Social media strategy examples from your favorite brands
Wondering where to start with your social media campaigns?
Social media can seem daunting. Facing a blank content calendar can feel overwhelming. However, bigger brands, with more resources at their disposal, can provide us with a springboard for our own campaigns.
We can also use the campaigns of leading brands as inspiration for our own campaigns. Most of these brands have a large team of social media specialists working away on every aspect of their campaign with an awesome social media marketing campaign scheduler.
Let’s start by taking a look at the social media marketing strategies of some of the world’s biggest brands. We’ll consider why what they’re doing is working, so you can apply their lessons to your own campaigns.
While you may not have the same resources, you can follow their example relatively easily.
Being on social media platforms allows you to meet customers where they are. It’s not just about attracting new customers, but building your brand’s reputation, engaging with your audience, and offering more than a sales pitch.
Let’s take a look at consumer behavior. 76% of American consumers made a purchase once they had seen the brand’s social post.
Younger generations are more likely to buy a product online than in-store.
A total 39% of customers actively rely on brand interaction on social media to build trust.
But using social media effectively is much less direct than simply selling what you do. All business benefit comes from building a brand, building a community around what you do, and creating an ongoing conversation with your customers. A social media plan is key.
So even if you’re running a small family business, you’ll find some overlap between world-beating social media strategies and what works for your business.
So, let’s take a look at some of the leading brands on social media, and take a closer look at why they’re successful, so you feel inspired to make your own social media strategy shine bright.
Taco Bell knew what they were doing when they lobbied for the taco to be turned into an emoji in 2015. They used the buzz around the campaign to engage their audience by getting followers to text them the emoji plus another emoji of their choice, to get unique taco inspired photos, gifs or sound.
Humor is everywhere on the Taco Bell account. The social media managers use humor to increase their following, and by sharing other posts and relating it back to the humble taco:
They take a different approach on Instagram, using the platform to showcase their food with consistently bright colors and excellent uncluttered imagery:
However, you won’t find Taco Bell pushing their LinkedIn account for consumers. It’s there, but it’s dedicated to the professional and jobs side of their business, with a very distinct feel from everything on their other social media platforms.
Put your audience first. Taco Bell has worked out that their audience wants to view funny and vibrant content. Even Linkedin, which shows the professional side of the company, uses the brand’s palette and gives off a fun vibe, in a more muted, less overtly funny way.
Kelloggs is a recognizable brand. Pop Tarts is a recognizable brand. Kelloggs owns Pop Tarts, but while Kelloggs has 99.8k followers, Pop Tarts has more than 217.9k followers.
Why is that? Kelloggs is a more established brand than Pop Tarts, particularly outside of the US. The answer is that Pop Tarts’ social media brand is cutting and hilarious.
Dive into Pop-Tarts’ Twitter account and you come face-to-face with their sarcastic tone:
Sarcasm doesn’t find its way into many brands’ tone of voice documents. Most marketing departments would consider that type of humor negative, abrasive, and divisive.
Sarcasm is, perhaps, most at home on Twitter. Tweets are best as short punchy posts, that can be a little controversial. It’s not a faux pas to suggest the world isn’t a fluffy ball of goodness where everyone gets along.
This appeals to the Pop Tart’s young audience demographic. Their tweets sound more like they are coming from your best friend, rather than a brand:
Pop-Tarts’ brand is confident, it makes fun of itself, its customers, its colleagues, and even their parent brand, Kelloggs.
It can be difficult to move to a more personable brand voice when you’ve been a stiff-collared business for years. It may not even be the right thing for your brand to do.
However, know that a personable brand voice on Twitter is exactly what users want. They want to feel like they’re your friend rather than just another opportunity to make a sale.
This approach takes guts, but as Pop Tarts proves, it can pay off enormously. Just realize that it’s not just about the humor, it’s also about the constant and regular engagement with as many fans as they can manage. Having a social media calendar can get you organized.
So think carefully about your social media tone of voice, and consider what style reflects your brand in a personable way. Let this tone be consistent throughout your content marketing calendar.
From a quick look at NASA’s social media presence, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve taken the scattergun-in-a-meteor-shower approach:
How can they consistently populate all of those channels with relevant and high-quality content? But take one look at their follower figures and you realize that they’re just meeting an incredible demand across a number of channels.
