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Decoding the German fashion social network

by Christian Waldheim , 13.07.2015

Big brands, glossy magazines, celebrities and lavish advertising campaigns have traditionally set the agenda in the fashion industry. But with the rise of social media, a medium that is by its nature democratic, the rules about what defines a trendsetter are being completely transformed. In a recent study we pioneered the use of Network Analysis – a technique that analyzes relationships between users of social media to uncover the real balance of power online – to find out who’s really influencing the German fashion industry.

Follow the influence, not the herd

Many brands and consumers make the mistake of thinking that it’s the social media users with the greatest following who possess the greatest power online. While well-known online fashion and beauty figures such as Anna Frost and Daaruum undoubtedly have a very significant social media following, our study shows that equating popularity with influence is misleading. In a study of 50,000 Twitter users with an active interest in fashion, we decoded the German fashion social network to reveal where the power really lies.

By identifying areas of commonality between users, we discovered five major interest clusters that form the fashion network in Germany: Haute Couture, DIY Make-up Artist, Casual Dressers, Celebrity Groupies and Video Kiddies. We devised three metrics to assess users and interest clusters: influence, reach and interest similarity. Together these metrics are used to assess the relevance of each respective user for the overall network and the different clusters.

We see two clear “power houses” within the German fashion network. Well-known bloggers are shaping the debate online led by Anna Frost in pole position and closely followed in second place by Daaruum. Although Frost has less than one tenth of the followers of Daaruum, our assessment of the influence of each user within the network of fashion enthusiasts clearly identifies her as the leading opinion leader. This “upset” exemplifies the difference between results produced by Network Analysis, which calculates influence, and more crude methods that rely only on counting the number of followers. Bloggers in general command a high level of influence within the German fashion network: they are more than twice as relevant as retailers (an influence score of 1,131 compared to 535) and command a high level of interest from users amongst the DIY Make-up Artists, Video Kiddies and Casual Dressers clusters.

Top 15 Fashion Opinion Leaders –
Many followers does not necessarily equate to a high level of influence


Ranked by Network Influence

The second “power house” within our study is perhaps the most surprising. Although our sample contained Haute Couture enthusiasts, big name brands and some of the most talked about names in German fashion, our analysis reveals that it is everyday fashion enthusiasts, members of the so called “Casual Dressers” cluster, who are amongst the most influential “voices” online. With many connections, members of this cluster have the greatest multiplier effect of all those in our study. Although they may not know it, these consumers are trendsetters with the power to reach out to the German fashion network and beyond.