms, and a lot of experimentation. We not only are encouraged to try new platforms and surfaces, but to be the best when we do.
In my time at NARS, we’ve created and launched gaming activations, hosted episodes on social participatory audio platforms (Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse), released collaborative NFTs, created original sonic signatures, produced TikTok filters, started a branded Discord, and are continuing to lean into programs that bring NARS (and our fans) into the metaverse and different aspects of Web3. Of course, there are moments where being trend-driven is what you have to do to optimize on social (looking at you, TikTok!) but we always want to bring the NARS signature to any approach we take, elevating and surprising with our creative, our partners, and our tactics.
RK: You mentioned the metaverse and Web3, can you tell me a little more about that work?
BB: We just launched a branded experience within Roblox, NARS Color Quest. Our small but mighty team has been working nonstop to ensure that it’s interactive, gorgeous, connected to brand DNA, and, most importantly—fun! One of the coolest features of NARS Color Quest is our “Snapshot” feature, which mimics an Instagram feed. Users can customize their avatar’s makeup, pose with friends, then post to the Snapshot feed, where you can also “like” other pictures and see them trend. Now that we’ve launched, I’ve been all hands on deck managing our Discord, listening to community feedback, monitoring user-generated content, and strategizing ways we can translate the metaverse experience across other platforms, like TikTok.
RK: Do you feel like brand extensions into the metaverse, NFTs, Web3, etc should fall into a social team's scope?
BB: I’ve seen many brands start to build out separate Web3 teams, and ideally that’s what will happen for any company serious about investing in the space. While I don’t necessarily think this should fall into the scope of a social media team, social media marketers do have a leg up when it comes to these projects, even if they seem completely intimidated by them. Central to the success of so many branded Web3 and the metaverse projects are community engagement and involvement—something we know a lot about. I’d say that social media professionals are also some of the most equipped to handle Web3 projects because we’re so used to learning on the fly and staying on top of ever-changing platforms and trends. Plus, one of the defining aspects of “Web2” was the introduction of social media as we know it today. Keeping all of this in mind helps me reframe and demystify Web3 and metaverse projects and conversations.
RK: What do you love about working in social media?
BB: Even though my career started in editorial, I’ve always been interested in so much more than writing; I love video, photography, casting, producing, editing, creative directing, strategizing, forecasting, and brand-building. Social media allows me to do a bit of everything and even more. Another thing I love is collaboration—whether that means crowd-sourcing ideas from an Instagram audience or working cross-functionally within my own company to making a product launch successful. As a social media professional working in-house, it’s crucial to have visibility with almost every team at your company.
RK: What is the hardest part about working in social media?
BB: My answer above is the best and hardest part about this career path! Social media can be utterly exhausting because you’re expected to do so much more than just post. I try to set really firm boundaries for myself when it comes to my personal social media usage, and now that I have a team, I try to protect their bandwidth the way I always wished someone would do for me when I was just starting in this field. Sometimes I do wish my job was more singularly focused and my responsibilities less far-reaching, but I know in the end I’d just be bored. That, and the pace. There’s never a second to slow down!
It’s also incredibly hard to be the scapegoat, mouthpiece, and billboard for a brand/company/publication as a social media manager. I wish there was more cross-functional education as to what social media professionals do day-in and day-out, and more protections for our mental health and digital bandwidth.
RK: Any tips for people who want to work in social media, specifically in beauty?
I encourage anyone who wants to break into beauty to not only love it on a personal level, but to study it from every angle. Read up on trends, industry news, know founders, know ingredients, pay attention to how brands launch products and what you’re seeing on the shelves at Sephora.
The same applies for social media, but the best piece of advice I can offer is to gain experience in something other than social media. In my opinion, it’s one of the easiest professions to transition into because it requires so many transferable skills, and your prior experience will only enhance your social media expertise. The most talented social media professionals I know are also exceptional artists, writers, photographers, and videographers.
RK: Are you hopeful for the future of social media?
BB: I’m not necessarily hopeful for the platforms themselves, because they’re all starting to become overwhelming with the amount of new features and surfaces added literally every day (I mean, we can only make so much original short-form, lo-fi video content before our heads explode). I am hopeful for those entering their careers as social media professionals. It’s amazing to see fully-staffed social teams for so many brands, and I think it’s cool that young people entering the field will have managers and executives that inherently understand the work through hands-on experience. The more people understand and appreciate the value of a social media team, the better it will be for all of us.
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