Category Archives: Social Media

Brands, salons, hairdressers, bloggers and consumers. Who’s really influential in pro haircare?

Which professional haircare brand has the greatest social media mindshare? A visualisation

by Rob Parkin and Jess Owens

I’ve only once bought anything regarded as ‘premium’ haircare, says Jess Owens.

While studying for my Masters degree I decided that this was the time to make a radical change in style and go blonde, really blonde. This was an arduous process which involved spending about 6 hours in the salon, head wrapped in foil, bleach burning my scalp, as the trainee stylists tried everything possible to lift my hair from dark brown, through sunset yellow, to a passably fashionable shade of white-blonde. Of course my hair was almost destroyed by this process, leaving it with a texture somewhat akin to candyfloss – fluffy, brittle, and rough to touch.

Except one day, when my stylist brought out a pale green tube. She washed, she cut, she blow dried – and at the end of the process I touched my hair and was astonished. It felt soft. Soft! How on earth had she done that? Kerastase Ciment Anti-Ursure was the answer, the premium anti-breakage range for chemically treated hair. Reader, it cost something like £20 a bottle – but I bought some. And I kept using it until I had to get a proper job and stop having interesting hair.

Marketing premium haircare is interesting, exactly because of this sales process. Unlike your usual Pantenes & Aussies, it’s not something women just pick up and buy off the shelf in Boots. Instead it’s a sale rooted in a relationship, between a young woman in a chair nervous about whether her style is going to work out, and miracle-working Michelle at Toni & Guy Islington. I’d have never made the purchase without her influence.

So how do you market premium salon haircare on social?

Who do you market it to?

In order to understand this complex intersection of brands, hairdressers and consumers, we worked with P&G to track the premium haircare category and understand it not just as a ‘conversation’ but in network terms. Here are the results.

Premium haircare network visualisation FACE Pulsar

What are you looking at?

Rob writes – In a very basic sense the network shows people mentioning premium haircare brands as nodes, signified by the dots. The lines between them represent a relationship, in this case retweets (A’s post was retweeted by B). And the size of the nodes reflect the number of retweets they received overall.

P&G were interested in which brands were leading their premium haircare conversation in social. We could have shown this as a pie chart for share of voice… But looking at it as a network allows us to understand who is leading the conversation – and which brands have captured which key influencers.

So we coloured the nodes in accordance to the brands the people are discussing, and also coded if they hadn’t mentioned any brand, or  mentioned more than one.

(If you’re unfamiliar with network analysis, do check out some of our previous blogs diving into this in more detail.)

What did we find out?

1. Premium haircare isn’t really a ‘community’ in social media

Looking at the graph we can see that the category attracts a fragmented Twitter population, with lots of individuals posting about the topic, but not getting any retweets connecting them to other people. There’s product awareness, but not actually much we’d call a ‘community’ – an interconnected, self-identifying group.

2. Different brands have different community structures.

Kerastase (yellow) and Redken (pale blue) have broadcast networks, with a small number of highly influential accounts driving their discussion. These accounts generate a high volume of retweets (the feathery-looking lines in the visualization) and are slightly apart from the dense cluster in the middle, telling us that they’re generating awareness amongst a different audience than those engaging with main cluster.

3. Salons, not the brands, are driving product mentions 

It’s a very industry led conversation. Hairdressers and salons, are leading the majority of the discussion talking about products, training and awards.. For the most part, consumers are notably absent.  

4. Where are the consumers?

Where consumers are involved it’s mainly to participate in competitions. Retweets from competitions are responsible for producing Kerastese’s and Redken’s broadcast networks in particular, as retweet competitions are one-off engagements and have no crossover with the industry discussion central to the category.

These network insights reveal opportunities for haircare brands’ social strategies

Currently it’s the discussion around salons creating the most community interaction in the category, whereas competitions are generating the closest there is to consumer engagement. There is a real opportunity to bridge the gap between the two.

Salons and hairdressers should be capable of creating really inspiring content, telling stories about hair care that could appeal to a wider audience of beauty fans, not just beauty professionals.  The main issue here is content diffusion – the solution may be for haircare brands to pay for Twitter promotion in order to get these tweets in front of a consumer audience that both currently lack

But brands also need to recognize that social media has upset old hierarchies and sources of authority, and there are new influencers on the scene that they need to build relationships with. Bloggers, vloggers and the Instagram-famous are all busy inspiring women’s fashion and beauty looks, and brands have to build partnerships here as much as they did with top stylists.

