In 2016 Refinery29 set out to expand its channel distribution offerings, creating a franchise called Short Cuts that specifically leveraged the publisher's renowned expertise and foundation in beauty. The franchise's home was on Facebook, creating a destination that offered socially optimized videos both serviceable and inspirational to our desired niche beauty enthusiast audience. Beyond beauty tutorials, Short Cuts' ethos was to provide inclusive, diverse representation of beauty, breaking beyond mainstream beauty norms to speak to fringe cultures underrepresented in mainstream media.
Numerically, the goal was to grow this Facebook Page and franchise exponentially in its first year, and create revenue opportunities for our sales team. Qualitatively, we prioritized developing more substantial and inspirational content, creating a strong conversational relationship with viewers to increase loyalty and engagement.
Creatively, our strategy was to develop an ongoing slate of serviceable and inspirational visual tutorials, with a duration under 30 seconds to optimize for the Facebook audience's affinity toward short, digestible content. Instead of scripted "how-to" formats that have gone stale, Short Cuts instead showcases easy-to-execute looks visually, paired with editorial instructions in the descriptor comments.
To grow our channel at our desired rapid pace, we programmed two new videos per day over the course of a year, requiring mass production and ongoing research into forecasting timely beauty trends. We utilized both insight data from Refinery29's cross platform users and also crowdsourced concepts from our Short Cuts audience to give back to viewers the looks they desired to learn. Our content continuously stayed fresh by leveraging fresh-from-runway looks, working with experts to anticipate seasonal trends, and showcasing innovative ways to revive classic looks. We strategically leveraged promotion across our other 7 Facebook channels, in addition to converting subscribers with editorial articles and traditional media on Refinery29.com.
The most differentiating aspect of Short Cuts is the franchise's ability to create value beyond tutorials, incorporating social-good messaging into campaigns. Short Cuts' dedication to diversity ensures the content resonates with all beauty enthusiasts, regardless of sexuality, race, or gender. Our models are REAL women who represent every aesthetic. We aren't afraid to tackle topics that aren't prevalent in "mainstream beauty" and have seen overwhelmingly positive feedback as a result. Some examples include natural hair trends, crochet braids, men who love eyeshadow, and transgender talent who express themselves through makeup. We also cast diverse influencers as faces and spokespeople for our content, including Ryan Burke, Pat McGrath, Attwell, Shiobhan, and Deepica Mutyala.
For the month of October we partnered with #Cancerland to create charity based beauty content with metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer patients. The portrait series showcased how makeup can be used as a tool that helps those struggling with stage IV breast cancer reclaim their identity and feel beautiful again, with proceeds benefiting the charity.
The combination of creativity, differentiation and strategic content development strategy yielded unparalleled results and established Refinery29's first stand alone franchise. In less than one year, Short Cuts grew a loyal, engaged audience of over 800k, equivalent to a compounded monthly growth rate of 60%. In just 8 months the content received over 300 million total views, with content averaging over 1mm views per video.
Beyond qualitative, sentiment has been extremely positive, with users calling out our efforts of inclusivity specifically. Some direct quotes from viewers include "I didn't know this look worked on eyelids like mine until I saw this tutorial." "Thank you for featuring women with natural hair." Our #Cancerland campaign received hundreds of comments from those impacted by breast cancer, creating a communal conversation and a destination for support, under the overarching umbrella of beauty.
The success and brand equity we've built around Short Cuts resulted in revenue deals with branded partners including Ulta, Shea Moisturizer, and Clinique in its first year, with more on the horizon.
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