5 Brands That Built Authentic Social Media Communities.

How 5 brands managed to create real relationships on social and turn fans into passionate advocates. 
Aika Zikibayeva
January 18, 2016 - 7 min. read

Word-of-mouth marketing

Have you ever found yourself so completely hooked by a brand’s social presence that you had to scroll through their profiles for several minutes, and follow them just so you don’t miss out on what’s happening next? Have you ever engaged with a brand on social just because what they are saying resonated perfectly with your state of mind? Or simply because their posts inspire or amuse you? Last but not least, have you ever posted something good about a brand, defended the brand or willingly associated yourself with it – through let’s say, a selfie or a video – just for the fun of it?

This is what true authenticity and brand connection is made of, or, as Think with Google names it, “Identity Loyalty.” The actions of the brand resonate so well with the customers that they are willingly and freely advocating for the brand through their own actions – and creating coveted user-generated content in the process.

According to BrightLocal, 80% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts. Now imagine an entire community of fans out there on social media, advocating for you and spreading your message simply because they enjoy your brand.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 5 brands who, through an authentic voice and message, managed to create real relationships with their audiences, build loyalty, and ultimately drive increased profits. Their social feeds are testimonials of engagement and examples of the power word-of-mouth marketing today. 

#1 – Starbucks 

Think of a busy working day or a cold morning where you just need that cup of coffee to get you started. What was the first thing that popped to mind? Most likely Starbucks. This makes it a perfect example of “Identity Loyalty” – we don’t need anyone to suggest it, it’s just the first thing that comes to mind, and it makes us happy. So happy, in fact that users are going on social just to say thank you or share with their followers that they are drinking a Starbucks coffee. This in itself is a great review for a brand and the genuine content attracts responses, prompting other people to go buy the product as well.

To capitalize on the love that the audience is constantly expressing towards the brand, Starbucks had the brilliant idea to involve them in the future releases. The brand empowered its users to become co-creators of their products, and share their ideas in the My Starbucks Idea account. My Starbucks Idea became a goldmine for the company, not only keeping them updated with insights from their audience without having to use data intelligence methods, but also keeping their audience engaged, especially when they see that their ideas are taken into consideration.

Everyone’s heard of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, but did you know they have a dedicated Pumpkin Spice Latte Twitter account? I stumbled upon it and fell in love. It represents the quirkier side of Starbucks, tailored to the generation that turned the PSL into an international sensation in the fall months. Starbucks found a great way to gather that audience in one place and fuel their passion.

#2 – Red Bull

If coffee doesn’t boost your energy, maybe you need a dose of Red Bull? They are the go-to brand for energizing drinks, but also so much more. These days when you say “Red Bull”, you don’t mean just the drink, but also all their supporting activities including the extreme sports, music, and entertainment sectors. That is all due to their promotional activities developed through their own media company and that have as a source of inspiration the habits and interests of their intended audience. Red Bull is now a top brand for sporting activities and action shots, and users follow them on social for their adrenaline-filled feed. Posts don’t directly promote the product, focusing more on being informative and motivational – they are committed to offering quality material about a topic of interest.

Red Bull is taking a smarter approach, getting close to audiences and identifying the perfect moment and need for their product – and fans love these unexpected conversations. (click here for conversation)

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By being involved in so many activities, Red Bull also took the opportunity to create separate accounts in order to send out content that was 100% relevant. They have accounts for the Music initiatives they create, as well for racing, biking, gaming, and eSports. Through their perfectly tailored content they managed to attract a strong fan base that willingly promotes the brand.  These are not just niche communities, the Red Bull Racing Twitter account having over 1 million followers, while the others range from 20 to 200K followers.

#3 – Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks, producers of delicious smoothies, are the masterminds behind one of the best social media accounts, possessing a unique approach to interacting with audiences that involves both online and offline efforts. They are always on point with their replies, keep the conversation light and on-brand, and send out handwritten thank you notes to their most loyal fans.

This has resulted in a fan base of devoted followers, who post pictures of Innocent on their own accounts, actively participate in conversations on various topics not necessarily product-related, such as the livestream of a puddle or the Apprentice UK, knit hats to help older people and even write letters to the brand. Yes, consumers actually take the time to personally thank Innocent for their incredible mix of great product and humorous social media presence. This type of engagement cannot be bought – it’s unique and sincere, and sparks from the brand’s own commitment to authenticity. There’s also no better review or testimonial for Innocent than pointing to their social media followers that would go the extra mile to show their loyalty towards the brand.

#4 – Lush Cosmetics

The Lush Cosmetics Twitter feed is a lesson in the benefits of using customer comments and posts to showcase your brand. Their feed is a great mix of good looking visuals, product posts, and retweets of happy customers…customers that took the time to interact with the brand and show their love. Lush is smartly utilizing these initiatives from their customers to entice new and old audiences.

What does Lush have to offer that can ignite such a large social manifestation? This is the natural reaction that most people will have after spending a few minutes on the brand’s social accounts, and that is a great driver for future sales.

#5 – Netflix

Netflix is now so ingrained in our lives that it has become part of our everyday habits. Their social media presence is a cinephile’s dream, sourcing content from their own hit TV shows. Tuned to the latest trends and popular culture, Netflix cleverly uses gifs and visuals with fan-favorite moments from their most-watched series, making them easier to share while at the same time increasing their reach.

The combination of their quality and addictive series with their approach to social has resulted in the emergence of dedicated communities online. Users with a common interest huddle together to fuel each other’s passion, discuss plot points, and debate favorite characters – and all this social conversation serves to create more awareness around Netflix’s programming. Just check the Narcos and Making a Murderer accounts and you will see what I am talking about.

These series, and many other under the skilful guidance of Netflix, are such major conversation topics between individuals, both online and offline, that word-of-mouth marketing can sustain a big portion of the promotional efforts.

Over the past weeks, even our office have been swept up in the phenomena of the true-crime series, with colleagues recommending it to each other and having intense discussions about the current state of the case.

In a social environment where organic reach is rapidly losing ground, brands that take action towards creating communities of engaged fans enjoy the benefits of customer recommendations. It’s not an easy task and, as these brands prove, it takes time and commitment to your authentic message. It’s all about first understanding who your audience is and how they behave on social, and then projecting your brand story in a way that resonates. In the case of Red Bull, it meant going to extreme heights (literally) and shifting the positioning from an energy drink seller to a media brand that caters to energy-filled audiences on the lookout for something edgy. For Innocent, it was the now-famous commitment to nonsense. They refused to be just another corporation and stopped taking themselves too seriously, realizing that no matter who you sell to, at the end of the day the interaction is still H2H (human to human) and we all enjoy a little humor in our lives.

However, every brand is different, and what worked for one will be hard to reproduce for another. Take a moment to consider what makes your brand different and then be brave enough to tear apart the rulebook when needed. At the core of every engagement strategy is the full and wholehearted commitment to a personality, so as to create an authentic customer experience. Engagement and loyalty are not made overnight, but if you get it just right, fans won’t be long to react and help spread your message.


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