Social Brands 100 – the road show

On Wednesday this week Headstream took the story of the Social Brands 100 to a group of thirty marketers at an ISBA event in Edinburgh.

The beautiful and cultural City of Edinburgh was a suitable place to end our SB100 road show 2012, which has seen us discuss in-depth insights and findings with over thirty-five brands that featured in Social Brands 100 this year.

We’ve had the chance to have some brilliant conversations about social brand performance and benchmarking with lovely people at: Bing, British Gas, Burt’s Chips, Cancer Research, Chiltern Railways, The Great Collective Dairy, Deloitte, Diabetes UK, Douwe Egberts, Estee Lauder, First Direct, giffgaff, Global Radio, Go Ahead Group, Help for Heroes, Holywell Spring, London Midland, Manchester City FC, The Met Office, Mongoose Cricket, Museum of London, National Rail Enquiries, The National Trust, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Nike, PayPal, Penguin Books, RSPB, Sainsbury’s, Thames Water, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Money, Virgin Trains, White Stuff and Wonga.  Phew!

We even dropped in to Number 10 for a chat about how to measure ROI from social activity, (wins prize for meeting venue of the year!)

And we’ve taken the stage at Haymarket’s ‘Driving and Proving Social Media Value’ conference in June, and the IAB’s ‘Great British Social Media Festival’ in July, as well as gigging at some internal conferences with brand teams at global companies (if you’d like us to come to your next team get together give us a shout @headstream).

Reflecting on all of these conversations the following six subjects are the ones that kept coming up as the priority issues around social media for brand and marketing teams: 

  1. There is increasing buy-in from boards around social media, and as a result budgets for social are increasing 
  2. Uncertainty about how to prove the efficiency and return on social media investment is holding back further commitment to social spend at some brands     
  3. Some brands’ social performances remain restricted by legacy structures and ways of working. For example, how does a brand and marketing team built to deliver periodic campaigns now adapt to news-jacking and creating content at the speed of social? 
  4. A training and development challenge exists. Brands need to increase the social media capability in their teams to match the greater number of customers using social media to engage with them 
  5. High performing social brands are investing in real-time content creation teams, with a particular focus on images, video and data visualisation  
  6. Brand teams are exploring the potential for social media to boost organic search results

How does this fit with your latest thoughts on social media? As ever we’d love to know what you think.

Helping retail marketers build a social brand

Here at Headstream we believe that getting social media included as early as possible in the business and marketing strategy process is key to its success. With this in mind, and to help out those retail sector marketers who are embarking on strategy planning for 2013, we’ve created the ‘Building a retail social brand’ white paper.

It is an essential guide for any retail marketer, and through a combination of case studies, analysis and trend spotting sets out to answer the following questions:

- How can retail brands get more out of social media, and increase return on investment?

- What does social media best practice amongst retail brands look like currently?

- What is the next social innovation that will impact the retail sector?

- What immediate steps should you take to ensure your social media planning and execution is successful?

Retail has been transformed by the move to e-commerce since the advent of the web, and continues to be one of those sectors most rapidly affected by social media innovation. The increasing penetration of smart-phones and tablets that allow shoppers to access their networks while in-store ensures that this pace of change will continue, and that there are exciting times ahead.

We hope you find our white paper useful, and as ever we’d love to know your thoughts.

Social Brands 100 – who’s the Daddy on Facebook?

Diving into the Social Brands 100 data gives us all sorts of interesting insights into which brands are performing best on specific platforms. A ranking of the top ten performing brands on each of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and foursquare can be found on Slideshare.

Some of the patterns emerging from these platform rankings are:

  • The Facebook top ten has just one FMCG brand included, but that is number one placed MaxiRAW. Travel and Leisure, and Telecom brands share three top ten places between them, with bus and rail companies particularly effective on the platform.
  • The media sector takes four places in the Twitter top ten with MTV taking two slots for MTV Geordie Shore and MTV UK, while the BBC and Capital FM also feature.
  • YouTube is dominated by Technology brands with five spots occupied by the likes of AVG, GoPro, and Sony Xperia, each of them using the platform for user guides and application ideas.
  • Google just misses out to Red Bull to be the number one ranked brand on Google+. Like YouTube this platform’s top ten is dominated by technology brands.
  • foursquare is being used best by the Travel & Leisure sector, with Starbucks taking top honours. Retailer HMV gets a top ten position here, the only appearance of a retail brand across the platform top performers table.