While it would be nearly impossible for a regular-sized brand to even begin to compete with this number of social channels, there are some key lessons from what NASA does.
That’s because they use each channel very differently.
For example, on LinkedIn, NASA focuses on its professional image, its people and its jobs:
On Twitter, they focus on making astronomy accessible to the wider population:
On Instagram, it’s all about jaw-dropping imagery:
On YouTube, NASA has over 5 million followers. That’s where they host their own TV show and have constant live feeds:
We wouldn’t recommend going all out and cover every platform like NASA does. There’s no way you’ll be able to produce enough content. However, we can learn two very important things from NASA:
- Prolific posting on different channels in different ways can really pay off. NASA has a huge library of images, educational materials and personal stories to tell. So many, in fact, that they are able to build a huge following on pretty much every social media platform out there.
- Making complex but important information simple, readable, and entertaining will grow your following like nobody’s business.
Reebok is a huge company, but it isn’t as big as Nike or Adidas. So how does this relative underdog make a success of their social media platforms?
As you’d probably expect, Reebok’s Instagram is packed with eye-catching and colorful imagery that’s designed to showcase their products. No surprise there.
However, you probably wouldn’t expect to see how Reebok uses Linkedin. For Reebok, Linkedin is more about talent attraction, it’s also an important way of getting professionals behind their brand.
Reebok also uses its Linkedin page as a place to host inspiring interviews with athletes, fitness tips, and more non-professional content. This makes a lot of sense. It’s much easier to earn engagement on Linkedin than on Twitter and Facebook due to a more forgiving algorithm.
So even if your following isn’t as big as your competitors, you can still make an impact by focusing on a less obvious channel.
Don’t be confined by your preconception of what a social media channel should be used for, because when you look closely enough, you’ll find many examples of that trend being bucked.
Instead look for the quickest wins. Are your competitors less active on Twitter? Head there to build your community. Does Linkedin’s algorithm show your post to more people? Maybe that should be your priority.
Very few businesses write social media plans and expect to engage hundreds of thousands of followers. What up-front decisions can you make to ensure you’re making the most of opportunities elsewhere.
GoPro has 16.9 million followers on Instagram, 10 million followers on Facebook and 2.2m followers on Twitter.
The hashtag #GoPro pops up across social media channels with abandon, not just being used by the brand itself, but by their audience too. It’s become a by-word for extreme sports and adventure.
Unsurprisingly, Instagram is the main place GoPro showcases its outstanding imagery. It’s usually user-generated shots that showcase how their product looks.
This is a very handy, very subtle way of letting us all know what GoPro is capable of, as well as associating the brand with the healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle that most of us wish we did more of.
However, their Instagram presence gives us more to learn. There is a lot of consumer engagement with frequent competitions, and even simple things such as their ‘Photo of the Day’ series can draw 100,000 views.
A discount within their bio, like below, also makes Instagram a great channel for customer acquisition.
Head over to Facebook and you’ll see a more promotional style within the content of their posts. Here they combine adventurous imagery, influencers and product offers to demonstrate the value of their posts.
On Twitter, GoPro is even more direct. They’ve taken an Apple-like approach, positioning the release of their cameras as market-beating works of technological art. This builds hype with their audience.
While NASA tends to post the same content to various channels to some degree, you won’t find GoPro taking the same approach. Each post is unique and appeals to that particular social channel. Each channel represents a different audience and buying journey, so their content distribution methods are differentiated. They’re also on it when it comes to social media marketing automation.
NASA doesn’t sell a consumer product, so it can paint in broader strokes.
GoPro is one of our favorites for social media strategy and social media posting schedule examples because it shows how you can use different social media platforms in different ways, while still maintaining a coherent brand.
And just because GoPro’s imagery is downright gorgeous, that doesn’t mean you can’t emulate how they’re attracting customers to purchase through different channels.
Dove is often given as one of the best social media strategy examples, and we’re listing it again here, with good reason.
Dove does one thing absolutely spot-on: consistency. Their followers know exactly what they are getting on social media: positive messages that reinforce natural beauty and diversity of skin types.
Yet, that doesn’t mean that Dove keeps quiet about things that matter. Indeed, Dove has built a brand that is consistently caring.
