I’ve been to many author book signing events since I start blogging including very popular authors like Rick Riordan where fans stood in a line that snaked around the building! But I have never waited in line for two hours just for a book signing; there wasn’t even a presentation or talk involved!
Have you heard of Michelle Phan? She’s a YouTube beauty and fashion vlogger rockstar with over 7 mllion subscribers and a growing media empire that includes a beauty sample subscription service called Ipsy, her own make up line Em and now a book, Make Up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style, and Success–Online and Off. How does one become a YouTube rockstar? It’s a pretty simple formula:
- Step 1: Make your own videos
- Step 2: Get them to go viral
- Step 3: Do this every week for nine years
Step 3, of course, is the hard part. Michelle says its easy to make a video and get it to go viral. It’s about doing something outrageous and then timing the release of the video. But to do this weekly? That’s where the real work comes in.
PickyKidPix, now 12-years-old, watches three dozen beauty YouTubers reguarly, and over her shoulder, I watch them too. Michelle Phan’s videos are different from most in that you can tell she researched and scripted her video carefully, then memorized the script before shooting it. Her beauty advice is well thought out and founded out of practicality; she grew up with no money and turned to DIY beauty treatments and used beauty product samples out of necessity.
Her new book is the culmination of all her on air beauty advice. It makes a nice gift for a tween or tween who is suddenly interested in make up.
Make Up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style and Success — Online and Off by Michelle Phan
What makes this beauty tome different from others is that Michelle’s reads like a memoir and is filled with gentle and wise advice to young girls about being your own person and being comfortable in your own skin. While she includes technical advice like how to draw a cateye using liquid eyeliner, it’s her world view and philosophy that permeates that very difficult teen girl phase of life with clarity, support and love. I can see why the girls in front of me brought her little gifts and cried while telling Michelle that she changed their lives. I think Michelle understands this and that is why she goes out of her way to connect and appreciate her fans. This is not just a beauty book; it’s a girl power movement! [non fiction beauty and make up advice book, ages 12 and up]
We got to the bookstore thirty minutes before her book signing event and and the line was still two hours. The event itself was only two hours but she announced that she would extend her book signing time so that those behind me who waited more than two hours could still meet her. I believe she stayed until every last book was signed; nearly 4 hours!
PickyKidPix reads her newly purchased Michelle Phan book while we wait in line.
We were half way in the long, snaking line, behind a couple of tall bookcases when Michelle Phan walked into the room promptly at 6:00pm for her book signing. (There was no presentation for this event; strictly book signing only). We couldn’t see her from where we stood, but as you can hear in the video below, the room went absolutely nuts. Other mothers remarked that this is probably what it was like when The Beatles visited the United States.
I’m really impressed with Michelle’s marketing savviness. Here’s her concept for her make up line. As always, she acknowledges and thanks her fans for her success. This appreciation is built into all her branding.
An Asian female with her own soft drink commercial? I never thought I’d see this but I’m thrilled it happened. YouTube is a democracy; you don’t have to get Hollywood’s approval to get on air. In her case, 7.2 million subscribers. Modern Family, by comparison, has 10 million viewers!
Michelle Phan Book Signing: Connecting with Your Fans
How many book signings have I been to where the author sits behind the desk signing away. Getting a photo is possible, but I am struck by how the author never moves from the chair; I or my child dashes around behind the desk while someone furiously takes the photo. For the three hundred plus people standing in line, Michelle did a multi-stepped communication approach:
Phase 1: The Hug
Yes, if you were inclined to hug Michelle Phan, she would welcome you with arms wide open.
I have about a dozen photos of my daughter as she hugs Michelle (as instructed) but I will only tortue you with two.
Phase 2: The Connection
Perhaps Michelle prepared a list of open-ended questions to ask each fan because no one within my earshot received the same question from her. She genuinely tried to connect with each person. She asked my daughter what she liked to do outside of school.
Phase 3: The Personalized Inscription with Illustration
The bookstore was well prepared and we all had a sticky note with the name we wished to have inscribed on the exact page spread where Michelle was to sign. But she used the signing time to continue her conversation with her fan; clearly she’s a good multi-tasker. And she even drew an illustration on each page. And it was also different for each person. I got a lotus flower!
I love my lotus flower from Michelle. She’s also a talented manga cartoonist!
Phase 4: The Selfie
I can not stress the marketing genius of The Selfie. First of all, Michelle is a big proponent of the selfie and very talented at taking a fabulous one. But here’s the marketing genius of The Selfie. She will “Like” each selfie if you tag her. Which means each fan puts their selfie on their Instagram and maybe SnapChat with her hashtag #MYLifeGuide. 300 fans with 600 followers on Instagram. You do the math! 18,000 impressions my friend!
PickyKidPix takes a selfie with Michelle Phan! The word in line was that Michelle loves selfies!
I didn’t take a selfie but I did get a photo. And I got all kinds of Instagram street cred from my 12-year-old daughter and her friends when Michelle left ME a comment on my post!
From a social media perspective, it’s interesting that Michelle Phan with 7.2 million YouTube followers only has a mere 1.2 Instagram followers, which my kids note, is not that much for an Instagram star. The fans are both on YouTube and Instagram but that doesn’t always translate to blind following across platforms; there are stars for each platform who use it exceptionally well. Michelle’s 6 minute videos are the stuff of YouTube legend. Instagram only gives you something like 20 seconds for video and videos are just not as popular as photos.
Marketing Savvy Michelle Phan
In her YouTube videos, Michelle talked about trying beauty products from used discounted drugstore sales because she had no money. She would wipe off the used lipstick and happily use it. This gave her the idea to start a beauty sample and full size monthly subscription model but her marketing genius was to include other YouTube beauty and fashion vloggers in this venture.
Ipsy is a$10/month monthly subscription for beauty samples hand selected by Michelle Phan and other beauty stylists on her staff.
Michelle Phan is a true YouTube rockstar but she’s also a great role model for girls. She stresses the importance of beauty from the inside, not just the outside and she shows how hard work, determination and creativity can result in a business empire. Her beauty and lifestyle company now brings in more than $85 million dollars a year. And most importantly, she reminds us to never forget your fans.
It works too. I went from vaguely knowing about Michelle to being a big fan! I promise I won’t stalk her though!
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.