This breakdown by platform performance is one of many insights within the Social Brands 100 publication, downloadable from www.socialbrands100.com.

Which brands do you think are making the best use of platforms?

Social Brands 100 – the final ranking

After nine months of planning, and five months of nominating, analysing and judging the Social Brands 100 ranking is live! The full findings are now available to download at www.socialbrands100.com. We would love to know what you think of this year’s roll call of social brand leaders.

Congratulations to every brand listed, you prevailed over another  200 brands that were put forward at the nomination stage. To be included in the 100 shortlist is an achievement in itself, and the range and quality of brands present this year is superb. The popularity of the crowd-sourced nominations has inevitably resulted in many ‘new entrants’ into the list, and a subsequent reshuffle of brand positions from 2011.

The highest ranking brand this year is Innocent, of smoothies fame, a worthy winner that proves year-in year-out an ability to maintain a personal and human connection with its fans. While there are other household names in the top ten, Cadbury, Starbucks, ASOS, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Cancer Research UK, there are also some less obvious names; The Met Office, ARKive, British Red Cross and giffgaff. This is something Social Brands 100 is proud of.

As outlined in earlier posts to use a methodology that ranks brands from different sectors, and of different sizes, as fairly as possible is our primary concern.

To do this we evolved our 2012 methodology from 2011 in two ways. Firstly, we increased the number of platforms, and metrics from those platforms, collected and analysed. In total we selected nineteen metrics from eight different platforms and carefully ascribed weightings to them that reflect where consumers are (fish where the fish are!), and how platforms are used. This gave us what we call our ‘Data Score’ for each brand (full details are on pages 11 and 43-46 of the Social Brands 100 publication). Secondly, we increased the weighting of the Data Score in relation to our ‘Panel Score’, which is derived from our expert panel of judges scoring each brand. This reflects the increased scope of the Data Score to assess metrics such as effectiveness and value of content posted by brands in social spaces.

Of course, you may well  have your own opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of this methodology to judge your particular brand’s social performance, and consider that certain platforms or weightings could be changed. It is possible to ‘bespoke’ social performance measurement through our subsequent brand specific research. However, the intention of the Social Brands 100 methodology is to find a common ground that indicates whether the fundamental social principles of win-win relationships, active listening and appropriate behaviour are being adopted.

Amongst the insights and highlights from this year’s ranking and analysis are:

  • The highest ranked brands create genuine one-to-one connections with individuals on a consistent basis
  • Charity brands emerge as the best performing sector with three charities in the Top Ten, and over 25% of the top twenty.
  • Google+ made its mark as a new entrant with 49 of the 100 brands adopting the platform
  • foursquare remains a niche platform for the Social Brands 100 with 18% adoption compared to 22% in 2011’s ranking

The top ranked brands by industry sector were;

  • Automotive – Ford
  • Charity – Cancer Research UK
  • Entertainment – The Ellen de Generes Show
  • Fashion and Beauty – Lush
  • Financial Services – Wonga
  • FMCG – Innocent
  • Manufactured goods – Gibson
  • Media – Guinness World Records
  • Retail – ASOS
  • Services – Met Office
  • Technology – HTC
  • Telecom – giffgaff
  • Travel & Leisure – Starbucks

Many of these brands will be joining us at an event to celebrate the Social Brands 100 at 4PM (GMT) today (May 29th). To follow the conversation go to @socialbrands100, and track the #sb100 hashtag. We will be taking questions from Twitter as well as the audience, so please feel free to get involved.

There is a host of additional information, detailed analysis and case studies in the full publication that is available for download, here. What do you think of  the Social Brands 100 ranking this year? We’d love to know!

Social Brands 100 Methodology in detail

With just one week to go until the launch of Social Brands 100 the SB100 book is at the printers, and the finishing touches are being made to the launch event plans!

