The 7 habits of highly social brands

The 7 habits of highly social brands

Social media is an inescapable part of brand-building today, but it holds as many pitfalls as it does opportunities. Consultant Alix Creed shares her observations on the best- and worst-in-class brands in social today – and the lessons others can learn from them.


When used well, social media is a great way to engage with your audience. It’s a chance for brands to demonstrate their personality and get creative, without the time scale and financial input needed for big campaigns. But get it wrong, and you face being ridiculed at the very least, or condemned at the worst.

With that in mind, we’ve looked at some of the best (and worst) examples from brands on social media to pull together 7 principles for social media fame & fortune – or simply success…


1 | Be Timely

Social media is brilliant for getting content out in a short timeframe. Being responsive and using current news and events to shape content shows that your brand is part of the real world – your consumers’ world – just like them.

Oreo’s quick-thinking tweet in the blackout of the 2013 Superbowl – ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ – was a perfect example of timely social media content. It gained thousands of likes and retweets, and was touted as one of the best ads of the Superbowl – an accolade which would normally cost brands upwards of $5m just in media buy. Similarly, a Specsavers ad that referenced the accidental display of the South Korean flag next to North Korea athletes in the 2012 Olympics was shared thousands of time across Twitter and Facebook.

2 | Be Interactive

A 15-year-old student on work experience went viral when he took over Southern Rail’s twitter account in the summer of 2017 and invited the masses to ask him questions. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to be asked: “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” or “Would you rather have rollerblades for feet or chopsticks for hands?’, but Eddie gamely replied (100 duck-sized horses and rollerblades for feet, if you’re interested).

And in the US, a teenager managed to break the all-time retweet record when he asked Wendy’s how many retweets he would need for a year of free chicken nuggets. Unfortunately, he fell short with 3.5 million retweets, but Wendy’s relented and gave him his nuggets anyway.

Creating a ‘human’ brand isn’t just about carefully managed one-way broadcast. Interacting directly with consumers adds an element of accessibility and engagement to your brand – no matter the sector – and makes people more likely to connect.

3 | Be Funny

A few weeks ago, a friend send me this Aldi ad. It’s a hugely simple ad that got a great response, thanks to Britons’ love of a good pun, with tweets including “Whoever is doing @Aldi’s ads – bravo”, “@Aldi’s copywriter needs a raise” and “@Aldi has reached the summit of advertising and copywriting excellence”. Not bad for a low budget ad on Twitter.

Funny ads are likely to gain attention and retweets, but they are most powerful when they create a real sense of your brand’s voice and fit with your identity.

4 | Be On Brand

Social media is a great place to let your brand personality shine through. My personal favourites are the innocent and Paddy Power Twitter accounts. Both have distinct personalities that they are brave enough to own with relevant and topical content on a regular basis.

Paddy Power’s recent News Reports on ‘Football’s Coming Home Syndrome’ is especially strong, capturing the soaring (and then sinking) mood of the nation during the recent World Cup in a distinctively tongue-in-cheek way.

5 | Be Honest

Sometimes, things go wrong, and the best thing you can do is apologise. Though not technically social media – at least in the media buying sense – KFC’s viral (and Cannes-worthy) ad following its infamous chicken shortage is a great example of how to manage bad PR and ignite conversation, from which many brands could learn.

6 | Get Involved

In the US a few weeks ago, pancake restaurant IHOP got people guessing when it revealed it was changing its name to IHOb and invited users to guess what the ‘B’ stood for. When it was eventually revealed to be ‘burger’, other brands were quick to respond. My points go to Wendy’s for pure brutality, though Burger King came a close second.

Interacting with other brands alongside your consumers is a great way to capture attention and break out of your ‘brand bubble’ – as well as a chance to get a quick, good-natured one-up on the competition.

7 | Be Careful

Finally, a cautionary tale. Dove’s social media team came under fire at the end of 2017 when their Facebook account showed an ad in which a black woman ‘turned into’ a white woman. While no-one thought the potential slight was intentional, it’s always worth (triple-)checking: sometimes a cutdown ad just doesn’t work.

And don’t fall victim to speed: sometimes it’s worth reading a tweet all the way through, right McDonald’s?


So there you have it – @MashSocial’s thoughts on how to win on social media. Have we covered your favourites, good or bad? Let us know of any great examples we’ve missed!