What we learned from analysing the top brands in social media, and food for thought for brand owners starting to look at social reputation monitoring.

Our top 50 brands in social media league table caused quite a stir, and we had 20,000 page views almost overnight and comment from everywhere from Switzerland and Brazil to Australia and the Philippines.

I thought it was worth doing a follow-up post to highlight what we learned from the exercise and provide some food for thought for brand owners starting to look at social reputation monitoring.

A social media campaign isn’t always necessary to get people talking about you

As a few people pointed out (including me) a social media campaign isn’t always necessary to get people talking about you online, if your product is good enough, your brand big enough, and your fans vocal enough.

This was clearly the case with Apple, which does almost no official social media work and yet came second in our list of social brands.

The ‘reach’ of a brand is meaningless on its own

The ‘reach’ of a brand (ie the amount people are talking about it) is meaningless on its own. ‘Opportunities to see’ is often a metric brands use for their ad and PR campaigns, but it can’t be applied in social media.

People might be saying awful things about you. This is why any reputation measurement has to analyse satisfaction with the brand alongside reach.

Some of the most talked about brands have some of the worst satisfaction ratings. Canon was a good example, with a high reach score (87 out of 100) but a low satisfaction score of around 52). BT’s figures are even worse, lots is being said but the vast majority is negative. 

Brands don’t necessarily get talked about just because people like them

The beer brand Corona had one of the lowest reach measurements in our list (40 out of 100) but came in with a satisfaction score of around 84.

A few short bursts of social media activity won’t necessarily sustain the conversation

Social media work takes time and a long-term commitment. Smirnoff is a case in point here. It has a great satisfaction score (80), and does some really interesting work online that gets people talking about the brand. But its reach was a fairly lowly 48.45.

Its Nightlife Exchange provoked more online conversation about Smirnoff than anything else, and then conversation drops off once the project is over. I’d be interested to know whether that’s a deliberate ploy by Smirnoff to try to keep control of its message online, after Smirnoff Ice suffered a reputation battering (associations with underage drinking) in the wake of an ‘icing’ hit last year. 

Yes, eBay really is the most social of the top brands

Its satisfaction score (85.6) was a bit lower than its reach score (98.65), which means there are some people complaining about it, but overall more people are talking about it, and positively, than any other brand in the Interbrand top 100 list. 

Being ‘liked’ by people on Facebook doesn’t equal engagement

Some of the brands we looked at have a great following of fans, but do nothing with them. 3.8m people like Gucci on Facebook, but I’d love to know what this actually achieves for the brand. There doesn’t seem to be any active engagement; Facebook seems to be more of a channel to push out news for Gucci.

Social media has moved on, and if you’ve got an army of people who are willing to publicly say they’re a fan of the brand, there are real opportunities to embrace and engage them more meaningfully. 

Facebook isn’t everything

Nintendo doesn’t actively manage its official Facebook presence, but focuses social activity heavily on YouTube, using sub-branded channels and regularly updated content to showcase products. Its fans take the conversation on from there.

So, thanks to those who pointed out that the popularity rankings don’t tell you much in isolation. I agree!

The real insight is derived from analysing why some brands punching above their weight and why others are failing to capitalise on the strength of their brands in social channels.

Those exhibiting strong scores all have things in common: engaging content, good segmentation of content on relevant platforms, responsiveness, sensible integration of social with other channels.They all add value to the consumer relationship.

Steve Richards

Published 10 March, 2011 by Steve Richards

Steve Richards is MD of social media agency Yomego and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (4)


Nick Stamoulis

The key is for companies to figure out what best works for them. Look to similar companies and see what they are doing that seems to be working and see if you can find a way to do it better! Not every social media marketing aspect is going to work the same for every company, even those in the same industry.

over 7 years ago

Adam Cranfield

Adam Cranfield, Chief Marketing Officer at Mynewsdesk

Steve, it's an interesting study, but I feel the language you are using is quite misleading: "list of social brands", "most social of the top brands", etc. Wasn't the research really about 2 things: 1) volume and 2) sentiment of discussion about the brand? Hence, I would argue, the scores have everything to do with the brand's quality, popularity and reach in the wider world, and little to do with their social media efforts.

Some of these brands can be top of the class without actively doing anything 'social'. They are simply the best companies at doing what they do (eg eBay, Google, Apple) - which is creating great products and services.

However, it *could* be that Ford's social media efforts have raised them above the likes of BMW and Audi. But we just don't know.

Regarding Apple - does anyone know what social media work they do? Do they do a lot of work with bloggers, for example?

I think huge brands don't have to provide the 'tools' or 'platforms' of social media to be talked about. They have to provide the product, or the content. Consumers will talk about them anyway, and the best companies and products stand up by themselves. Eg Barcelona FC don't need to have a social media programme to get the whole world sharing their 'content' and loving their brand. Similarly for Apple and the iPhone, iPad, etc.

If Apple creates a superb video for their iPad 2 launch, they are enabling social media to do its thing, simply by providing content that will inspire people to talk. Is that 'doing social media'? No. They do the content and the product, people do the 'social'.

I think the essence of great PR, or great social media work, is generating a level of buzz that is beyond what you could reasonably expect without doing the PR. You could call it getting more than your fair share of voice.

Finally, customer service in social media is a separate area altogether. I'm sure the overall quality of customer service has a big influence on the scores in this research, but I'd be surprised if much of the effect was due to customer service specifically taking place in social media. If you buy a Ford, what your local garage does has greater influence on your satisfaction than a friendly response on Facebook. Or rather, the latter won't matter a jot if the former isn't good enough.

over 7 years ago


Aileen O'Toole

Great post and excellent survey. Just as click throughs are still regarded by many as the way to measure the value of digital advertising, the notion that success in social media is measured by numbers (likes, followers etc) is endemic.

Social media holds huge potential for brands but many a msrketer or tisclubrand manager is scared. And rightly so, given how poorly even some of the best resourced brands have managed these channels.

We have just published our own research on this and there are major concerns about the downsides of social media. 51% of Irish marketers said they had concerns about reputation. The survey is available on our website and on our SlideShare channel,

over 7 years ago

Adam Cranfield

Adam Cranfield, Chief Marketing Officer at Mynewsdesk

I see today another study has been published at This study claims to examine what brands are actually doing in social media. But it seems very subjective - essentially the view of a panel of 'social media experts' (who may have either worked for these brands or be mates with the people who do). I mean, they even gave brands a point for acknowledging their nomination for this research! That indicates to me that this isn't research, this is more like an award. You don't normally get nominated for research.

Don't get me wrong, I think you need to bring in a qualitative element to the research (the Brandwatch or Alterian data won't tell the whole story), but surely social media is about the impact on real consumers, not what impresses people who work in the industry?

Two very different studies - both flawed for different reasons, in my view.

over 7 years ago

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