Presenting: 10 of the Smartest Big Brands in Social Media
• Samir Balwani is a social media marketer who helps businesses create
effective web strategies. You can follow him on Twitter( ) and get his
As we battle a global recession, corporations are looking for new ways to sell
their products and engage their consumers. Many have turned to the
Internet, with Social Media in particular, to market their goods. Let’s take a
look at 10 companies that have done a phenomenal job of taking advantage
of social media platforms.
1. Blendtec Blends it on YouTube
Who doesn’t know about the “Will It Blend” series on YouTube( )? Created
by George Write, the marketing director of Blendtec, the campaign was low
cost and instantly became a hit. In the video, Tom Dickson the CEO of
Blendtec, attempts to blend objects in their blender. This simple idea led to a
“five-fold increase in sales”.
Blendtec leveraged YouTube’s subscriber base and tried something fun and
original. The campaign was a success and continues to entertain and sell.
Lesson: Social media marketing doesn’t always need to cost a lot of money.
Creating funny, original video and leveraging an already large user base can
be used to increase sales.
2. Burger King and the Sacrifice Facebook Application
Recently, Burger King has really been pushing the envelope with their
marketing. They first started with whoppervirgins.com, then entered the
social space with the “sacrifice ten friends” facebook application. The
campaign quickly went viral and was adopted by over 20,000 users,
sacrificing 200,000 friends for free whoppers.
Sadly, the application was shut down as quickly as it started by Facebook,
citing privacy concerns. Regardless, the application was beautifully built and
the idea was perfect. Burger King built in the ability to share it, the incentive
to use it, and added just enough humor to make the campaign a hit.
Lesson: Successful and viral campaigns don’t just test out social media, they
jump in it. Pushing the envelope can create the buzz that makes your
3. Starbucks Asks for Your Advice
Social media isn’t only about using existing websites, but sometimes creating
your own. To get a better handle on consumer feedback, Starbucks did just
that with “My Starbucks Idea.”
The site allows users to submit suggestions to be voted on by Starbucks
consumers, and the most popular suggestions are highlighted and reviewed.
Starbucks then took it a step further and added an “Ideas in Action” blog that
gives updates to users on the status of changes suggested.
By empowering their exceptionally web savvy consumer, Starbucks
strengthens their campaign to add a personal touch to coffee.
Lesson: Thinking of ways to build your company are great, but directly
asking your consumers what they want, is better. Acting on that information
and doing it publicly is key to the success of this campaign.
Starbucks has also embraced Twitter, you can see their stream at
4. Sun Microsystems and the CEO Blog
Want your blog to really make a splash? You could learn a lot from Sun
Microsystem’s CEO blog. Jonathan Schwartz’s blog received about 400,000
hits a month (in 2006).
It’s not the number of hits that make his blog a social media success, but the
openness on it. Positive and negative comments are allowed, and even the
most inane are approved. Transparency from the highest position in a
company trickles down and increases trust from consumers.
Lesson: Social media is a culture of transparency and honesty that must be
embraced, leading by example is one of the best ways to introduce it to a
company. Few things are better than a CEO that blogs or uses twitter.
Sun Microsystems also has a network of blogs, friends on Facebook( ),
friends on Twitter, and their own Twitter account as well.
5. IBM With Lots of Blogs
When IBM decided they wanted to start using blogs, they didn’t just create
one blog, they created an entire network. IBM created a way and allowed
their employees to write about their experiences, what they’re working on, or
any other topic of choice.
IBM capitalizes on the intelligence of their employees to give consumers
insight into what happens behind the scenes. By giving the industry experts
they’ve hired a voice, IBM is able to highlight the people behind their
products. Users get to see how IBM operates, and are given a direct
connection with IBM employees.
Lesson: Having a CEO that blogs is great, but increase the number of blogs
and you increase the number of connections. Leveraging your employees to
write about what they love conveys the corporate dedication to the industry.
You can also find IBM on Twitter giving updates on events from their
6. Zappos on Twitter
Obviously we had to talk about Twitter, this is a social media post after all.
