By Crista Bailey, CEO Texture Media
Cross-posted from the ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business of forums and is held this year in San Francisco on June 13.
Registration is now open
The ForumCon team asked me to participate in a panel on “Forum Monetization” this year. I’m grateful for the opportunity and look forward to June 13th.
I was also asked, for purposes of this blog post and for context at ForumCon, to share TextureMedia’s story and how a forum blossomed into a brand connecting a community of beauty influencers with global and domestic hair care companies.
Full disclosure, first things first, before I am asked the inevitable question.
I have straight hair — naturally straight.
And I work with a company all about curly hair attitudes, purchasing behavior, discussions, products, stylists, salons, care, styling… you name it. I have learned a lot and continue to be in awe of the engagement of this community and their real life tales previously unbeknownst to me.
I embrace my naturally straight texture while appreciating what we offer, which is a forum for people to tell their stories.
- Stories of straight-haired moms adopting children with curly hair and having no idea how to care for it
- Stories of being called names as a child or not being taken seriously at work by bosses who equate curly hair texture with unprofessionalism
- Journals of lifelong product journeys in search of the “Holy Grail” product that will finally help someone love their curls
- Transitioning tales told by women who have used chemical relaxers their entire life and who have made the big decision to “go natural.”
These people talk about real and important experiences to them. People with wavy, curly, and coily hair spend a lot of time and money figuring out how to wear, care, style, condition and showcase their tresses.
TextureMedia’s members across NaturallyCurly and CurlyNikki help people better understand their hair texture, to make more informed purchasing and stylist decisions, while also giving them a forum to support, share and learn.
I’ve attached our infographic, albeit almost one year old, that scopes the “textured hair” population and why it’s important. Hair care is a big market (tens of $Billions), but as mentioned earlier, it’s not just about product. It’s about self-esteem and empowerment. There are good hair days and bad hair days, and that impacts how you carry yourself throughout that day.
How did all this start?
In 1998, Michelle Breyer and Gretchen Heber, two curly-haired Austin American-Statesman journalists, decided to take online their angst over the lack of hair care products and services in the market for people with curly hair.
1998. 15 years ago.
No mobile. No Google or Google Fiber. No blogs. No Internet access in cafes or in many households.
“You’ve Got Mail” was a big hit in 1998.
It was early Internet days, and a great time to start a website — being first to market with an idea and concept. Michelle and Gretchen’s intent was more altruistic than business-focused. They desired to create a place for people like them – curlies who were all but ignored in beauty magazines and salons. As far as revenue, they thought they would make a killing selling curl empowerment t-shirts.
The result was NaturallyCurly.com, the first online hair community via a v-bulletin board for people to share favorite products, ingredients and hair stories.
And it grew.
People from all over the world discovered NaturallyCurly via organic search and shared their hair stories too! The early fans told more people about NaturallyCurly, and word-of-mouth marketing virally spread the word.
CurlTalk on NaturallyCurly became a true forum for discussion and genesis for other brand extensions.
Members discussed favorite products and ingredients, and even shared recipes for products they were creating at home.
The community and grass-roots product manufacturers eventually encouraged the two co-founders to sell products with limited to no distribution but that everyone was reading about — early “cult favorites”. CurlMart became an e-commerce site that moved from a co-founder’s back bedroom to the thriving business it is today, a curated boutique where products are vetted and endorsed by community before hitting its shelves.
NaturallyCurly grew beyond a v-bulletin board, adding community-generated product and stylist databases, articles, photos, eventually videos — even a Frizz Forecast that predicts a customized frizz forecast dependent upon hair type, location and weather.
An earlier member of CurlTalk and 2013 author of Better Than Good Hair, Nikki Walton, separately created her NaturallyCurly-inspired natural hair blog, CurlyNikki, which became part of the TextureMedia family in 2010.
In 2011, TextureTrends was born, annual market intelligence that truly leverages real people insights around hair care, attitudes, products and behaviors. It was the result of the dozens of questions we were fielding from brands about the what, why, how much and drivers to purchase for our community. I especially love TextureTrends because it is 160 pages of community feedback that we can share with our hair care brands and partners to create products our community wants, with ingredients they trust — and helps these brands understand where, why and how our community is influenced to buy. We truly are a community of experts and influencers.
Our big decisions and organic growth stem from listening to our dynamic community, which has pushed above 2.7 million uniques in size this year.
And there are hundreds of hair care brands and thousands of stylists out there specifically targeting this market — the world of curls and texture.
We talk internally about “engaging and empowering the beauty influencer” as our mission and role.
What role does your forum play or what community does it serve?
I would love to hear your examples of organic monetization and successful features or ideas generated from community feedback.
More on the panel topic and how we’ve monetized our forum in this recently published interview with Murray Newlands of ForumConTV (thanks Murray!)
I look forward to more discussion on June 13!