Social media managers dream of having an audience of millions. We think of how amazing it would be to have legions of engaged fans commenting, liking and sharing our brilliant posts while sitting back and watching the fan base swell.
For some brands, this is a reality.
And while some of these brands gained notoriety long before social media became popular, people followed and liked them on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere for a reason. Clearly, they're doing something right in the social space, and those of us who don't manage these brands have plenty to learn from what they're doing right.
Here are three brands I've seen that have the whopping numbers and a solid strategy behind it.
Red Bull - 26.3 million Facebook fans
What we can learn:
• Brevity is the soul of building your fan base;
• Strong content paves the road to becoming a lifestyle brand.
The popular energy drink has become a lifestyle brand, evident from its Facebook presence. What do we mean by a lifestyle brand?
Red Bull has grown to become more than eight ounces of adrenaline proxy. It's become a badge that signifies—in some circles—that you like extreme things. One way it's achieved this is through its Facebook page, growing its community well over 26 million fans.
What makes Red Bull's page so great? Simply put: strong content.
One of Red Bull's smartest moves in the last couple of years was creating Red Bulletin, a magazine that celebrates all things extreme sports. On top of that, the company produces several videos of people doing anything but drinking Red Bull. They're launching their bikes through the air, jumping off of high places and going fast on any number of conveyances.
Red Bull uses its many sponsorships and partnerships to find the content, and it does a great job of keeping it relevant. There's a distinct look and feel to it that says "Red Bull" without having to shove product in people's faces at every turn.
When you have strong content to post daily, it gives people visiting your page reason to return—and reason not to hide you from their feed.
A brief look at the page reveals that Red Bull generally posts two, maybe (though rarely) three times per day. Usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The posts ascribe to an effective tenet in the social space: be brief.
Take a look at the copy on some recent successful posts:
1.19: Laying it all out.
1.21: Yeah, that's pretty dope.
1.22: Pat Moore gets real.
I could list dozens of such posts that are direct, conversational, to the point and—most importantly—brief.
Brevity gives posts the thing that performers have known for years—leave the audience wanting more. When the audience wants more, fans tend to click, like, comment and share.
Coca-Cola - 38.3 million Facebook fans What we can learn:
• Give your fans ownership.
Not every brand's social media presence will have as interesting a backstory as that of Coca-Cola. When you first visit the company's Facebook page, you're greeted with a reminder of one of social media's all-time feel-good stories:
Once upon a time, while searching for the official Coca-Cola Facebook page, a young man named Dusty discovered there wasn't one. Feeling inspired, he enlisted the help of his friend Michael, found the perfect image of a Coke and created this page. The rest, as they say, is history.
By "history" they mean that the two eventually came to run the page on Coke's behalf—not exactly rags-to-riches, but interesting nonetheless.
This fan-first mentality continues to drive the page three years later. If you check out Coca-Cola's wall, the first thing you'll notice is a lack of posts from the actual company. It's not that the company isn't posting—it does so once or twice per day, every day—but when you have 38 million fans and you allow them to post to your wall, they will take over. You have to click "older posts" several times to find a post from Coke.
The result is a virtual shrine to Coke.
Fans are posting odes of love and images of themselves guzzling product. This can only work if it's in your community's nature to behave this way. If your page is a place where consumers come to regularly register complaints, it won't work to be an absentee brand. But if your fans will drive the overwhelmingly positive conversation for you, it's smart to be a bit more hands-off.
Victoria's Secret & Oreo - 17.3 million and 24.5 million fans, respectively
What we can learn:
• If you've got it, flaunt it.
Among the top 10 most popular brands on Facebook, no two are more disparate than cookie purveyor Oreo and undergarment supplier Victoria's Secret. But in terms of social media strategy, the two are actually quite similar.
Oreo's greatest asset is its recognizable cookie. Victoria's Secret, meanwhile, can flaunt its world-famous models. Each brand prominently features its greatest asset on its page—and the result is social media success.
Both brands are achieving high engagement rates and seeing a good amount of shares for their posts. (Shares are important because they take your posts and put them on your fans' wall for their friends to see.) But let's take a look at why.
Jan. 23 is a perfect example of each brand recognizing its audience and using a photo to create a shareable and easily likeable piece of content.
For Oreo, it's an adorable fan photo of a little girl sharing Oreos and milk over Skype with (presumably) her father. The copy is simple: "Special moments are meant to be shared … does technology help you share them with the ones you love?" Here, Oreo shares an image that fans can relate to, and you can see from the numbers that it resonated.
The page managers at Victoria's Secret also know their audience. They posted a photo, albeit less family friendly. Theirs is a photo of runway model Doutzen Kroes with a happy birthday message to her. More than 32,000 people liked that post and more than 1,000 shared it.
The lesson we can take from these approaches is that brands in the social space need to understand why people are willing to publicly connect with them.
For Oreo, it's most likely families who love the shared experience of dessert and have a nostalgic tie to their cookies. For Victoria's Secret, it's women who use their product and men who adore their models.