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Social Media Leaders Identified Through Engagement

Charlene Li, Partner at the Altimeter Group and Ben Elowitz, CEO of Wetpaint have put together a report and companion engagement website that details the level of social media engagement of companies of the top 100 global brands from the 2008 BusinessWeek/Interbrand Best Global Brands ranking. This highly useful report gives good insight into how major companies are engaging with their customers and communities using social media.

The top 10 brands in terms of engagement are:

1. Starbucks, which scored 127 points

2. Dell (123 points)

3. eBay (115)

4. Google (105)

5. Microsoft (103)

6. Thomson Reuters (101)

7. Nike (100)

8. Amazon (88)

9. SAP (86)

10. Tie – Yahoo!/Intel (85)

Using 40 or so metrics to measure the level of engagement by the major brands the report also compares a company's level of social media engagement with financial data, and determines there is some correlation between level of social media engagement and financial performance. The report however, does not show any direct financial correlation.

The section of the report that was most interesting to me was the section that shows engagement by industry. Technology sector companies are highly engaged in many channels with Media a close partner. I found this information about the technology sector interesting because it agrees with insights I'd previously gained from the Fortune 500 business blogging wiki, where technology companies dominate the fortune 500 that are blogging and also rate highly from the reviews of blogger reviewers.

The reason this engagement report is so important is that by showing to the industry who are the leaders within the industry for social media engagement, other companies have a standard by which to work towards. The Advertising Age Power 150 is an index of the top bloggers around the world on the topics of marketing and advertising. Using various metrics the Power 150 tracks the most successful bloggers. The index is not perfect but provides a good gauge of who is widely read and engaged. As a result bloggers compete to appear on the index, and also use the index to review the leaders and emulate their efforts.

Existing websites that detail social media usage include Debbie Weil's list of large brand blogs, Peter Kim's list of companies using social media, and the SocialText Fortune 500 business blogging wiki (currently voluntary managed by myself). Each of these lists provides some insight into the use of social media by companies, but none of them provide a great deal of analysis. Though the wiki does encourage bloggers to write independent reviews of f500 blogs, and does correlate some of the results. What's been frustrating with all of these lists is that there is no way to estimate the level of engagement by companies.

Charlane Li and Ben Elowitz's report provides a benchmark for the industry to gauge their own practices, and as a result emulate the leaders in the industry. The report is not perfect because many companies were omitted either because they were not global brands, or private companies. But the index and report pushes forward the industry in leading the way for how companies should build a successful social media engagement strategy and infrastructure.

The report details four companies, including Toyota, Dell, and Starbucks, and in those case studies, the how and why of each company's social media engagement practices are described. These case studies give the reader some insight into how each company's high results were achieved and ideas for implementing their own programs.

I'm particularly excited about this report because it parallels my earlier thinking about developing methods to measure social media engagement in my posts on "Social Media Maturity Index: Finding Social Media Engagement Leaders" in March 2009, and in "Conversation Over Appearance: Finding Social Media Engagement Leaders," in December 2008.

My hope is that the index can be expanded beyond the existing list of companies so that business people will be able to see what companies are the social media engagement leaders beyond the global 100 by industry and size of company. Just as the Advertising Age Power 150 has helped fuel the industry's understanding of what a successful blog is within the marketing and advertising industry. I think the engagement index will help to motivate and encourage companies to follow the leaders within the industry.

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