YouTube Helps Put NYC Startup Birchbox on the Map

birchboxBirchbox, an online beauty startup that delivers monthly samples of high-end products to its subscriber base, is getting a boost from social networks – but particularly a handful of enthusiastic beauty bloggers on YouTube.

These videos, from independent bloggers, have been viewed tens of thousands of times. This, the New York City-based company says, has helped grow its subscriber base to nearly 10,000 members since it launched in September 2010 with about 600 users.

For $10 a month, Birchbox members receive top-of-the-line samples of hair, makeup and/or skincare products from brand partners like Benefit, Nars, Cargo and Laura Mercier.

It also provides editorial content in the form of videos and articles and serves as an e-commerce site where users can purchase full-size versions of the samples they receive each month.

Co-founder Katia Beauchamp says the startup has exerted little marketing muscle, in part to control growth. Even so, it has struck a chord with beauty enthusiasts. In the months since its official launch, Birchbox has amassed nearly 3,000 “likes” on Facebook and slightly more than 2,000 followers on Twitter.

“Social media has been a big part of building our subscriber base,” Beauchamp says. “We definitely get a lot of people hearing about us on Facebook and Twitter.”

Birchbox uses social networks to respond to subscriber queries – like when each month’s box will arrive – and to highlight enthusiasm for specific brands or products. It also promotes its own content, such as a contest inviting subscribers to upload photos of themselves wearing masks from skincare company myfaceworks.

Beauchamp estimates 10 to 15 percent of new users each month hear about the service on Facebook and Twitter.

Birchbox is also on Tumblr. Its blog includes beauty tips, a feature in which one staff member tries out a new beauty look every day for one week and Q&As with industry professionals like skincare expert Dr. Dennis Gross.

This activity also helps brand partners better engage with Birchbox’s active customer base, Beauchamp says.

But YouTube has arguably had the biggest impact.

Birchbox’s own channel, BirchboxTV, has video how-to’s from director of content Mollie Chen, as well as stylists and makeup artists. Many of these videos have thousands of views, but they are eclipsed by those posted by outside fans who extol the service while revealing their hauls.

“The bloggers definitely have an impact. Especially [beauty blogger] missglamorazzi,” Beauchamp says. “The amazing thing is that we don’t have a relationship; they are subscribers and joined on their own.”

In the below video, missglamorazzi praises Birchbox for making new products – especially high end ones – financially accessible. She asks viewers if they want to see videos on her monthly hauls. They responded affirmatively and her next Birchbox video hit more than 101,000 views.

Birchbox, in turn, has listed two of missglamorazzi’s videos among its favorites. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Shawna Eardley has also posted Birchbox videos with slightly more modest viewer numbers. She, too, has no relationship with the company other than subscribing to the service and merely wanted to spread the word about Birchbox.

Nancy Wong posted her first Birchbox video in December. It has since been viewed more than 12,500 times. She first found out about the company from InStyle Magazine and YouTube and echoes the statements of other bloggers about the cost benefit of the service and extols its pretty packaging, calling it “like a present each month.”

The firm sent its first boxes to about 200 women in spring 2010, and officially launched in September. That’s also when it raised its first outside capital: $1.4 million in what Beauchamp describes as either a “big seed” or “small A” round led by Accel Partners and First Round Capital.

Proceeds have been used to scale and to hire. Birchbox plans to raise additional capital, she added, but it’s too early to say when.

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