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The Top Social Brands of 2008: What’s Your Conversation Index?


Vitrue released a report on the Top Social Brands of 2008 based on an index the company launched last year.

The top social brands list is a result of Vitrue’s daily analysis of over 2,000 popular brands. Each day, the team analyzes online conversations on a variety of social networking, blogging, microblogging, photo and video sharing sites. Virtue then applies a series of algorithms to measure the frequency of keyword usage, the size of the social media environment, and the magnitude of the conversation. The result is a single numeric score for each brand: the Social Media Index (SMI).

The list was finalized by averaging the SMI scores for each brand everyday in December 2008. The result is a ranked list of the brands most talked about on the social web (see below). Excellent work Vitrue!

So, what’s the take away?

This is something that every company should be doing on its own and the primary reason why Jess3 and I released v1 of the Conversation Prism.

We didn’t want to overwhelm people with false assumptions claiming that every business should participate in every popular network. Contrary to what this article claims, it’s just not reasonable, feasible, or strategic. We simply wished to offer a real world starting point for brand managers to “listen.”

It’s not just about the networks we KNOW, it’s also about the communities we don’t know. And, listening to the dialog related to specific keywords within every community, initially, will help us define and chart an accurate social map that pinpoints the exact communities that require our attention, the volume and frequency of relevant conversations, and the tonality and reach of those conversations within their respective networks.

This is what I call establishing the “Conversation Index” so that you have something to benchmark against moving forward. I will dedicate a post to this subject to further clarify how and why you need a conversation index for your business.

I spend a significant portion of my time helping companies listen, learn, engage, help, cultivate, repeat. It’s how we can truly mature, contribute, and grow together. In the end, this is all about relationships.

Without further ado…

The Top Social Brands of 2008

1. iPhone
2. CNN
3. Apple
4. Disney
5. Xbox
6. Starbucks
7. iPod
8. MTV
9. Sony
10. Dell
11. Microsoft
12. Ford
13. Nintendo
14. Target
15. PlayStation
16. Mac
17. Turner
18. Hewlett-Packard
19. Fox News
20. BlackBerry
21. ABC
22. Coke
23. LG
24. Best Buy
25. Honda
26. eBay
27. Sharp
28. Lincoln
29. NBA
30. Pepsi
31. General Motors
32. McDonald’s
33. General Electric
34. Walmart
35. NFL
36. Mercedes
37. BMW
38. Samsung
39. Nike
40. Subway
41. Dodge
42. Pandora
43. CBS
44. Mercury
45. NBC
46. Disneyland
48. Toyota
49. Cadillac
50. Chevy
51. Jeep
52. Netflix
53. Nascar
54. Suzuki
55. Red Bull
56. Wendy’s
57. Burger King
58. Volkswagen
59. REI
60. Nissan
61. T-Mobile
62. Verizon
63. Macy’s
64. AT&T;
65. Guess
66. Victoria’s Secret
67. Walt Disney World
68. Audi
69. TBS
70. Cartoon Network
71. IKEA
72. SEGA
73. Kia
74. Porsche
75. Fox
76. Intel
77. IBM
78. VH1
79. MLB
80. Cisco
81. Oracle
82. Saturn
83. Sprite
84. Subaru
85. Adidas
86. BP
87. AMC
88. Chili’s
89. The Gap
90. Capital One
91. Hyatt
92. Costco
93. KFC
94. Adult Swim
95. Jet Blue
96. Taco Bell
97. Converse
98. Sirius
99. Puma
100. Sears

Related reading on PR 2.0:

The Poetry of Social Networking to Court Customers and Invest in Relationships
Top 40 Must Read Posts on PR 2.0 in 2008
Twitter Tools for Community and Communications Professionals
The State of Social Media 2008
The Social Revolution is Our Industrial Revolution
The Essential Guide to Social Media
The Social Media Manifesto
– Introducing The Conversation Prism

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16 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The Top Social Brands of 2008: What’s Your Conversation Index?”

  1. Renee says:

    Thanks Brian. Great post – as always. Would be interested to know your top picks from the listed companies.

  2. Carla Schlemminger says:

    Thanks for the intelligent post on how this digital listening technology has come into play in the social Web. With crunching metrics part of any marketing dept’s job, the ability to measure progress via the conversation benchmark is key.

    What would be fascinating is to understand the origin of the buzz. That is, determine whether a communal buzz arose nationwide after, say, after a specific piece of news or event, OR if there were individual connectors who Paul Revered the message and were responsible for having ignited the conversation into viral heaven.

  3. gwendolen says:

    I’m looking forward to read your post about the Conversation Index, Brian.

    I was wondering why iPhone, iPod and Apple are mentioned as 3 different brands in the Top Social Brand list. Is there any specific reason? (probably, I just don’t know 😉 )

  4. The Lost Agency says:

    great post, the social media flower wheel is amazing, it would be interesting to see what technologies some of those on the list are using and which they are failing to make full use of… such as having twitter and never updating your status

  5. Megan says:

    Thanks for the great post today Brian.