This isn’t new to Dove. The skincare company has frequently been behind high-profile, and sometimes controversial, campaigns. Their Self Esteem Project gave birth to #nolikesneeded - a bravely powerful way of using social media more constructively.
On Dove’s Facebook page, you will still find some campaign activity, but that approach takes center stage on Twitter more than any other platform. On Facebook, for example, it’s not unusual to see product promotions.
Posting sensitive, controversial and inspiring content from your content calendar can be an effective way to raise the profile of your brand, particularly when your company is directly linked to the cause.
But you don’t need to be a huge multinational to make this work for you. Partnering with a local charity or grassroots organization is another great way to show your allegiance to local causes. In most cases it’s more effective because the work done by smaller charities means more to your local audiences than global-level issues.
Nike has 103 million Instagram followers, 33.7 million Facebook followers, and 8.1 million Twitter followers.
Nike’s social media strategy is smart; instead of focusing on their products, they focus on the athletes and teams that use them.
This draws in the sports fans, widening Nike’s audience, and positioning the sports brand as second-to-none. The world-beating athletes Nike cements that perception.
When we look closely at the company’s social media strategy, things get interesting.
Nike’s Facebook, despite its following, is completely quiet. There’s been no activity there since 2018. It’s clear evidence that they have changed tack, although the company’s Twitter and Instagram are very much alive.
In 2018, Facebook significantly reduced the organic reach of its posts for company pages. It did the same again in 2019 too, so Nike’s absence on the platform may be a reaction to that news.
On Instagram, Nike uses its famous athletes for promotions but also showcases up-and-coming athletes and athletes from marginalized communities.
Since the Colin Kaepernick ad, Nike is as much a brand associated with backing the underdog, as much as it is about championing the world’s greatest. And that shows on its social media platforms.
With the number of followers they have, it’s no surprise that Nike is often listed amongst social media strategy examples. It’s possible to see that they’ve taken the confident route of not promoting their products. This sits on the fact that the brand is so well known, and they have exceptional hashtags. It may not be possible for most brands to emulate this aspect of their approach.
However, we can learn that we shouldn’t be afraid to not use a social media scheduler, no matter how popular, if it isn’t working for our business. We can also learn the importance of separating out customer service and follower engagement. We can also see the importance of a powerful hashtag.
As you’ve probably already noticed, Lego’s social strategy is pretty darn good. Let’s focus on their ‘Lego Ideas’ social profile and social media marketing plan.
Out of the box, Lego is just a couple of hundred plastic blocks. It’s what you do with the blocks that count most. Nothing recognizes the potential of Lego more than Lego’s Ideas Twitter profile, which showcases its makers’ projects.
Like Star Wars or Marvel enthusiasts, Lego has a user base that is worth tapping into. This user base is the springboard for a large number of its social media efforts, with a powerful source of seemingly limitless user-generated content.
You’ll find the most Lego product promotion on Facebook. However, these are often part of fun partner promotions and always exists among plenty of other types of posts too.
If you can get access to user-generated content then you should use it. People trust other users and customers more than they trust a brand, so you should let your advanced users do the talking.
Whether that’s sharing photos or videos of what they’ve achieved with your product, or even some positive feedback, you should give it a platform.
Wayfair is a social media success story, especially when it comes to Instagram. With the quick link through from images to shopping, it’s clear that Wayfair are using the platform as an acquisition channel.
It makes sense that Instagram is the social media home for Wayfair. It’s brilliant for showcasing their product imagery, with multiple products making up one room set:
If a user likes a particular product in the room set, they can comment on the photo. Wayfair quickly gives them extra information about that particular product and points them in the direction of the Wayfair shop.
It’s this combination of non-in-your-face product imagery and excellent customer service engagement that's made Instagram a successful tool for Wayfair.
Wayfair doesn’t just hit the product promotions hard. The brand intersperses this with other types of user-friendly content too, like this partnership with Kelly Clarkson.
If you’re an ecommerce store that sells aesthetically pleasing products, then Instagram is a great channel to drive sales.
Just be sure to highlight the product’s feature set, and use catalog-ready imagery. And just like a catalog, your customer service team should be highly responsive to users asking product-related questions, should engage them quickly, and ensure that they secure a conversion. Also, try investing in a social media monitoring tool.
