How “social” are Britain’s top 10 brands?

I posted recently on which sort of brands are best suited to social media.

The answer, I suggested, was brands like the X-Factor which are i) social, ii) entertaining and iii) online, .

To explore this idea further, I've looked at Britain's biggest brands in the FMCG sector, as named by The Grocer. How important is social media in their success and growth, I wondered?

Well, here's a table with their facebook likes, and Twitter followers:

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What can we conclude from this?

1. Coke is a global exception: Coke's facebook following is massively boosted by being a global brand with a global facebook page. This also applies to a lesser extent to Nescafe

2. Twitter is insignificant as a brand communication channel. On average, Twitter following is 1% the level of facebook following. This makes sense, as people sign up to facebook brand pages for a stream of fun and entertaining news, games and competitions.

Twitter is more about short 140 character conversation. And, thank god, people are more interested in Twitter updates from celebrities, sports stars and friends than from bread and bog rolls.

3. Big brands can grow without social media: in the FMCG world, social media is clearly not key to being big and successful. Three of the top 10 brands (Fruit Shoot, Kingsmill bread and Warburtons bread) have less than 2,000 facebook likes, and no Twitter following

4. Fun FMCG gets followed more: the brands with more of a fun factor have a bigger following:

– Coke: emotional, youthful, fun

– Lucozade: sporty, young, energetic, entertaining. Indeed, the latest ad for Lucozade sport is more like a music video, and has been watched by 1.3million people on YouTube.

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– Cadbury: makers of entertaining ads and a yummy indulgent product

– Andrex: toilet roll (uh) but personified by a cute puppy

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5. Negligible sales impact? Social media is yet to "show me the money". Studies claiming to show social media drives sales use dodgy data based on claimed increases in usage. Or, they show that followers of a brand's social media use more, but not what the causality is (i.e. do social media users consume more of the brand? Or, do people who consume more of the brand use social media?).

Well, my back-of-the-beermat calculations suggest the impact of social media for 10 biggest UK brands is minimal

– Take the average number of facebook and twitter followers for the top 10 brands, excluding the Coke numbers, which are boosted by global brand pages

– Assume an optimistic 50% of these people recommend the brand to other people, when they wouldn't have done normally

– Then, of these people who get the recommendation, assume 50% of them become new buyers

– Finally, assuming a 50% P12mth penetration (which is what Hovis has) work out what increase is P12mth users this would produce

– Answer? 0.25%.

And this is highly optimistic

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And if social media sellers try to persuade you that social media will make people more loyal, or make them buy more, remember that all brands have similar scores on these measures. The difference between being big and small is PENETRATION: see here for more on that.

In conclusion, for FMCG brands social media is by far from being essential. If your brand has more of a fun factor, you have more chance of getting followed. But even then, the effect on your business is likely to be minimal.