10 brands that are killing it on social media

If you want to create a social media presence that maximises user engagement, learn from the hilarious, weird and inspiration posts of these brands.
Jan 23, 2020 • 5 minute read
Adam Smith @HomebrandAdam
Technical Co-pilot
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Building a brand identity on social media is tough, but these 10 companies have mastered it

Social media is tough for brands. They have to show personality without giving offense, highlight their products and services without looking "sales-y," jump on the latest trends without seeming disingenuous and manage to build credibility without seeming boring. It's a tall order, but these 10 brands perfectly thread the needle and build a unique brand identity on social media.

1. Burger King

Burger King is the master of trolling other brands on social media. They launched a bid to partner with McDonald's to produce the "McWhopper," knowing McDonald's would turn them down and end up looking like a stodgy corporation.

When IHOP crafted a social media stunt to change its name to "International House of Burgers," Burger King quietly responded by changing their Twitter name to "Pancake King."

More recently, they promoted their line of "Unhappy Meals" with a YouTube ad stating, "No one is happy all the time. And that's OK."

2. Pop-Tarts

If Burger King excels at trolling its competition, Pop-Tarts excels at trolling its own followers. Its Twitter persona is world-weary and very much "over this shit." The account regularly posts photos of blocking followers who suggest bizarre new flavors (it's almost a Twitter badge of honor to get blocked by Pop-Tarts), and a running battle over whether or not Pop-Tarts are ravioli.


10 brands that are killing it on social media - Image 1


The account even does product-based updates well.

Pop tarts marketing 

Pop-Tarts has taken the gutsy approach of engaging with its followers with a jokingly adversarial stance, and it's paid off with 179,000 followers compared to parent company Kellogg's 95,000.

3. Nike

Not every branded social media account has to be an outlet for comedy. Nike capitalizes well on its aspirational brand identity. Its #Breaking2 social media campaign hyped the product launch of its Zoom Superfly Elite shoes by building anticipation for runners to break the two-hour barrier for running a marathon (spoiler alert: none did, but Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge came tantalizingly close at 2:03:05).

The company also hasn't been afraid to take a strong stance on social issues and court controversy. Its YouTube videos featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick racked up nearly 30 million views and lent support to the athlete's stand for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The brand has also made the smart move of splitting its Facebook accounts into different product categories, allowing it to focus on specific audiences.

4. Wendy's

Wendy's has perfectly wed Burger King's strategy of trolling its competition with Pop-Tarts' strategy of trolling its own audience to effectively troll everyone. While its Twitter feed focuses on showcasing its products, it takes consistent aim at McDonald's for using frozen beef, and will occasionally go after its own customers.

Wendys marketing 

But Wendy's customer engagement goes beyond snarky comments. In 2017 a Twitter user asked them how many retweets he'd have to get to be awarded free chicken nuggets for a year. Wendy's replied with 18 million, and the #NuggsForCarter was born, getting retweets from Apple, Microsoft and even Twitter itself. The campaign even got a mention from Ellen Degeneres. Most importantly, even though the campaign fell short of its 18 million retweets (it got nearly 3.5 million), Wendy's awarded the year's supply of nuggets. Free publicity, great customer service and masterful social media marketing.


NASA is proof that you don't need stunts or humor if you've got incredible content. The space agency's Twitter and Facebook feeds are virtually the same, but the content is so awe-inspiring that the duplication barely matters.

NASA's social media team knows it has a major strength, access to jaw-dropping imagery and video. They use it expertly across all their social accounts, and have managed to nab 31.6 million Twitter followers, 44.4 million Instagram followers and 21.6 million Facebook followers. Proof that content really is king.

6. Target

Target does retail social media brilliantly, making full use of different social media formats to showcase its products. It uses carousels on Facebook to allow users to scroll through products, and smartly includes a "Shop Now" button on its profile page.

Target also utilizes social media for ultra-responsive customer service. It regularly and promptly replies to comments from customers, and uses its social media to update them on customer service issues.

The one criticism we'd level at Target is it doesn't do Twitter humor particularly well. By playing it a bit too safe, its attempts at jokes fall flat. But it showcases products and engages with customers so well that we're willing to give it a pass.

7. KFC

KFC deserves a spot on this list if for nothing more than the 2017 revelation that the only accounts it follows are all five spice girls and six guys named Herb. In other words, 11 herbs and spices. KFC didn't point this out. It patiently waited for Twitter to notice. That's a well-earned slow clap.

KFC marketing 

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But KFC is also brilliant at viral stunts. Most recently, it encouraged social media followers to create sexy male dancer videos for their mothers on Mother's Day (their example starred a beefy Colonel Sanders, and will haunt our nightmares forever). It also launched an Indiegogo campaign to build a remote control in the shape of the Colonel's iconic cane. The brand does some truly weird stuff, and we tip our hat in respect.

8. GoPro

GoPro is the gold standard for leveraging user-generated content. The brand uses its Facebook and Instagram page to promote user-submitted videos and photos shot on GoPro cameras. It engages its audience by offering them the chance to have their content showcased, and even runs an annual awards program to hand out cash prizes for the best imagery shot on their equipment.

The brand also understands the concept of using different platforms for different types of content. While its Facebook and Instagram showcase user-generated content, its Twitter updates consumers on the latest products and developments. Its YouTube channel, meanwhile, offers tutorials on how to use its products.

9 Merriam-Webster

Look up "snarky" in a Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, and it's likely the definition will be "Merriam-Webster's Twitter account." The lexicographers are quick to jump on the misspellings and misstatements of public leaders with a wry offer of aid, as was the case when President Donald Trump tweeted about meeting with the "Prince of Whales."

Marriam Webster marketing 

They also use their Twitter to link out to their incredibly entertaining content, such as their "Words At Play" series.

Merriam Webster Marketing

Perhaps most importantly for social media, they've mastered the use of a deftly placed Simpsons GIF.

merriam webster simpsons gif twitter brands doing social media well

Merriam-Webster deserves a nod for taking a brand associated with scholarly seriousness and injecting it with fun and life.

10. Deloitte

Deloitte uses its gravitas to absolutely own LinkedIn. The global consulting firm pumps out high quality content that positions its brand as a thought leader in the realm of business disruption. Its content ranges from deep analytics on the current state of global commerce to forward-looking pieces on the future of business and work. The company uses a variety of mediums to present its content, including surveys, videos, whitepapers and blogs to reinforce its brand identity.

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