The most obvious of companies to make Twitter work is Zappos, an online
retailer that has really led the way in corporate Twitter use.
The idea of micro-blogging and the sense of exceptional customer service is
ingrained in the corporate culture. Most Zappos employees have an active
account, and the Zappos site has a page that aggregates all the streams.
The reason why Zappos stands out on Twitter is because of their ability to
bring the company to life. The Zappos CEO has lent his personality to the
company brand, a personality that is friendly, helpful, funny, and trustworthy.
They use Twitter to highlight interesting facts, and to talk to their consumers.
Talking to Zappos is like talking to a friend that happens to sell shoes.
Lesson: Take a CEO that twitters, add in a great personality and you have a
recipe for social success. Ingraining social media into the culture of a
corporation means that every consumer interaction is personal.
Zappos also does a great job of using their blog and Facebook to engage their
7. Comcast on Twitter too
I never expected to be writing good things about Comcast, but because of
Frank Eliason things have changed. Frank is the man behind @comcastcares,
a Twitter account setup to help Comcast users in need.
Comcast has found a way to offer exceptional customer service to their
consumers, but the thing that really makes them stand out is how well they
monitor discontent. Complain about Comcast and you can bet you’ll hear from
@comcastcares to see if they can help.
Lesson: Being active on Twitter is great but tracking and seeing who’s
mentioning you, is the next step. Social media allows for the possibility of
great customer service, and with it, better brand loyalty.
8. Ford and Social Media PR
You’d think I’d talk about how Ford uses Twitter (they use it well), but the
thing that makes them really shine is how they did a great job quelling a
would-be public relations disaster online with the use of social media.
The basic story is that there was an internal gaffe where Ford’s legal
department sent out cease and desist letters to forum owners using Ford
trademarks. Obviously the story was twisted and changed, and in the end
people were outraged.
What makes this a success story for social media is that Scott Monty (Ford’s
community manager) was quick to find out what happened and let us know
the true story. Not only that, but as things were being fixed and a
compromise was ironed out, the public was informed every step of the way.
Although we don’t know if social media has shown a direct return on
investment for Ford, the public relations fiasco it helped avert (think Motrin)
should help make the case for more funding for social media.
Lesson: Social media can be used to inform consumers in real-time of how a
corporation is reacting to events that affect the customer. Transparency in the
process and access to constant information can help stop a negative story
from going viral.
9. Graco Uses Pictures on Flickr
Social media is about sharing all types of content, including photos.
Facilitating the sharing is easy, but gaining something from it requires a
sound strategy. Graco did just that, by building a community around their
product using Flickr( ).
Flickr isn’t the center of their campaign, but they promote it heavily with the
Graco blog which also creates an incentive for others to submit pictures. The
photographs help highlight the people behind Graco and the consumers using
Graco takes their strategy one step further by introducing offline marketing in
the form of community gatherings. The pictures from these meet-ups are
posted to the Flickr page, further humanizing the community around the
Lesson: Social media doesn’t have to exist wholly online. Blending offline
marketing with online efforts can build a community around a brand.
Graco has a blog and leverages Lindsay Lebresco (the corporate blogger for
Graco) to be active on Twitter.
10. Dell Doing it Everywhere
Embracing social media is a huge undertaking, and involves a large
investment. Dell didn’t shy away from these obstacles, instead they’ve gone
above and beyond, truly cultivating a cross-platform community. They’ve
created multiple Twitter handles, a network of blogs, and are very active on
Dell is also one of the few companies to publicly state that they created a
return on investment from Twitter. Apparently, Dell’s social media efforts help
create “$1 million in revenue“.
Lesson: Social media isn’t all about ROI, but it is possible. Creating cross-
platform strategies can lead to the most success, especially when your
demographic is already Internet and technologically savvy.
We’ve explored 10 companies and picked out 10 lessons we can learn from
them. As social media evolves, we’ll see how many of these are replaced by
new innovations in marketing. Is there a company you think evolved the
industry, that deserves to be on this list?