Influencers are winning the beauty contest across Southeast Asia, according to a new report which highlights the leading role of Instagram and the rise of beauty brands from Japan.

Media intelligence firm Meltwater tracked brand mentions of the top beauty and cosmetics companies in social media across four markets (Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia) and analysed content across millions of posts from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, blogs, review sites and online forums for its report, Beyond Skin Deep: Understanding the shopping journey of the Southeast Asian beauty buyer.

This found that social media influencers are now preferred over celebrities for beauty collaborations, thanks to the higher engagement and ROI they deliver in addition to having credibility among niche audiences.

For marketers, a vital takeaway is that Instagram is the channel of choice for talent-led collaborations, with eight times more beauty influencers on that platform than on other social channels.

And J-beauty is taking over from K-beauty, in terms of share of voice at least. Japanese brands claimed a 58.7% share of voice in the study, compared to 21.9% for Korean brands and 19.4% for Chinese ones.

Meltwater attributed this last development to the rise in foreign tourists to Japan – Indonesians and Filipinos, especially, are travelling to Japan in greater numbers on the back of positive macro-economic trends – and consequent exposure of popular products through social media.

In terms of individual categories, lip products were by far the most talked about products on social media (49.2%), followed by face (26.3%) and eyes (23.5%). And within lips, Estée Lauder’s range of brands dominated the overall conversation.

“Consumers today know when they are being sold to and would much rather hear from real people,” said Mimrah Mahmood, Regional Director, Media Solutions, Meltwater Asia Pacific.

“As such, brands need to be more strategic in their talent collaborations, looking not only at vanity metrics like follower numbers, but also incorporating deeper insights such as average engagement per post, true reach, and demographic data to determine whether an influencer appeals to the right audience.”

He also pointed to platforms like Xiaohongshu as “a glimpse of how social media channels would work in the near future when social commerce becomes a mainstream topic.”

This is one of one of China’s fastest-growing e-commerce platforms, which claims more than 200 million users combining product reviews and community with a shopping facility within the app.

Sourced from Meltwater, Tencent; additional content by WARC staff