Finally there’s very little connection between consumers in the category so far, as women don’t tend to talk about “professional hair” or “salon hair” in so many words.  Brands could benefit from understanding consumer language from the wider haircare, beauty or fashion conversations and understanding where their category really fits into people’s lives.

Staying ‘premium’ on social media

The challenge for premium brands with social media is how to maintain the right balance between exclusivity and accessibility. By their very nature these brands rely on exclusivity – they’re selling products that consumers aspire to own; the distance from everyday shopping is part of the appeal. In contrast to this, social media opens brands up, and makes them accessible to the crowd.

To maintain an air of “specialness”, pro hair care brands may want to take a slightly more reserved tone when engaging on Twitter, using an “expert” voice rather than the “best mate” or “sisterly” voice of mainstream hair brands. However, in exchange for a little more accessibility, they could harness the opportunity to advise consumers about which products to buy and how to use them effectively. Crucially, as this research has found, they cannot rely on salons’ social accounts to communicate this information effectively on their behalf.

Learning from premium brands in other verticals

Swarovski is another premium brand that doesn’t always sell directly to consumers. Looking at their social strategy there are lessons that could easily be applied to the pro hair care discussion. What do we think they’re getting right?

First they’re opening the brand up to a wider audience by encouraging participation through user-generated content. On Twitter @Swarovski is facilitating an on-going dialogue with consumers through the hashtag #SwarovskiLook, encouraging people to post images showing off their takes on specific styles. This is valuable because it’s not limiting the conversation to the brand, jewelry or crystals per se, but allowing it to traverse a wider and more varied aesthetic landscape.

Swarovski are also using bloggers to provide the voice of the ‘expert consumers’ – enough elevated from mainstream consumers not to damage a sense of exclusivity, but also fostering a more personal connection than mainstream PR can allow. Alongside fashion designers and celebrities, bloggers have been integral to Swarovski’s social strategy throughout, and Swarovski creates content that celebrates them – including video tutorials showing off Swarovski jewelry and a  blogger picking out winners of the #SwarovskiLook competition. The brand is also highly active in sharing blogger content & boosting its visibility.

Screenshot from #SwarovskiLook on Twitter

To sum up

There’s a lot to be said for looking beyond your immediate category when trying to inspire conversations in social media. This is especially true if your category is like premium haircare and isn’t currently eliciting widespread engagement outside of a small circle of industry figures. Really it’s about stopping being “me-centric” and thinking from the perspective of what matters most in your customers’ lives.  In the case of fashion and beauty, it’s not a stretch to assume that consumers care more about new styles and how to achieve them than they do which brand they use.

And remember that offline influence doesn’t always translate online. In the case of the traditional business model used for selling pro hair care products, hairdressers can be assumed to have offline influence over their consumers, but they’re not the advocates brands need in social. Don’t underestimate the value of bringing influential bloggers onboard to support your online efforts.

Finally, this project really showed us the value of network analysis in social media category research, allowing us to directly connect the “what” and the “who” of haircare discussion to identify hubs, gaps, and opportunities. The visual output also provides a graphic, colour-coded illustration of the category at a glance, in a way that highlights what matters most – the people behind the discussion – in a way a wordcloud never can.  A really useful addition to our research toolkit, we hope you agree.

Looking for opportunities in social media comms planning? Send me a message at and let’s talk about how we can apply this method for you.





Webinar: How Social Media Predicts Concert Ticket Sales

The real business value of social media lies in integrating social media data with other company datasets, such as sales and web analytics. Ever wanted to know more about how social media activity connects to purchase? How to measure social data and ROI?  Which demographics give brands the best chance of social  influencing sales?

Jess Owens, social media researcher

Join our Social Insight Manager Jess Owens for our webinar entitled ‘How Social Media Predicts Concert Ticket Sales’ on Thursday 25 September.

Our recent research study explored how well social media works as a key driver in awareness of a concert and whether it provides a way and a measure to predict ticket sales. We used our in-house social data intelligence platform Pulsar to analyse the whole online ecosystem, and tracked discussions around three concerts: a festival, UK tour of a global female pop artist, and a 1970’s rock band.

Join us for ‘How Social Media Predicts Concert Ticket Sales’ to have all these questions answered and more.

The webinar will air on Thursday 25 September at:

  • 3pm BST (London)
  • 4pm CET (Paris/Berlin)
  • 10 am EDT (New York)

This webinar is free to attend – just register here for details.

We hope you can join us for this very exciting online conversation.




FACE’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This week the inevitable happened. FACE became the next in a long line that has been nominated for ALS’ Ice Bucket Challenge. Yes, the social media phenomenon reached us in our London Office; we have Brightsource to thank for that!

ALS is a disease that many had never heard of or understood before the Ice Bucket Challenge; it has brought a huge amount of awareness to the charity and many similar non-profits who are trying to fight the cause.

The challenge represents more than just throwing iced cold water over your head. It shows us the incredible power of social media, and how quickly content can go viral.

We would like to thank Brightsource for the nomination. Our nominations go to Extendi, Sennep and Sensum. You have 24 hours – considering it’s a Friday we’ll give you until Monday.

Please donate what you can to the following links:

ALS in the US here:…

Or to the UK’s Motor Neurone Disease Association here:

Find out more about ALS (known more commonly as Motor Neurone Disease in the UK or Lou Gehrig’s disease):…

10 tactics for rigour in social media market research

Last week I went to the MRS Connected World conference, a really excellent event gathering together an inspiring crowd to talk about new technologies and consumer behaviours. Not just to listen – though listening was great! I was also putting forward the FACE point of view on a panel with Tom Ewing of Brainjuicer and Paul Edwards of Working Plural & JKR.

Our topic: “cutting through the noise”. Digital media & technology has generated a dramatic shift – for the first time in history, there’s not a shortage of information but an excess. But how to make sense of it all? How to find the insight amid the flood?

Our session was kindly written up by Research Live, so I won’t go into the details here. Instead, I want to pick up on a really smart question from an audience member – How do you do social media research with real rigour?

Great question. How do you move beyond a set of observations made on a vast and potentially rather amorphous dataset, to get to something we might actually call research? On the spot I came up with 3 ways  - but on reflection, there are more.

Here’s my top 10 ways to make your social media research rock solid:

1. Capture the complete universe

If the dataset’s incomplete (and especially if you don’t know what’s missing), you can’t say anything about how your findings relate to the wider universe. Tweets found directly through Twitter search are really no more than anecdote until you can contextualise them within a meaningful totality of everything that’s going on in social.


Image source: Mapping The Global Twitter Heartbeat: The Geography of Twitter, by Kalev H. Leetaru et al., 2012

So make sure you’re using a social media research tool that’s built on top of Twitter Firehose (the 100% data API) and robust blog, forum & news data collection.

Of course there’s still a gap between “everything said in social” and “everything people think”. But that’s true for every research method – this is a risk we can only minimise, never remove entirely.

2. Your search strategy is critical

Great data sources aren’t enough on their own – you’ve got to set them up right. If you’re searching for a particular category (e.g. haircare), you need to be confident you’ve collected the whole category – every possible way people can talk about hair, from products to styles and stylists, and verbs & adjectives as well as nouns. Just searching for all mentions of “hair” won’t cut it – you’re not capturing a meaningful totality.

How to build good search syntax: Brainstorm. Then test it in Twitter & Google search, then iterate to add in new words & phrases that come up. Analyst experience is key here to build a search strategy that’s both comprehensive and focused.

3. Qualify your quant insights

Social data is qual data at a mass scale, says Francesco D’Orazio, our chief technologist.

Numbers on their own aren’t insights. Positive sentiment is 20% – so what? What are people saying? What are the needs and emotions driving that figure, and why is it higher for one brand than another? Read, synthesise, code. Quote the actual messages, show the verbatim. Keep the people visible in how you tell your insights.

4. Quantify your qual insights

Say you’re doing an innovation project, find out that fighting frizz is the most important consumer haircare need. Your immediate client might love the depth of qual insight you can build from beauty blogs and forums… But she’s also got to communicate that insight around a larger organisation & to lots of people who won’t ever read your full deck.

So quantify that qual insight and rank it against other needs. Savvy use of Boolean search strings – NEAR operators & smart exclusion terms – can give you sensible approximate volumes for almost any concept. You’ll not capture every nuance, to be sure – but it’ll help support that qual insight as a really solid finding.

puggit pug AND rabbit

(Ok, not really an example of quantifying qual insights – but a very cute example of Boolean syntax!)

5. Can another analyst find the same insights?

Classic research methods such as data coding still can have a key role to play in turning social media data into insight. It provides a structured template for content analysis that helps iron out bias from the analyst’s own preconceptions. Instead you’ve got a random sample of 200 messages and a structured grid, and it’s easy to review across team to help standardise what you mean by particular categories and concepts.

6. Benchmark

Is this finding real? How much does it actually matter? Display your research findings contextualised against other brands, other categories, or as share of voice – so your reader can get a sense of proportion.

7. State what you don’t know, or can’t prove

  • e.g. “This visualisation is based on Twitter data, a channel used by 26% of the UK population.”
  • “Social media messages almost never identify a store by its exact street address, and only 1.6% of tweets have geolocation. Consequently we cannot locate the se complaints to specific store, only town or region level.”
  • “Social media data includes only information that is publicly available on the web, and not private email or text message data” (yes we get this one!)

Make the gaps explicit. It shows you know what you’re talking about – and helps ensure your insights are interpreted accurately. Overclaim isn’t rigorous!

8. Test hypotheses. Test a null hypothesis.

Having hypotheses makes your data useful – instead of just drawing a picture of the landscape, you’re trying to find out something specific. But in the spirit of scientific enquiry, proving a hypothesis isn’t just going out looking for data that supports it. It’s also about looking for data that supports the null hypothesis – the counter-possibility that nothing is happening, or the opposite. Look for both – and if all the evidence really falls on one side, then you can be confident that your finding is really robust.

Null hypothesis cartoon aliens socks

Testing the null hypothesis or counter-factuals  is also a great way to find interesting things you weren’t expecting (see point 10!)

9. Triangulate against other data sources

Extract everything you can from your client, from sales figures to  qual research to semiotics decks.  Turn these into hypotheses. Is your research supporting these? Building on them? Taking them a new direction? Or disagreeing entirely? All are legitimate outcomes – and putting your insights in this context makes them much easier for your client to use.

10. Don’t do social media research if it’s not the right way to answer your question

A contrarian point for closing – but here at FACE we’re honest about the fact that social media data can’t answer all research questions. Its genius is that the data we’re analysing is largely spontaneous and unprompted, making it a great way to find “unknown unknowns’ – the things you didn’t even know you wanted to know, or needed to ask.


But sometimes you’ve got really specific questions to answer – how far are consumers prepared to trade off price vs. quality, perhaps, or whether a different shade of blue would make a better bottle top. And I’m afraid people just aren’t talking about bottle cap colours in social media… So you’d need to ask them directly: time for a focus group! Not social.


So that’s 10 ways to make your social media research really robust. Any more to add? Get in touch with us on Twitter – we’re @FaceResearch – and tell us your top tips! I (Jess) do a bunch of tweeting for FACE, so let’s keep the conversation going.

Or if you’ve got a really thorny research problem and you’re looking for a rigorous solution, get in touch with my colleague James on – we’d love to talk it through with you.


Meet us at… the MRS Connected World conference

On Thursday 10th July, Jess Owens, one of our Social Media Managers here at Face, will be speaking on a panel at the Market Research Society’s Connected World conference in London.

Connected World is an exciting new conference for the market research industry which aims to “help the insight and marketing world capitalise on the new technologies, behaviours and beliefs that are driving relationships between individuals, brands and consumers.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 23.00.09

It’s a privilege to be one of the only research agencies speaking at a conference drawing on an excitingly wide range of speakers and expertise. Connected World aims to inject new ideas into the market research debate, drawing on everything from experts in consumer creativity (Hazel Robinson on tapping into the power of fans) to technologists visioning the future through pervasive computing (Adrian David Cheok, City University) and the Internet of Things (Moeen Khawaja, Umbrellium).

Jess will be on a panel at 11.40am called Cutting Through The Noise, alongside Tom Ewing (Brainjuicer) and Paul Edwards (Working Plural and JKR), with discussion chaired by journalist Richard Young.

The pitch:

“An ever-growing amount of interaction between consumers, brands and beyond means only one thing for research professionals – an ever-growing challenge. How can the analysis keep up with the flow of information? How can research adapt to the new technologies and practices? In this case study-free debate, we discover the scale and nature of the task ahead of us.”

For more information, full programme details and registration, please have a look on the official site of the conference.

Or catch up with Jess at the conference by saying hello on Twitter (@hautepop) or email