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Does Popularity = Social?




The founders of Infegy have used their Social Radar, a social analytics and research platform, to take a look at brands in 2009. They call their report the Top 50 Social Brands of 2009—but I’m not convinced.

On their blog, Infegy says the Social Radar

analyze[d] millions of blog posts, news feeds, forums, social networks and Twitter posts to aggregate a list of the words and brands mentioned most frequently on the Web during all of 2008 and 2009. The list measures the number of unique individuals or sources that posted content about each brand during 2009 rather than the overall number of mentions, which would be more heavily influenced by big fans who post frequently about a specific brand.

Their top ten shows the brands that we all expect (except maybe Obama—the tech brands we expect, anyway). Twitter edges out Google as for the #1 spot this year. Interestingly, Apple ends up with four brands in the top ten (iPhone, Mac, Apple and iPod), one more than last year (though Mac and Apple are a bit lower in the list this year).

Rank Change Brand
1 (+2) Twitter
2 (-1) Google
3 (+6) Facebook
4 (0) iPhone
5 (+2) YouTube
6 (-4) Obama
7 (-2) Mac
8 (-2) Apple
9 (+3) iPod
10 (-2) Microsoft

That all seems in order, right? I agree that these brands probably fit their criteria for their rankings and as long as Social Rank has cast a wide enough net (“billions of messages” they say on their site), they’re probably right for the full population.

So why am I not convinced? Because I don’t think being mentioned by the most people makes a brand “social.” Yes, many of the top 10 and top 50 brands use (or are) social media, but many don’t/aren’t really (TV networks, software/hardware companies, gaming systems, etc.). Many of the top brands are social products, but that doesn’t automatically qualify them. Sure, Twitter is a very social product—but as a brand, are they really social? (Not to mention sentiment analysis—does kvetching about a Microsoft OS make them more popular or social?)

These rankings can be useful when viewed as the most popular brands in the social space—but saying that they’re the most social brands undermines the social efforts brands are making. How many of the top 10 brands are actually making an active effort to engage their fans and users in social spaces? How many of them offer customer service where their users already hang out online? How many of them change their products or policies based on what people are saying to them and about them online?

While I hope many of the top 50 most popular brands are also the brands doing the most to interact with and respond to their users in social media, I think the list would be vastly different if we ranked brands by responsiveness and interactivity online.

What do you think? What makes a brand “social”? What are the most social brands in your opinion?

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  • http://www.mouse-mat.com Mat

    Jordan said: I don’t think being mentioned by the most people makes a brand “social.”

    I agree!
    Just being talked about doesn’t make you social and just because everyone is talking about you doesn’t make you popular just notorius.

    look back to 1999/2000 microsoft (after unprecedented hype)launched it’s new operating system that was going to be a revolution in computing called Windows ME, within month’s once again the only ‘social’ thing most WINDOWS users wanted to do with Bill Gates was superglue him to a rabies infected hamster.

    looking further back to the bad old days of World War II, everyone was talking about some nasty little git called Hitler, But i wouldnt exactly have called him popular either back then or today.

    This ‘survey’ would have had some credibility had it been simply called “the most talked about names of 2009″ Instead the folk at Infegy have tried to give it a fancy la de da name and ended up looking like a bunch of muppets.

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