NEW YORK: Estée Lauder owns the four beauty brands which are making the most effective use of new media to engage US consumers, a study has argued.

L2, the specialist think tank, assessed 55 leading beauty brands based on the quality of their websites, digital marketing, social media presence and related activities across mobiles and tablets.

M.A.C headed the charts on 142 points, praised for its popular YouTube channel, embracing "social shopping", adding customised rich media content to Facebook and holding an online contest to find new models.

Clinique scored 141 points, thanks to a website hosting customer and "insider" reviews, providing samples via Facebook competitions, using iPads in stores, leveraging mcommerce and an iPhone app providing geo-location tools.

These were the only brands awarded "genius" status, meaning their digital output is a point of differentiation. Another 16 operators were "gifted" -  still experimenting, but moving in this direction.

Estée Lauder's eponymous brand led this category on 137 points, aided by its growing Twitter and mobile audiences, with stablemate Bobbi Brown, which has used promoted tweets and recently launched a new blog, on 136 points.

Victoria's Secret, the retailer, completed the top five, also on 136 points, boasting the most Facebook fans, on 14.9m, and highest number of YouTube video views, on 27.3m. However, L2 warned it lacks "beauty-specific innovation".

At the corporate level, Estée Lauder's eight brands generated an average of 122 points, beating the 104 points for Shiseido's three brands, 103 points for LVMH's five brands, and 101 for L'Oreal's ten.

Coty and Procter & Gamble both yielded 86 points overall, ahead of the 84 points registered by Johnson & Johnson, and Revlon's 83 points.

Currently, 70% of brand sites offer Facebook "like" or "share" buttons, up from 10% year on year. User reviews featured on 69% of sites, up from 41%, and a further 42% of sites have "tweet" functions, a 32-point gain annually.

Players with a reach beyond the beauty sector, like Chanel and Sephora, had an average of over 6m Facebook fans, falling to 353,181 for "pure" brands, although the latter group is seeing faster growth in this area.

Members of L2's panel also had an average 6,879 Twitter followers in 2010, climbing to 42,742 in 2011. Turning to mobile, 35% of brands have created optimised sites, 40% had iPhone apps, and 11% possessed iPad equivalents.

Data sourced from L2; additional content by Warc staff