Starbucks can teach us all a great deal about using social media tactically.
Despite boasting 36 million followers on Facebook, Starbucks isn’t a prolific poster. However, the brand is clearly very thoughtful about what it does post. do post there. Its Facebook page is clearly set up as a ‘company profile’ as opposed to an ongoing feed.
Instead of viewing regular posts, users that visit the page see a well-curated flow of information that shows the company’s values, and the lives of the people that work at the coffee giants’ stores.
However, Starbucks does use Twitter more frequently, mostly to engage with its followers and build community.
On Twitter, the same Facebook post above is broken down into far more detail over multiple posts that tell the story of different women that work at its cafes. They also use user-generated content (UGC) to share the love:
They also use fun interactive content to provoke interaction. The cloud theme they’re using is to promote a line of drinks called the ‘Cloud Macchiato’.
And they speak to their followers in a very personable and frequent way.
When you head over to Starbucks’ Instagram account, it’s different again. Here you’ll find far more that focuses on showcasing the products themselves.
However, despite the focus being on videos and photos of their products, Starbucks always interacts with its audience. It’s one of the leading brands on social media where users are almost guaranteed to get a response when they comment on a post. Being set up with the correct social media tools can help you keep on top of replies and monitoring.
Many businesses insist that employees don’t mention their business on social media platforms. This is written into policies and can be a disciplinary offense. However, as L’Oreal shows, it pays to take a completely different approach too.
L’Oreal staff are actively encouraged to post about the business, and how it connects to their lives, on social media using the hashtag #lifeatloreal. It means that their Instagram is full of employees sharing pictures of their pre-wedding spa day, after work dinner with colleagues and even taking a new addition into work:
This is a clever tactic and shows the culture of a business that could otherwise come across as a bit dull. This level of transparency is welcomed by followers, as the responses to the above post shows. Encouraging your employees to have a voice gives your business more depth.
Don’t be afraid to give your workers some control. There shouldn’t be anything to hide. If you respect them as professionals and treat them fairly, then they will be happy to share positive things for you. Followers like to see inside the business and the brand, to see that their marketing messages are authentic. This is a brilliant way of doing it.
When you take a look at Wendy’s Twitter account, you can see that it ticks the boxes for humor and being personable. The Rick & Morty reference below shows the social account speaks to a very clear demographic: millennials and younger. Sorry boomers, but Wendy’s social accounts aren’t interested in you anymore
Wendy’s is also pretty courageous when it comes to their Twitter account. They don’t seem scared to put the boot in with their competitors! Ouch.
The company’s Facebook and Twitter pages are a carbon copy of each other, interestingly enough. Wendy’s knows that the two platforms have different audiences, and know their social media marketing content will land at both at the same time.
Although we wouldn’t recommend slating your competitors (unless they’ll see the funny side), this is a great way to manage resources and ensure you’re not duplicating content.
On Instagram, it’s more of the same. Although the content is even more meme-focused. Their content team has clearly been briefed to make everything go viral. Wendy’s clearly know their efforts when it comes to a social media plan.
Yet again, they face McDonald’s head-on, plus have a light-hearted way of dealing with customer criticism:
The fast-food chain is also really hot on seasonal activity:
For Wendy’s, there’s no avoiding that they have a competitor who, many would say, is in another league. Wendy’s doesn’t ignore this but takes the bull by the horns. By making a light-hearted rivalry it shows that they’re the underdog. And who doesn’t want to support the underdog?
You do get the feeling Wendy’s is baiting McDonald’s for a response. Can you imagine the equivalent return in advertiser dollars for that type of exposure?
What would your business’s viral moment look like? Would this be a retweet from a certain influencer, a conversation with a brand, or an amusing take on an industry trend? Have a think about what specific event will make you go viral, and reverse engineer a social media strategy to get there.
When it comes to branding case studies, Innocent often makes the cut. The same is true of how they brand themselves using their social media content calendar.
On Instagram, much of the focus is on fantastic imagery that involves their products, combined with their tongue-in-cheek tone of voice.
This is spiced up with a smattering of posts with insight into what it’s like working at Innocent, again with that same tongue-in-cheek tone.
