Learn From How the Top Brands Use Social Media

For the last eight years Tenet Partners has published its list of the “Top 100 Most Powerful Brands.” The variety of brands on this list is always remarkable and there are certainly a wide range of industries represented.

For example, within the top 10 you have a soft drink maker (Coca-Cola at number one), a couple of tech firms (Apple at number five and Microsoft at number seven), a financial services company (American Express at number nine), a healthcare company (Johnson & Johnson at number six) and a motorcycle manufacturer (Harley-Davidson at number 10).

While their industries are very divergent, they do share one very important attribute: They are great at building their brands. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the strategies they use in their social media marketing programs. Our sample will be somewhat selective, but let’s start with the easiest to capture:


Apple doesn’t really do anything on social media…and it seems to be working for them.


The motorcycle maker is probably the biggest example of an American “social” brand. It has long depended on word-of-mouth and lifestyle marketing so it would seem a natural for social media. However, so far its efforts haven’t paid off. Its buyers are aging and it hasn’t been able to back fill with the younger generation, which should be reachable via social media. Apparently its narrative isn’t one that is resonating with younger motorcycle enthusiasts.

The lesson here is to not wait too long when you know full well that you need to start targeting a new market. Harley may still be in the top 10, but it won’t be in a decade from now if it can’t shift the core of its business to a new demographic.

American Express

The financial sector in general is very well represented in the social media and American Express is pretty much at the top.

It is a master of the social media-based couponless deal, according to Mashable, and that’s a strategy many small businesses can adopt. Further, its OPENforum is a very useful social media property for small businesses.


None of these brands may go better with social media than Coca-Cola. It has used hashtags and contests to great effect and has taken one of the most important principles of social media to heart: it’s a conversation! A huge percentage of Coke’s monthly tweets are direct replies. They don’t leave their followers out there hanging.

Coke has also found creative ways to bring its traditional branding together with its social media campaigns. During the 2012 Super Bowl, Coke had its famous polar bears engaging with fans via Facebook and Twitter. Don’t overlook “hybrid” campaigns.

Johnson & Johnson

This health care industry giant is well known for its use of videos via YouTube. The company was one of the first “Big Pharma” companies to have a channel on YouTube. Johnson & Johnson is using this channel to inform and this is a great lesson for social media. Further, the company informs by telling stories via these videos and that’s another concept we should all embrace in the social media.

I also need to mention that Johnson & Johnson got a lot of great publicity out of a campaign that used social media for charity fundraising. Along with RED.org, it pledged to donate $1 to the Global Fund to fight AIDS whenever someone shared an infographic.

These examples should give you some ideas and also emphasize some of the important principles to follow in your social media marketing campaigns. Further, if you aren’t following any of the major brands – especially those related to your business – get on board and get inspired.

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