Becoming a social business isn't easy. It takes planning, organization and teamwork. But when established and executed well, social businesses find ways to drive business results, and win the loyalty of social users. If you're looking for inspiration on how to lead the social brand pace, the following 16 brands embody the best of the best - broken down by social area of excellence.
Social brands know that monitoring and listening to social conversation taking place can often serve as a digital focus group, revealing what customers care about and the issues that are top of mind. Taking action and responding to these conversations can create new customers, provide guidance to customers seeking answers, and build a loyal social community.
1. Wendy's customers know the chain serves up tasty on-the-go food options and increasingly, that the chain serves up specials and exclusive communications directly via social. Can't find the location serving what you want to order? Have a question or feedback about your experience? Share it on the Wendy's Facebook Page and chances are the social team will chime in and help.
2. Jason's Deli is one of the more personal and approachable brands on social, staying true to their social mantra of "make a customer smile". Whether a social user asks a question about a menu item, talks about their positive (or not so positive) experience at a restaurant, or even talks about eating at another deli, the social team at Jason's is ready to strike up a conversation. They've been known to thank loyal customers, offer ideas to satisfy a craving, or invite unhappy customers of other restaurants to seek a better experience at Jason's.
Organization and Governance
Smart social brands have realized the power (and need) to organize their social presence according to their existing business structure and the results they seek from social. Mapping out clear paths for social customers to find information and community around the topics that matter to them increasingly makes the social experience more personalized, relevant, and valuable.
3. AAA is a national organization that functions through a network of local affiliate offices. The information, offers, and guidance for Texas members may be much different than that for New Yorkers. The AAA Facebook Page organizes from corporate to local needs -sharing general information and leading users to relevant local information.
4. USA Today knows that not all news is created equal (well, not in the eyes of readers at least). In the same way readers may flip or click to a particular section of the print or online versions, USA Today segments its social presence by topic to help users find newsworthy content faster.
Behind the social business curtain, brands are often managing the flow of hundreds if not thousands of conversations daily. Though consumers don't see the coordination, communication, and orchestration this requires, these critical activities ensure that the right people are responding to the right conversations.
5. RadioShack's social team has millions of social users following and potentially engaging with them on any given day. Their social networks don't see the moderation and escalation pathways that ensure local questions get answered and feedback gets acknowledged. Radioshack coordinates all this activity across social team members and locations to provide prompt, helpful responses signed off by "The Radioshack Team".
6. Discover knows that when customers seek help for a financial issue, they need it now. Their hyper-social (and loyal) base is known for asking public questions and sharing their real-time thoughts via social. While lots of community management coordination is happening behind the scenes, Discover has also found a way to make the experience more personal by putting names with faces and "signing off" personally on social correspondence.
7. Whole Foods is one of the most followed social brands. And that's not by chance. Their social team has created an extensive social program, seamlessly coordinated across more than 300 locations and geographies to provide the most relevant information, responses, and personal touches to customers across the country. What's their secret ingredient? Coordination across hundreds of employees to scale real time conversations.
Great social programs are made stronger by measuring results and performing analysis to inform future strategic decisions. The approach to measurement may vary by brand and business goals, but the resounding stance of leading social brands is that engagement is a key measurement of social impact.
8. AT&T has almost 4 million Facebook Fans and Twitter followers alone on their two corporate accounts (they have many other topic or business-group focused accounts). Their approach to measuring social impact is to assess "the ultimate metric" of engagement across each channel. On Facebook, that's a Share. On Twitter, it's a Retweet. This allows the brand to see social impact at a glance and focus on driving those results.
9. AARP is by no means old-fashioned in the way they execute and measure their social programs. The organization tracks various types of engagement metrics to learn what resonates in niche social communities, but they've also centralized their social data into a holistic picture of AARP's overarching social impact. By doing so, they were able to show that the organization made more than one billion social impressions in 2012.
If organization and coordination build the internal foundation of a social business, content is the key to driving external social results. Finding ways to connect, inspire, and engage with social audiences starts with determining the content that resonates.
10. Chobani provides a treasure trove of social content for consumers that want to #tastereal. Mouthwatering images of dishes cooked with Chobani, recipes, and inspirational sayings and videos all work together to create a visual, highly engaging social presence to their yogurt-focused customer base.
11. Harley-Davidson is recognized as one of the most iconic motorcycle companies in the world. Their Facebook community of more than 4 million fans leans on imagery-rich content to connect with motorcycle enthusiasts. In turn, the brand has seen that their content fuels engagement and inspires loyal customers to post their own content to share with the community.
Segmentation and Targeting
Until this point, most brands have thought of social content and activity from a wide-casting approach. But social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn are giving more power to brands to target and segment relevant social conversations to specific audiences.
12. National Instruments leads discussions across a hyperactive community of engineers and technologists. The community itself is niche, but even within this group there are various areas of interest and expertise. The social team segments out specific community members with leading knowledge and share of voice and targets specific messages, recommendations, and conversations towards them. As a result, the company has seen as increased quantity and quality of conversations and engagement within the National Instruments community.
13. Starbucks is synonymous with coffee worldwide. But the brand serves various different geographies and demographics. To ensure social content is "made to order", Starbucks targets Facebook posts by geography and language.
Social Engagement and Community
No audience will engage and interact if your brand doesn't provide a relevant experience. Any solid relationship is built around mutual interests and values. Smart social brands are creating valuable, share-worthy experiences through engaging content, lightweight conversations, and reciprocity and response to their social networks.
14. REI knows a thing or two about building community. Committed to providing gear, guidance, and inspiration to get outdoors, REI does a great job of serving the interests of the outdoor enthusiasts that populate their social network by participating in community conversations, launching creative campaigns, and providing unique guidance. In return, REI's audience engages and shares content organically to build conversation and community around the REI brand.
15. Clorox is a household product known for cleaning and disinfecting. This flu season, the brand realized that one of the most relevant uses for their product was to kill germs that cause the virus, and that the issue was top of mind in households everywhere. Their #WTflu campaign has helped create conversation, awareness, and share of voice as the leading product to help prevent the illness.
16. NCAA March Madness owns the hearts and minds of college basketball lovers across the nation. March Madness ignites this passionate audience to support their team, compare brackets, and, yes, talk a little (sportsmanlike) trash. NCAA has tapped into this excitement by owning the #MarchMadness conversation. Schedules, player information, and other conversation starters already have a full-court press across Twitter, and NCAA is leading the play.
Do you have a favorite brand you look up to as a leader in social business? We'd love to hear and add them to our ever-expanding list.