On May 29th the final ranking of the shortlisted 100 brands will be revealed for the first time, based on each brand’s Social Brand Score. This Social Brand Score is the sum of a Data Score (the score on which the shortlisting of brands was decided), and a Panel Score generated by an expert panel of judges that has assessed and scored each of the shortlisted 100 brands.

Ahead of the launch of the ranking, here is a slide deck that outlines the Social Brands 100 methodology in detail.

Was your brand born social?

To misquote the Bard: ‘Some Brands are born social, some achieve socialness, and some have social thrust upon ‘em’.

Following the launch of our Social Brands 100 report last week, we’ve been thinking that this famous quote has some resonance with our ranked brands.

Born social.

One of the surprise Top Five entries for some commentators is the crowd-sourced mobile operator, giffgaff. This innovative business has been making waves in the mobile space since its launch in November 2009. Conceived from the outset as a social business, where its customers can gain rewards by providing customer service and marketing support, this is one business that was ‘born’ with social principles at its core. Indeed the business model was refined through crowd sourcing the question ‘what would you want from a mobile network run by you?’.

Another interesting example is Innocent Drinks. Interestingly, the fast growing FMCG brand, launched in 1999, pre-dates the explosion of mass social behaviour on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

But, according to Ted Hunt, in charge of digital engagement at Innocent from 2006 to 2010, the company already had social principles at its heart. His job was simply to tell this story through social channels, not to transform the business for social. Evidence that true social engagement is more about behaviour and content, than technology and platforms?

Achieving socialness.

This transformative state is the most common that our ranked brands find themselves in. A good example is the retail bank, First Direct.

Launched as the first ‘telephone bank’ 25 years ago, it’s always been an innovator.  In the last few years the Leeds based company has proved its agility once again as it develops social behaviours, and strategies. It features as the only financial services company in the Social Brands 100 thanks to its social media newsroom, i-Phone app, Little Black Book and Talking Point initiatives.

Other notable ‘achievers’ are the BBC, Ford, Burberry, Sky and BT Care. All these brands are introducing effective social principles into the way their organizations work, and rightly being recognized for it.

Social thrust upon them.

This is the most interesting group. A collection of well-known brands that have been pushed into adopting social behaviours, and business models, after being hit by a social reputation crisis.

Dell (ranked #1), Domino’s Pizza (ranked #26), Eurostar (ranked #36), Virgin Atlantic (ranked #37) have all suffered from high profile crises that were either caused, or exacerbated, by social media.

To their credit they have all responded positively. Dell has famously put active listening of conversations around its brand at the very heart of its business model. Domino’s Pizza took the opportunity of its staff induced crisis, to proactively engage with its customers to reinvent the chain’s whole food offering. Eurostar has gone on the record to say that the stranded trains crisis of late 2009 prompted the transformation of its customer service and Twitter profile. Virgin Atlantic has taken positive steps in social engagement after getting stung by staff comments on social platforms in 2008.

These high profile corporate car crashes act as a lesson to all brands that have yet to consider how they will evolve their brands, and transform their businesses, for social.

So, if you’re one of those ‘pre-social’ brands thinking about how they will adapt for the new rules of a connected world, please don’t wait for a crisis to ‘thrust’ you in to it!

How social are social networks?

Once the Social Brands 100 has been scoured, a natural instinct is to start looking at which brands are missing from the list.  Quite a few people have asked why social networks aren’t ranking more highly.  Twitter sits at number 24, and Facebook, foursquare and Gowalla, to name a few, don’t feature at all.

Social networks are tools for people to connect and converse, and as such they enable engagement or connection, but being a social enabler does not automatically make one inherently social.

This came up at the launch event last week via a comment made on Twitter (thanks @lizbonline for raising the point).  The panel made the point that Facebook and Twitter, for example, use very different approaches.  Twitter openly canvasses user feedback and is driven largely by its community.  Facebook, however, while it does respond when its community reacts negatively to new features, seems to use social networks to push information out, rather than engage.

Facebook has time and again been the exception to the rule but for most brands, I’d question how sustainable an approach is that gives community a voice (as a social enabler), while ignoring those same voices when it comes to itself as a brand.

NB: thanks to @jenwelch15 for input into this post.