    It was very interesting to note that not one of the top 100 brands was a health care company/brand/product or campaign. Do you have any thoughts on why that might be? It seems that either because of a lack of creativity or the legal ramifications of transparency prevents our clients from really stepping out and establishing their brands in the digital arena.

    Thanks again for any thoughts you might have on this.

  6. Brian Solis says:

    Thanks Renee!

    Carla, you can bet that’s the case and when you do this by hand or use tools such as ReTweetist and, you can track the threads.

    Gwendolen, thanks. Just need to figure out how to stop time a bit 😉

    The Lost Agency, I highly suspect that this list is truly powered by the people and not the brands per se…meaning that this is bottom up tracking of chatter as it exists with or without the participation of a company. Searching iphone in and Twitter is going to net a HUGE response: 22.6 million in blogsearch ( and millions in Twitter ( Is apple a top social media company? Not at all…but iPhone is a highly socialized brand – fully democratized and discussed by consumers for consumers. In the 2 minutes it took me to write this comment back to you, over 70 new responses appeared in twitter – without a catalyst or push stemming from apple.

    Perhaps the report is misleading, because it almost implies that these companies are directly responsible for being a “top social” brand, when in fact, the report tracks mentions of a brand in the social Web.

  7. Brian Solis says:

    Hi Megan, great comment.

    It’s about creativity.

    It’s about the “interpretation” of the law – not the law itself. The biggest work that a true social media “expert” can provide is not only the ability to convince management to experiment tied to deliverable results, but also demonstrate to the legal department how other companies are doing so without consequence. In my experience, the law didn’t change, people and internal policies adapted to the new web.

    The index is a bit skewed, and as I mentioned, it implies that these companies had a hand in influencing and sparking dialog across the social web, when in fact most have not.

    You can truly only automate the search process in a minority of the total discussions represented in the conversation prism. The rest is by hand. So, in this case, it’s about blogger relations, blog comments and twitter I suspect.

    The point is, if you’re not actively finding a way for your brand to either proactively appear or respond across the board, it will affect the ranking. THE MAJORITY of those brand appearances are driven by people (consumers) discussing a brand…not the work of marketing or PR fueling viral discussions. This is an important distinction and also an important lesson for us. I suspect that these results would be similar if we were to place microphones in every break room, restaurant, train, public square, etc.

    My inspiration for this post was to help “brands” take the lead to create their own social media index for an industry and also, and more importantly, a conversation index specifically for any company you represent.

  8. Brian Remmel says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for pointing out Virtue’s report. From looking at the top brands, it seems that this report speaks more about the relationships of the avid social media user than any active effort from the brands.

    I’d be interested to see how competitors’ social media mentions stack-up when compared to market share.

  9. Farhan Rehman says:

    Thanks for introducing the Conversation Index to me, through your great article..
    An interesting, yet much needed take on the state of the industry, WRT to brands, and their positioning one with the other.. I’m sure we’re going to start seeing more public sharing of such lenses onto brands and companies in the coming year.. It’s all about how they properly relate, not mass market

  10. JB says:

    Thanks for a very insightful post. I love the Conversation Prism. This falls directly in line with the type of dialogue we have been having with clients at our agency (ClearMetrics) about utilizing the tools and resources available on the web to listen to what consumers are saying about their products and take the first steps toward beginning an open dialogue with these consumers online.

    Very cool to see it mapped out in this way. Thanks again.

  11. Social Sound System says:

    Although I am a Pandora fan I found it interesting that they ranked higher than considering Last has a better social network tools for their users to conncet.

  12. JFish says:


    Thanks for this post. As a grad who will graduate in 2010, I love this type of information. I have pretty much made up my mind that I would like to deal with social media within PR as my desired career. So this type of information is invaluable to me in helping draw direct real-world correlaries to what I get from schooling.

    Now if only I could say that finding a job in this economy would be as easy as learning information off your posts, then all would be right with the world. 🙂

    BTW, are the Conversation Prism and Index the types of things that you would show prospective clients, in order to help them better understand why they need to have a presence in the world of social media? Or would it just end up confusing them?

  13. shari says:

    Interesting post Brian. Look forward to your next post on the “hows” of establishing a conversation index.

  14. deborahprblog says:

    Interesting to see how ‘mainstream media’ like CNN and Fox News have successfully used new media and are listed in the Top 20.

    It would be great to see how the Obama campaign would have been rated in compaison!

    Really helpful post – thanks!

  15. Barry Hurd says:

    I agree with Brian on the report being somewhat misleading: I would say a good majority of these brands have average social media presence as a business entity, but have successfully created WOM campaigns with massive offline marketing budgets and some creative product integration.

    As a whole I am not very trusting of the list as it is not being published with the aggregated data. These leaves a lot of assumption and faith in regards to the top social brands.

    More importantly, the SMI as it currently stands doesn’t take into play impact analysis to real world business results. While it provides us with some conversational items, there isn’t much meat on the bone.

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