virtuesbrandlist header Vitrue’s Top Social Brands of 2009: iPhone #1

By Tara Lane, Staff Writer

Earlier this week, marketing firm Vitrue released its annual list of the top 100 most social brands, where Apple and its many products reigned supreme for the second year in a row. Despite holding less than a quarter of market share in the computing world, Apple has managed to make itself well-known – and very desirable – in many other ways.

Using a unique sentiment-analysis algorithm developed in-house, Vitrue narrowed down these brands by determining their popularity across major social media platforms and social interactivity. Beyond just determining who or what was most popular, the Vitrue team was able to monitor online conversations across different mediums and dig deep to see what made people talk, and what makes consumers excited about a brand.

A news release from Vitrue said, “Marketers are adding social as a foundation into the marketing mix and need the infrastructure to manage their increasingly robust presences. TV spots are now tagged out with Facebook URLs instead of corporate web sites and point-of-sale call to actions now direct you to fan them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.” The list includes many brands you’d expect to see – Coca Cola, Microsoft, Amazon – as well as some surprises, such as General Motors. All together, the list is made up of just a few key industries, ranging from the expected (technology) to the unexpected (food). The following is a quick breakdown of the industries that stand out the most on this extensive list.

Luxury

Top luxury brands were well represented, with Gucci as the top luxury brand — ranking 27. Gucci has more than half a million fans on Facebook — the largest of any of the other brands on the list. For luxury brands, social media can be hard to balance, because opening it up to the masses lessens its exclusivity. However, Gucci seems to have found the balance. Also making the list were Louis Vuitton at 81, Prada at 88, and Burberry in the number 94 spot. Their place on this list alone showcases the resilience of the industry, especially among these top brands, who are getting people excited and talking about their product. Though it may be harder for people to buy from these brands,it’s clear that they’re connecting with customers – and potential customers – on an entirely new level.

Technology

It’s hard not to miss all of the tech companies and products dominating Vitrue’s list. With the iPhone in the top spot, iTunes in 6th place, Apple itself at number 8, it’s clear that the tech innovator knows how to generate buzz. Other big tech brands include Microsoft (18), Verizon (48), Hewlett-Packard (51), Sprint (69), Phillips (84) and Panasonic (89). Interestingly, Google is absent from the list. Vitrue reasons: “While Google, Facebook and others are top brands, The Vitrue 100 is measuring companies that are using social technology, not those who are the technology.”

Media

“Media brands make up 8 percent of the list – CNN #3, MTV #4, ESPN #23, CBS #32, ABC #33, Turner #36, Fox News #56, NBC #68 – perhaps illustrating our socialization of their content,” writes Vitrue. In September 2009, Sparxoo’s Digital Influencers in News and Politics Report contained many of the same networks. If these are any indication, we can only expect more news and media outlets to develop effective online strategies, and target and engage digital audiences.

Auto

Though it’s no secret that the automotive industry has been struggling, many top brands are still able to get customers buzzing, as evidenced by this list. In the top 25 alone, Mercedes (17), BMW (20), Ford (24) and Honda (25) all make the cut, with Ferrari (26), Nissan (37), Toyota (38), Kia (53), and more following behind – 16 major auto brands in all. Ford has embraced social media through Twitter and YouTube, sharing customer stories and has launched entire campaigns specifically for social media, while Mercedes-Benz has developed their own crowdsourcing social media site for Mercedes owners to connect with each other and share ideas with the carmaker itself. Marketers and advertisers for this industry have definitely found something that works.

Food

Restaurants Subway (50), McDonald’s (62), Krystal (63), and KFC (66) all made the list, while grocery brands like Pringles (86), Nutella (42), Skittles (65), Pepsi (73), and Red Bull (47) helped make the food industry stand out. Some of these brands may not be much of surprise – Skittles, Pringles, and KFC (66) all have innovative ad campaigns both online and through traditional media that have had people talking for a while. For the rest of the brands, this could be an opportunity to follow suit and find even better ways to get people talking.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. A 2008 survey found that 56 percent of Americans feel both a stronger connection with, and also feel better served by companies, when they can interact with them in a social media environment. The same survey found that 93 percent of Americans believe a company should have a presence in social media. In 2010, these numbers are estimated to be even higher.

Brands are coming down to the consumer’s level using social media, where they’re able to build meaningful, sustainable relationships. Social media is inexpensive, accessible and can be very effective. Next year’s list is sure to be even more competitive, as more brands strive generate buzz through social media.

* Sparxoo is led by social marketing experts.  Please contact the Sparxoo team for a free consultation.

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