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Social Media Keeps It Real


By: Sourabh Sharma
Posted: August 19, 2013

You probably know a lot about your customers, but how much do you know about what your customers really think of you? Social media insights, while less controlled than traditional research, can offer the most passionate, unfettered insight into customer perceptions and experiences. Any customer who tweets about a product is highly motivated to share her experience. She feels strongly about your product, and for better or worse, she wants the world to know about it.

In April 2013, SKIM conducted a meta-analysis of social media data from within the skin care category. The results illustrate how social media research reveals true customer sentiment and passion regarding a brand, including:

For a period of two months, SKIM researchers compared consumer attitudes regarding 11 skin care brands sold in the U.S. The comprehensive and powerful approach utilized in this study is applicable to any consumer brand that is mentioned with sufficient frequency in social media conversations. The data-mining phase of the research study relied on text analytics and web scraping, often in association with pre-defined constructs. However, what sets this research apart from traditional social media monitoring is the subsequent analysis and the interpretation of the data that enabled important findings to be transformed into strategies.

Any relevant, publicly available comment was captured for analysis, including Facebook posts and likes, tweets, blogs entries and user reviews. Of all the conversations regarding skin care, 22% came from forums and communities, 20% from Tumblr, 13% from Facebook, and 13% from blogs. The remainder was garnered from online reviews and ratings, Twitter, video and other social networks. Whereas marketers strive to uncover the most current and candid thoughts of consumers, social media makes that possible like never before. But with great power comes great responsibility: It also raises expectations among consumers that a brand will respond to undercurrents of discontentment or waning loyalty.

Social media research (SMR) makes up for many of the shortcomings inherent to traditional classical research. It enables brands to listen to their consumers without even asking a question. As such, SMR complements traditional research by:

Meta-analysis Reveals Skin Care Truths

By 2014, skin care will increase its already sizeable lead in the beauty market to reach $91 billion. As such, there is no shortage of publically available discourse happening on the topic of skin care. From May through July 2013, SKIM culled 55,000+ results for skin care conversations on social media.

Within the broader skin care conversation, researchers looked at a collection of sub-categories including skin problems and types of products. Among the dominant skin “problems” that were identified, 21% of comments fell into a “general” category that included daily moisturizing, every day fatigue, daily washing and cleansing, etc. Trailing concerns included “complexion” (14%) and “acne” (8%). Rounding out the category were “sensitive,” “wrinkles,” “oily” and “scars.” (See Tables 1 and 3.)

One clue to the sentiment behind the aforementioned general category of skin care concerns is that the dominant product type discussed in social media is “moisturizer.” Fully 41% of the online comments examined as part of this meta-analysis mentioned a moisturizer. “Sunscreen” and “exfoliant” trailed far behind at 6% each. This would indicate that skin care brands should offer moisturization as a core product or benefit, and as a gateway product to the plethora of complementary skin products that most also offer. (See Table 2.)

A Range of Emotions: Like, Love, Dislike and Hate

One could assume that volume is indicative of brand popularity, especially in a competitive context. But is volume a true measure of loyalty and positivity? To deepen the understanding of consumers’ subconscious perceptions towards brands, it is critical to evaluate how consumers view the brands’ functional characteristics. Such elements are trickier to deduce from traditional Q&A since respondents are less likely to speak authentically. Spontaneous online comments often look very different from those obtained during a brand-directed research Q&A scenario. But within social networks, deeply emotional insights can be interpreted with more certitude because they are coming from spontaneous and truthful conversations.

In order to understand and categorize the types of conversations happening around these skin care brands, a 2x2 framework (Table 4) was developed to plot sentiment and passion around a collection of perceptions, which emerged organically in decreasing order of overall importance: