A Look At How Top Brands Use Social Media

I was going through the BrandZ report on the world’s top brands for the year 2011. It was great to see that some of the top brands in the world are also the ones which are heavily adopting social media for their marketing.

I found following noteworthy things from the rankings:

  • 4 out of world’s top 5 brands are technology brands and among the top 100, 18 brands belong to technology sector
  • Many online brands emerge in the list like Google (2), Amazon (14), Facebook (35), Ebay (82) and Baidu (29)
  • 11 out of top 50 brands are using online communities as a growing and sustainable social media tool for marketing

The last point was most interesting to me. If you see the overall social media adoption among the top 50 brand, you will see that most of these brands are moving beyond the traditional channels like Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to blogs, social applications, content thought leadership, viral campaigns, consumer generated campaigns and eventually models like sustainable online communities to engage their audiences, energize their loyal fans and facilitate word of mouth.

Hence in this post, I will like to talk about how 11 of the world’s biggest brands have adopted to sustainable social media solutions such as online communities to engage their customers, partners and employees.

IBM (rank 3):

IBM, in its continued efforts to build a smarter planet, has powered ‘A Smarter Planet’ community. They believe that a planet is built smarter at an industry level and wants to facilitate related conversations on various topics like banking, energy, retail, traffic etc. Apart from that IBM powers developer forums and support communities to help users learn from one another

Microsoft (rank 5): Microsoft is another brand that really understands the power of online communities. They have built many communities and networks to individually cater segments of their target audience. For e.g. Microsoft Developer network is targeted towards developers, Microsoft partner network is targeted to provide tools and resources to Microsoft customers and partners to get more out of Microsoft products, Microsoft Dynamics Community is targeted for professional using Microsoft dynamics products and solution and Windows community provides users forum to hold discussions about various windows products

Coca Cola (rank 6) – Although the beverage major does not have a separate community site to engage fans, this is one brand that has made maximum use of its Facebook page. Legend has it that this page was originally created by 2 Coca Cola fans Dusty Sorg and Micheal J and is managed by them and not the Coca Cola Company.

However, with more than 27 million people present on the fan page and high volume of fan activity, news, promotions, and campaigns running; Coca Cola is doing a great job engaging its fans. They even have a social media policy on their Facebook page to help manage sanity in the community. They keep on launching social media campaigns to engage their audience and use the Facebook page to promote the campaigns. So you can see Expedition 206 app to promote the Expedition 206 campaign. Also coca cola has launched a community campaign – live positively to mobilize fans to lend a helping hand to the global community.

GE (rank 10) – GE’s Ecomagination Challenge is the benchmark example of how business can become social enough to crowd source innovation. Ecomagination is a fabulous user generated innovation contest that leverages the collective wisdom of crowd to come up with the best ideas on how to improve our energy future. The contest operates in phases (phase 1 was about building energy efficient grid and phase 2 is focussed at building energy efficient homes), where users give ideas and other vote for the ideas they support. GE plans to invest $200 million to winning idea to bring the concept into shape.


Walmart (rank 15): I really love the Walmart’s advocacy program for Eleven Moms. Eleven Moms is a mommy community lead by twenty (and not eleven) moms across USA. The moms are popular bloggers who talk about topics like parenting, value for money and this helps Walmart engage with a big set of their target audience. To engage their other sets of audience, Walmart powers discussion boards around parenting, health, lifestyle etc.


HP (rank 18) – HP leverages a lot on support community to help reduce support center costs, empower their consumers and partners to solve each other’s problems and generate consumer insight on support related issues. You can check out their support community on Facebook, HP support forum, HP Enterprise business community and support forum for their software solutions

SAP (rank 19) – I truly love the way SAP has built a community (SAP community network) of SAP professional to learn, teach and network with other SAP customers, partners and employees. Users can learn from each other through blogs, wiki, discussion, collaborate on projects and crowd source innovation on ideas for better SAP products


Loius Vuitton (rank 26) – The luxury brand runs an digital social magazine called nowness showcasing stories of contemporary culture, global lifestyle, music, art, travel, sport and fashion. Some of the world’s foremost designers and creative thinkers in luxury industry participate in this community.

BMW (rank 30) – BMW’s Mini has built a one if the most interesting online communities I have seen, called ‘creative use of space’. While most of the brands build their communities around a lifestyle, passion or cause, BMW has built an urban community around a value – making creative use of space. This community is about taking part in events, competitions and projects about making creative use of space. Basically, it is a hub of creative people and designers to connect around event and information. This is how the community explains its purpose:

When Sir Alec Issigonis invented the MINI he thought of a car that maximizes use of minimum space. Keeping issues like declining energy resources in mind, he created a functional and exciting car that is the ultimate creative use of space.

As urban dwellers we too are constantly thinking of new ways to explore or re-imagine the spaces around us to be more functional, beautiful, and available. MINI Space (the online community) puts up an inspiring framework for you to make creative use of space.”

Pampers (rank 34) – Pampers is one brand that really understand the concept of a social business and this is reflected by the fact that their website – www.pampers.com is actually a community around parenting! Thousands of parents engage around helping and learning about taking care of their children across various stages of development. I think this is a great way to engage your target audience (parents) by providing them an online space that they will repeatedly visit to learn more about parenting. Pampers gets a platform to run promotions, listen what they are saying and engage with their audience

American Express (rank 40): American Express has built an online community for small businesses called Open Forum. Undoubtedly, this is a smart move since companies like AMEX have a large focus towards targeting small businesses and engaging them on their network is perhaps the best way to do that. The community provides tools and information to small businesses to connect with others and learn about managing their business better.

Hope this research help you understand the power of online communities for marketing and brand building. It is great to see some of the world’s biggest brand making serious efforts to engage with their world. Here is the presentation below that summarizes the research.

[This is a guest post written by Achintya Gupta. Achintya works as a Brand Manager at Kuliza – a Bangalore based social technology company. You can find more of his ideas at Kuliza’s blog]

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