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"Brand" will always be a nebulous term. Arguments rage about its true value. Although recent research shows that it can be responsible for nearly 15% of your total worth (Or much, much more, if you’re J.K.Rowling) It’s still seen by many as the ultimate wooly metric. 

There’s no doubt that being a household name will improve your chances of success in social, but just how far will it take you?

I’ve taken a look at the world’s top ten brands, and matched up their profiles across the biggest social media platforms.

Let’s see what’s in a name...

According to the BrandZ Top 100, the world’s biggest companies by worth are a curious mix:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5981/top_ten_brands_2013-blog-full.png

In days gone by, we could regularly expect power and tobacco to top the charts. These days tech and telecoms dominate, along with a couple of the big FMCG’s.

It’s interesting to note that Visa is the only financial company in the top ten, while Marlboro holds a lonely, burning fag-end for Big Tobacco (We have to go all the way down to position 39 before we hit an Oil and Gas business: ExxonMobil). 

Social media is inherently tech-driven, so it’s unsurprising to see companies like Apple and Google doing well, but is their profile enough to push them to the top of the social pile?  

Who’s linking?

Before we get to social, let’s see who is anxious to be associated with the world’s biggest brands. As this is a serious in-depth study (cough), I’ve chosen the world’s most serious graph format: bubble charts. 

Unless otherwise stated, I’ve used the Brands main .com domains, and their central brand social profiles:

Here are our top ten ranked by number of sites linking to them: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5973/1-blog-full.png

No surprises here. The Big G taking a huge lead over competitors, while McD’s and Coke barely register. Turns out that despite high traffic, links to the king of fizzy pop (probably) won’t affect your position in the SERPS that much. 

Let's compare this to their position on ‘the other internet'...

Facebook

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5974/2-blog-full.png

A huge difference.

Coca-Cola clearly knows where its most valuable audience hang out, but it’s interesting to see that Google still have a huge profile here.

While Apple regularly court the consumer goods market (albeit with a slightly higher price entry point than the McDonald’s 99c menu), it’s interesting that Google has more fans: the product of an active approach to the platform, whereas Apple remain icily aloof from mere customers. 

Twitter

Facebook is often all about content, while on Twitter engagement and conversation really count. Let’s see who’s talking:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5975/3-blog-full.png

Once again Google are powering ahead; can we put this down to brand power? 

Probably not.

There’s no doubt that the name netted them a fair few followers, but Google makes pains to tweet lots of interesting, inspiring stuff alongside their product updates. By staying true to their brand they make sure that their audience goes far beyond the search and tech community. 

AT&T are a particularly interesting case here. They have two main accounts - @ATT and @ATTCustomerCare.

Despite the clear definition, many of @ATT’s tweets are customer-service related, and the main account has over 250,000 followers, compared to the service channels meagre 22,000.Clear proof that customers are the ones who ultimately define how your social channels will be used.  

There’s no doubt that brand recognition plays a role in this. Customers who want help look for AT&T, rather than ‘AT&T Customer Service’. An important point to bear in mind if you are setting up service channels on social. 

Pinterest:

Next up, let’s see who is sharing the most visual content:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5976/4-blog-full.png

On Pinterest, the follower numbers are relatively tiny. Even Coke have only managed to attract 3,274 followers.

However, searching for ‘Coca-Cola’ brings up huge swathes of images, so here brand and iconography are a clear bonus, with users sharing their collections of vintage bottles and associated advertising freely.

There’s probably very little direct conversion here, but that said, doesn’t this make you feel thirsty? 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5979/coke-blog-full.jpg

Times that by 3,000 and you can begin to see the value here. 

It’s also interesting to see Visa pop up here:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5982/visa_pins-blog-full.png

I actually took the figures from the brand’s ‘Visa Europe’ profile, as there doesn’t seem to be a central company account (Which there should be. Even if you aren’t using it, remember to bookmark social profiles).

Visa isn’t a brand you’d immediately associate with visual content, and although there are only 80 pins, the account has used some dynamic imagery from recent sponsorships (most notably The Olympics), and this could be a useful PR channel if the brand took time to invest.

Google+

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5977/5-blog-full.png

Seeing as it owns the thing, it’s unsurprising to see Google out in front, but Coca-Cola is something of a surprise given the (alleged) core G+ audience of early adopters and search fanatics.

G+ has ramped up it’s user base massively over the past few years, so it’s entirely possible this is down to echo effect: New users arrive, and not knowing the platform, they look for familiar brands to begin following...

That said, Coke are ploughing ahead with content, although it looks as though they’ve been a bit confused themselves about what to do on G+

Originally posting Facebook-esque content, the page seems to have taken an unusual turn recently, following Pepsi’s example of concentrating on music-based sponsorships, but also targeting Spanish language followers. 

As this includes lots of posts about the utterly ridiculous Mexican band Moderatto I’m actually rather pleased about this:

Moderatto. No, I don't know either.

But it is a strange route to take and shows that even for the big brands, G+ is still something of a mystery.

LinkedIn

Finally, let’s take a look at the business network. All of the brands involved must recruit at least, and we can see there’s a more even split on LinkedIn:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5978/6-blog-full.png

Obviously it’s unfair to rate China Mobile on western-centric platforms because... well, the clue is in their name, but they do make a small imprint here, and the overall map is probably the one theat most accurately reflects the actual brand worth.

LinkedIn can be tricky for companies, as it tends to focus on the individual user, with value often coming from group interactions, but here we can see that active recruitment strategies and company updates can provide value and recognition. 

Overall, Marlboro is conspicuous by its absence across all networks. 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0003/5984/marlboro-blog-half.jpg

Regulation probably plays a large part in this, and while there are some examples of the brands iconic Marlboro Man ads floating around on Pinterest, it seems as though ultimately Marlboro is uninterested in social, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting their profit margins. Unlike Coke and McDonalds, Marlboros are a slightly different kind of impulse buy. 

It seems that as expected, brand power does influence following, at least initially.

Apple in particular steadfastly ignored social for many years, and only now are they becoming more heavily involved, most notably via iTunes, as they become more heavily invested as a content and media publisher.

However it’s good to see that Google are excelling not merely on the strength of the brand, but by actively contributing targeted content across channels and driving higher engagement and loyalty, a tactic which is obviously contributing to their overall profile. 

Social is driving a change in brand behaviour, and ultimately rewards publishing models, as audiences engage with new content. 

Matt Owen

Published 5 August, 2013 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

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@mcsorg

Excellent article, Matt. As well as showing us where the big brands are in relation to each other in social you've kind of shown us what each social media does - and doesn't - for brands.

about 3 years ago

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