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Red Bull is a great example of a brand built almost entirely on social media, with some mind-blowing PR stunts thrown in for good measure.
Therefore it’s a great case study for our series looking at how different brands use the big four social networks.
But does the same prove to be true for Red Bull?
We all know that Facebook marketing isn’t just about racking up loads of ‘likes’, but 36m fans is still a very impressive number.
This is the number of 'likes' accumulated by its main account, but Red Bull also has a number of dedicated Facebook pages for its other initiatives including the Stratos balloon jump (850,000 fans), X-Fighters (940,000) and its Music Academy (112,000).
The main Facebook page generally posts one or two updates per day, but you’d be hard pushed to find any that actually include an image of a Red Bull can.
Instead the wall posts focus on images and videos of extreme sports and athletes sponsored by Red Bull. It fits with the brands overall strategy of promoting itself as a lifestyle choice rather than a simple, caffeinated drink.
As a result of posting these eye catching images, the post frequently clock up tens of thousands of ‘likes’ and hundreds of comments, far more than any of the other brands I’ve look at.
But unlike the other brands, Red Bull doesn’t actually bother to respond to any user comments. On the face of it this seems like a missed opportunity to have conversations with customers, but then Red Bull’s strategy is markedly different to most consumer brands.
While the likes of ASOS and John Lewis use Facebook to give product suggestions and advertise their sales, Red Bull is all about promoting a lifestyle.
Therefore the type of content is totally different, and the comments on its wall posts tend to be about admiration for the athletes rather than discussing Red Bull’s products. This means there isn’t perhaps the same need to respond to consumer queries.
Even so, I think it would help to drive brand loyalty if the social team did occasionally comment on its own posts, but then it has one of the most active Facebook pages I’ve seen, so what do I know?
Red Bull also has a great array of apps, including Red Bull TV, an events page, links to careers with the company, and an app that gives details of all its athletes including links to their official social media accounts.
As an international brand, Red Bull has hundreds of Twitter feeds spanning the globe. Unfortunately I don’t have time to analyse accounts from locations including Tampa Bay, Panama and UAE, so for this post I’ll just look at its main corporate feeds, of which there are still a huge number.
The official Red Bull account has just over 900,000 followers and it generally just tweets out links to images and videos of its sponsored athletes, though there are occasional questions and comments on current events.
Red Bull is certainly better at responding to users on Twitter than on Facebook, but it still only replies to between 10 and 40 tweets per day.
This is fairly feeble compared to Tesco and ASOS, but as mentioned it has a different social strategy to those other brands.
Also, a Twitter search for @Redbull shows that the brand is mentioned thousands of times per day in numerous different languages, so responding to them all would be impossible.
The regional feeds don’t appear to be much better at responding to @mentions, even though the UK account has some 69,000 followers, while the feeds setup for Red Bull Racing and the Stratos balloon jump are also mainly used for pushing out marketing messages.
Considering the amount of buzz that goes on around Red Bull and its events it is surprising that it doesn’t make a bigger attempt to get involved in user conversations.
Instead the strategy seems to be to create these exhilarating moments, then sit back and let consumers spread the word on social networks.
The main account has 20 boards that feature some stunning imagery, though a vast majority of the photos link directly to Red Bull sites.
This is a common tactic for brand Pinterest pages as it avoids losing traffic to third-party sites or getting in trouble for copyright infringement.
Unfortunately it also overlooks the social aspect of Pinterest. Red Bull isn’t as bad as some other brands though and a few of its boards are predominately made up of third-party images.
The Illume page is home to Red Bull’s action sports photography competition. It has been live for a year but only has 499 followers, probably because in spite of the attractive imagery it’s actually quite a dull page.
It’s essentially an extension of the Illume website - most of the images link back to articles and posts, many of which are now actually 404 pages.
Though Red Bull has several Google+ accounts for its various enterprises, it hasn’t taken to the social network with much gusto.
It isn’t alone in appearing slightly dubious about the value of updating its page on a regular basis, with ASOS and John Lewis also giving their G+ pages the bare minimum of attention while Walmart and Tesco haven't really bothered at all.
Red Bull’s main account has a whopping 1.5m followers, slightly more than ASOS (1.4m), and the page is updated roughly once per day.
A lot of the content is repurposed from Facebook and it tends to attract several hundred +1s and tens of comments, which is quite a healthy number for G+.