However, if you head to Twitter, they take quite a different approach. Here the focus is on conversation, and they only rarely talk about the products themselves. Engagement and fun take the front seat here.
You’ll notice in the example that they are piggy-backing on an international day in the calendar. That’s not unusual. Whether it’s pancakes, Valentine’s, Easter or Christmas, Innocent has something to say. All are conveyed with a side order of cheekiness, in line with the brand’s persona, which is an effective parody of an overly bureaucratic organization.
Innocent is one of the more accessible social media strategy examples. This is because, if all else fails, you can always pull up a content marketing calendar of world dates and use them as the basis for your strategy. These events give you a talking point with your followers and encourage a wider audience to engage with your posts. These dates may even be included in your content calendar, like they are with ContentCal.
Deloitte won the third spot on the leaderboard of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Company Pages in 2019. As with others in the top 10, much of their success comes to the variety of their posts.
These posts also go beyond straight-forward posting. Deloitte has taken great care to fully populate their profile, such as the Life tab, using detailed content and video when it comes to their social media marketing campaign scheduler.
They also post a large amount of in-depth vertical-specific content that appeals to their different audience types. Though this level of content production is intensive, it marks them as leaders of the digital transformation space.
Interestingly, on Instagram, Deloitte takes a different approach. Much of their content sees employees and experts explain industry trends that come from the company’s reports.
Although the information it’s putting across is the same on Twitter too, Deloitte takes a different approach here. The company uses image-based bite-sized pieces of information that’s designed to send the reader elsewhere.
Deloitte produces a huge amount of valuable information through its reports. The company’s main challenge on social media is to send out this information in an engaging way that works for each channel.
If your business produces a lot of helpful information as part of what it does every day it’s worth taking a leaf out of Deloitte’s book. Even if that information is tied up in some of your business leaders’ heads, video interviews, image quotes, and longer-form stories are all worth exploring on the different channels.
Deloitte’s Linkedin page is also a masterclass in how to structure your own if Linkedin is an important channel for you.
Do you have a better idea of what your social media strategy should be? Or are you still not sure?
As a rule of thumb, the examples above all do the same things well. They all pitch a consistent brand, across different social channels, in different ways, to different audiences.
Understanding the relationship between your key audience, the audience native to each social platform, and your overall brand is key. A social media marketing plan is key and we do recommend using social media tools to help you get more efficient and essentially save time.
To summarise, here are the different types of strategies each brand uses. How would you describe your own social media strategy?
- Taco Bell: Quirky and light-hearted
- Pop Tarts: Sarcastic and self-deprecating
- NASA: Expansive and educational
- Reebok: Targeted and challenging
- GoPro: Beautiful and motivational
- Dove: Inclusive and ethical
- Nike: Powerful and inspiring
- Lego: Fun and engaging
- Wayfair: Bright and polite
- Starbucks: Seasonal and interactive
- L’Oreal: Authentic and personal
- Wendy’s: Memetastic and boastful
- Innocent: Witty and joyful
- Deloitte: Professional and resourceful
Despite these differences, there are three ground rules that all these examples of social media strategies share.
Rule #1 They use a natural voice
While this is naturally easier for ‘fun’ brands like Pop Tarts and Innocent, it’s not impossible for industries more defined by their professionalism. For example, NASA, Deloitte, and Cisco have all developed ways to sound relatable, while staying true to their own tones of voice, such as by highlighting their ethics and corporate social responsibility.
Rule #2 They appeal to emotions
Many brands, such as Dove, have learned that social media strategy can be really effective by using such issues, elevating campaigns through their channels. It’s a way of showing their business in a positive light and appealing to their audience, without the conversation leading to a direct sale. However, often the emotional connection they forge does lead to a sale.
Rule #3 Prioritise user-generated content
Many of the brands in our list of examples use user-generated content as a key part of their social media strategy. In many ways this is ‘free’ content to sit alongside the content that you generate. However, it is also invaluable as users trust other users more readily than they trust brands themselves.
Rule #4 They understand the value of video
Lastly, every brand in our list uses video content regularly. Whether it’s videos of your employees, videos of your products, or other related videos, users find these accessible. It’s always worth using video content where you can.
Using these examples, you can tailor your social media strategy for the greatest possible success. And don’t be afraid to walk away from a social channel if you can’t prove success there.
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