Social Brands 100 are go

We got up at the crack of dawn on Friday to launch the Social Brands 100 – a report that’s taken 3 months to compile. We were really looking forward to this event and hope that those who were able to come enjoyed themselves.

If you couldn’t make it, here are a few photos, and we’ll have a film, and follow up posts going up over the next few days to fill you in on some themes that stood out.  Some links are embedded below this post to what other people have said about the report, so you don’t have to just hear our take on it.

We are taking a lot away from having completed this research, though (aside from the desire for a good night’s sleep).  First, that yes, the effort put in by brands to be compelling, true, authentic and transparent can be recognised and even rewarded.

Second, to be a social brand you need to have a moral centre to your purpose, shared by those that represent you. If brands are to evolve to be more social, they need to be good brands – good employers, make good products, and provide good service.

And finally, social is not a campaign, but a commitment.  It’s time to move away from thinking about social as another channel, but as how you as a brand can engage with your communities.

Let us know what you think about the results here, or via @socialbrands100 and #sb100.

Read other perspectives on the report from:

Brandrepublic’s @gordonmacmillan
AVG’s @jas
Panelist @Annemcx
@jangles

‘From Silicon Roundabouts to a Silicon World’ #smwldn

‘From Silicon Roundabouts to a Silicon World’, a Social Media Week event hosted by the UKT&I this morning, looked at how UK brands need to think about behaving as they expand their businesses internationally.

The theme the panel came back to repeatedly, and what is emerging as a theme of the week at events I’ve attended and followed, is that wherever they do business, be it Bolton or Boston, brands need to understand their communities in a few different ways.

First, where are they?  Microsoft’s Mel Carson made the important point that companies need to remember that social media is not just about Twitter & Facebook. Should you consider using rich media, mobile technology or gaming to connect?  He also pointed out that old-fashioned email remains an important tool to include in a social strategy.  Apparently 25% of Facebook traffic still comes via Hotmail accounts.

Moonfruit’s Wendy Tan White emphasised the need to consider what your brand’s community wants.  The agency is launching a new website soon, that will merge its internal and external communities removing, what she called the ‘walled garden’ around what could be a brand’s most important advocates, it’s employees.

As for how you engage with your communities, there are a huge range of technological toys to play with these days, but as Nokia’s Ash Choudhury pointed out, it’s not about the technology, it’s what you do with it that counts.  If your brand’s priority is B2B, your time may be better spent developing meaningful niche networks with the few hundred followers you have on Twitter, than focusing resources in other areas that may go for maximum, rather than meaningful impact.

As this was a UKT&I event, the question had to be asked – what is the UK’s brand strength? Tan White highlighted the UK’s reputation as a leader in design and innovation, Choudhury and Carson championed the UK’s reputation as a barometer of change, quick to pick up and also move on from trends compared to other markets and therefore, something of an early warning system for brands who want to stay ahead of the game

Social’s a lot like looking for E.T. #socialbrands #smwldn

Good news, we’ve found a planet just like ours! NASA has discovered it orbiting a star named Kepler-10. 560 light years from here and described as the missing link between earth and the giant gas planets found before.

On the face of it, we’re one step closer to finding alien life.

Only thing is that this giant rock, so much like ours, has a few less appealing qualities. It has no water, is blasted by radiation and has an iron like density. No life could possibly exist there. It’s the most hellish place not on our earth.

This new planet is a lot like social media. A great discovery, a familiar looking thing and at first glance, just what brands have been searching for.

Here’s another problem. Because we keep finding inhabitable planets, astronomers are starting to rethink the likelihood of ever finding alien life.

According to the famous Drake equation, we’re supposed to detect 10 advanced civilisations in the Milky Way. This discovery makes that less likely, which is a shame, as the entire search for extraterrestrial life was based on this formula. All that time, money and effort potentially wasted.

This month has social media week in it. We at Headstream, like many others, shall be singing the praises of all things social. We do so with the advice that before you put a load of money into something that looks great, it’s worth checking the atmosphere.

There are so many exciting things to talk about next week. Our contribution is that we think we can help organisations to establish whether social is worth their effort. Take the speculation out of it.

If you’re a brand wondering if social is worth serious investment, then you’re not alone. Which is more than we can say for humans, for now at least.