Based on a survey of 2,569 young people in the UK (18-24s) who were asked to rate their sentiment towards a shortlist of over 250 brands, Pizza Hut came out on top.

The chain claims that “the balance of increasing its fan base and driving engagement with a great sense of humour is a winning formula enabling it to outshine its competitors”.

It possibly also helps that the 40 year-old brand has 600 restaurants dotted around the UK making it one of the most ubiquitous restaurants in the country and, hey, I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out in saying that pizza’s quite popular.

That being said, Pizza Hut’s social footprint has grown rapidly in a short space of time, with its Facebook page seeing an increase in likes from 500,000 to 1m in just one year. Pizza Hut claims is “more fans in the last year than most other UK pizza brands have in total”.

Pizza Hut’s Facebook strategy consists primarily of contests and reminders of special offers.

And yes there is a certain amount of sense of humour here within its well-timed topical marketing.

You may notice that these aren’t startling numbers when it comes to likes and shares however. How did Pizza Hut manage to break through the 1m barrier?

It seems to have better luck when it shares content that isn’t its own marketing material.

This is a great way to make your brand seem approachable and relatable. 

Pizza Hut is currently promoting its Frankenstein-like creation ‘The Cheeseburger Pizza’.

As you can imagine some of the comments are less than favourable, but Pizza Hut has sensibly taken this opportunity to respond quickly, as more and more consumers are seeing social media as a customer service channel.

Going back to the question of how Pizza Hut managed 1m likes without an awful lot of engagement, the answer lies in posts like this…

There is a lot of ‘like-baiting’ going on here. Even above in the London Marathon post there is an explicit ‘share this’ at the top of the post.

Last week Facebook began clamping down on like-baiting and other spam tactics. Pages that explicitly ask users to like, comment or share a post in order to achieve artificial reach that it wouldn’t normally receive are going to be penalised by Facebook in order to make users newsfeeds a less irritating and manipulative place.

Pizza Hut may have to try a different tactic in order to continue its success and now organically rack up the likes it receives.

Pizza Hut’s claim that its “Twitter fan base has also grown organically, with over 15,000 followers in just two years” doesn’t seem incredibly impressive. It has 600 restaurants and plenty of television and print advertising campaigns, but as a down-to-Earth pizza chain it could also get away with being a bit cheekier and off the wall than other more serious brands can. Just look at Oreo for instance.  

Does Pizza Hut do that? No, it just posts exactly the same content as it does on Facebook with even less engagement.

Am I being cynical in suggesting that when you ask a group of 18-24 year olds about which brands are best at social media, a ubiquitous and fairly manipulative pizza chain will always come out above other brands who don’t offer as many contests or promotions?

Take a look at the entire Social Brands 100 here.