LONDON: L'Oréal has signed up a "beauty squad" of five UK social media influencers with a combined reach of 5.5m as it seeks to build a long-term relationship with them and to create an authentic connection with consumers.

Adrien Koskas, UK general manager for L'Oréal, told Marketing Week that it was a natural move for the brand, which has been working with the five for some time, "but we wanted to make it more official".

"Consumers are really changing the way they interact with brands and are very engaged on social media," he said, as he explained why L'Oréal wanted to develop a "special partnership with our influencers" that will see them speaking about the brand and creating content in the form of how-to guides and beauty tips.

"Often consumers are looking for this type of content online and we wanted to be the brand providing that to them," he said.

And he stressed that "There's no exclusivity request from us on any point. They have full freedom in terms of editorial and what they can produce or say.

"They are a voice for the brand to think differently about our products," he added.

Koskas was critical of how some brands have used influencers, adopting a short-term, one-off approach.

"I don't want to be like other brands where they try to use one influencer after the other for one launch or event – it just doesn't seem very genuine and sincere," he said.

"Sometimes I look at social media and think: 'Wow, I can't believe [that brand] forced the influencer into this.' That's not the type of relationship we want."

These issues were raised by two popular YouTube vloggers earlier this year at the ISBA annual conference, where Jim Chapman objected to being briefed by brands while Casper Lee made a plea for longer-term relationships with brands.

"Brands can help production values and give you access to things you wouldn't otherwise get to," he said.

That's certainly the case for L'Oréal's Beauty Squad: Koskas intends to send them to major events like Paris Fashion Week to share their experiences and "give their followers and our fans a behind-the-scenes or front-row view".

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff