Category Archives: Blog

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):…

Meet us at… Corporate Researchers Conference


Corporate Researchers Conference (September 17-19, Chicago) is one of the only conferences created for and by corporate researchers, and FACE cannot wait to be there.

We will be putting you to the ultimate test with our Internet cats vs. Internet dogs battle, just like we did at Marketing Week Live in the UK. There, the more dominant force has been Internet cats. Now with the test going transatlantic for the first time, will the US be any different?

If you’re familiar with our experiment then you’ll know that everything we do at FACE is about understanding people. Once again we have teamed up with our friends at Sensum who specialise in mobile solutions for capturing, visualising and reporting engagement. Using Sensum’s proven biometric technology (yes, we are taking this seriously) we will measure people’s emotional reactions to one cat and one dog YouTube Buzzfeed video and solve this old-age debate once and for all.

 Although everyone already knows whether they’re a cat or dog person in real life, things may be a little different in the digital sphere. So when it comes to Internet pets, which one do people like more? If you’re attending Corporate Researchers Conference in September please come over and take the test to see not only which pet will win YOUR heart, but who is the winner overall. 

And while you’re there, please say hello to Andrew Needham (our CEO), Job Microsoft (UK MD), and Marc Geffen (US Research Manager) who are very much looking forward to meeting you.

Do you want to know how to identify top influencers within your category? Interested in the ingredients of a successful co-creation project? Or what it takes to become a socially intelligent business? Then come to our booth at stand 202 in the Vista Lounge, we’d love to tell you all about it.  We’ll also present our social data intelligence platform Pulsar which enables you to go beyond keyword tracking to map brand audiences, track how content spreads, and manage your teams to engage effectively with your customers in social media. 

Thank you to Buzzfeed for kindly allowing us to use their content for this experiment.

We are (Face) Family. Sharing Knowledge, Making Memories

FACE company history was made on 18th July when all four offices came together for the first ever global company gathering. As the sun beat down onto the Oxfordshire countryside, Facers explored the  tents, bonfire pit, chill out zone, hog roast and travelling bar, catching up and getting to know teammates from across the world. There were mentions, promotions, new role announcements, and a massive “thank you” from Andrew Needham, our CEO – and then a party well into the early hours.

Not only was Face Festival incredibly special, so was the week leading up to it. There was an unbelievable amount of knowledge sharing, team-building, absorbing new skills, and sharing best practices. It was also an amazing opportunity to finally put faces to names, as many of us had only met over email.

I think I can say on behalf of all Facers that this week could not have been any better. It exceeded all expectations, bringing us together to develop our creativity and cross-continent knowledge. We are already counting down the days until next one.

Check out our Face Festival memories below:

FF Collage 2

If you want to stay up-to-date with what we’re up to here at Face, please follow us on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook

A Day in the Life of a Co-creation Illustrator

Title for blogpost

If we went back in time 23 years, you would find a situation very similar to now. I would more than likely be surrounded by paper, pen in hand. I have always drawn. Drawing what I see, drawing what I feel. Drawing in the car and on the train. Drawing on the beach and in the garden. Making up stories, characters and worlds. Almost always making a mess.

As time went on, the natural progression took hold. GCSE Art followed by A Level, and then before I knew it I was graduating with a degree in Illustration. Then it hit me, I can draw, so what?! I have done a degree in Illustration, BIG DEAL! The real challenge was yet to come.

Through my first professional illustration projects, I realised that I am passionate about documenting individual stories and experiences. From these moments I developed a strong interest in the inclusive nature of illustration and the ability to inspire people of different ages and backgrounds. Throughout these first projects I found myself creating action and drama to accompany these interactions, paying special attention to crafting something memorable and accessible. Seeing children engaged and involved in this way encouraged me to investigate the world of education, most notably teaching dance and drama.

Blog post Illustrations 1

Turning up for my first FACE co-creation workshop, I wasn’t sure exactly what it would entail. All I knew was that it was an opportunity to draw and bring ideas to life.

As I sat, fresh felt tips in hand, it turned out that my past experience had equipped me well. The inclusive nature of previous illustration work saw me comfortable to spread out my paper right amongst the participants, tuning into lots of voices discussing multiple opinions. Working with children enabled me to think on my feet. I flourished in a situation where my intuitive nature to create and capture was in its element. I was very pleased and thankful that this illustration opportunity existed, and from that moment on I decided that I would do everything in my power to record the content of the workshops in the most vibrant and exciting way possible.

Blog post Illustrations 2

There are many different styles of illustration, but I like to produce it in its purest form: something visual that explains an idea, captures a moment or documents a thought. When I illustrate it is important that my drawings can be interpreted by lots of different people and appreciated for what it communicates not just how it looks. That said, I have developed a certain aesthetic that I hope accompanies the meaning well.

In this fast-moving world, the ability to record in this way is still relevant. Illustrations can be used as inspiration. They prompt idea generation, acting as a visual reminder of concepts and discussions as well as recording the world around us.

Visual communication has been around since the dawn of time. From cave drawings that depict the priorities of early human life to the decorative yet informative aboriginal art, which maps out the location to the watering hole and all the myths and stories in the landscape. From this to the Bayeux Tapestry that acted as the social commentary of the day – they all demonstrate the human desire to mark make and express ourselves, to record and explain the world around us. We’re still doing the same today.

Blog post Illustrations 3

When planning a co-creation workshop it is important that there is a plentiful supply of paper and lots of felt tips for the illustrators. My brand of choice is Sharpies as you can create a clear bold line with a good range of colours. There is nothing worse than a dodgy set of half-run-out pens to disrupt the flow of consciousness. We have been known to get through quite a few packs due to the quantity of outputs and the pace at which they are drawn.

There are many good illustrators out there, but not all have the attributes that make great co-creation illustrators. The main skill needed is the ability to avoid getting intimidated by the fast paced nature of the workshop. In these situations you don’t have the luxury of time to create perfect or ornate illustrations – instead you have to be fast, vibrant and expressive to get your points across. There also needs to be a certain amount of clarity to your work, so maintaining a crispness of line combined with communicating the details is a fine balancing act.

At FACE we recruit illustrators through a combination of viewing online portfolios and personal recommendations. Primarily we look for good use of colour and bold confident lines. Having a variety of styles implies adaptability, but it’s also important they maintain their own visual identity. Personality and humour should feature strongly in their work as this makes it not only appealing to the consumers and clients alike, but also lasting and memorable. It’s great when the illustrators have raw talent, but it is also important that I brief them well beforehand. They should be completely aware of our expectations before they start illustrating at the workshop.

The illustrators are encouraged to start drawing right at the beginning of the workshop. This enables them to warm up, get fluidity within their wrists and start absorbing what’s being discussed. If they sit waiting to be instructed, the illustrations will be disjointed and lack energy. Supplying the illustrators with felt tips helps maintain the bold style and they are advised to fill all of the paper. A full page, bursting with colour has a lot more impact than a tiny pencil Illustration hiding in the corner. The use of text to accompany the Illustrations is also advised, but should only be used in an imaginative and creative way. An ideal co-creation illustrator should be extremely enthusiastic, enjoy employing a fast drawing style and should feel confident expressing their abilities in front of a group.

Blog post Illustrations 4

A couple of years down the line I still can’t believe the experience I have gained. The prospect of a workshop continues to be very exciting. Whilst listening carefully is a priority, it’s also important not to over-think the situation. If you worry about how to capture everything with the time constraints, you will be pre-occupied by this challenge and it will become an impossible task. It’s definitely better to keep your head clear and imagine it more like a vessel, allowing the words to flow through your mind only partly consciously. You are the one in control of simplifying the moment.

When it comes to what I physically draw on the page,  in a way it’s actually quite hard to distinguish what it is I physically do, as illustration has become like second nature to me. That said I am able to identify a few illustrative traits I have developed as time has gone by.

The illustrations I complete often fall into two categories. One is a more intuitive depiction of what the participants are saying, documenting their thoughts and feelings. These are usually drawn earlier on in the day allowing an emotional response to be captured. As the workshop continues there is more of an opportunity to create new ranges of products or solutions, to the problems they wanted to resolve. In these cases I employ a slightly more graphic feel to my Illustrations clearly displaying a curve of a lid or how the mechanics of a pump may work.

I will often place the theme in the centre, using speech bubbles and arrows to document initial thoughts. I tend to place borders round my drawings as it brings it all together, as well as emphasizing the fullness of the page. I am a fan of mini comic strips, usually combined with silhouettes and shapes, but I really enjoy using a variety of techniques to express the ideas.

Then, as the illustrations are completed, it is very helpful to place them on the wall there and then. Firstly it shows the narrative of the workshop in real time, as well as enthusing and inspiring the participants with the ideas that have already been generated.

The illustrative outputs from the workshops are scanned and turned into individual jpeg images. These images often accompany a debrief that explains what the research has uncovered. They can be used in the product development phase along with triggering memories and reminding the clients what was discussed.

Blog Post Illustration 5

Since my first workshop my role within Face has definitely evolved. I am now the, in-house creative as well as illustrating at the workshops. I work closely with all areas of the business, creating artwork for presentations, proposals and debriefs. I have produced illustrations for clients ranging from technology to iced tea, from O2 to Coke & Unilever. I was especially pleased to work closely with animators to produce both the “About Us” and “Manifesto” animations on the FACE website, and to spend two weeks with Sennep (The designers behind our Pulsar website) to refine my Adobe Illustrator skills.

So as I continue to surround myself with paper and pens, I reflect on how lucky I am to be doing something I love. I realize how much I can continue to extend my skills being in this ever-changing and exciting environment.


If you’d like to hear more from Beci, go say hello to her on Twitter or LinkedIn

Or if you’d like to talk to us about co-creation, please get in touch here:

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.