Social Best Practices: Top Brands of 2015

Published on Jan 12th, 2016

by Jack Weinstein

While there are many new additions to our 2015 Top U.S. Brands on Social report compared with last year, one thing remained the same: the three top brands were unchanged from 2014.

National Geographic, the NBA and NFL topped our annual ranking for the second consecutive year. The magazine publisher turned social media standout generated a staggering 1.6 billion social actions (likes, comments, shares, retweets and dislikes) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Overall social engagement in 2015 increased 35% compared with the year before. Social video posts drove that growth, which included a 73% increase in that content and 111% increase in total video actions on the four platforms. U.S. brands generated a total of 79.7 billion social actions in 2015 with Instagram leading the way (40.8 million on Instagram, 34.6 billion on Facebook, and 3.4 billion on Twitter).

The top three brands in 2015 each employed different strategies to generate engagement.

National Geographic captured 94% of its total engagement on Instagram, where its photographers located across the world posted stunning images directly to the platform.

The NBA generated 36% of its engagement from social video . Only BuzzFeed Video had a higher percentage of its overall actions from video posts among the Top 25 Brands.

The NFL was the second-most engaged brand on Twitter after Bleacher Report where it live-tweeted games and reposted top plays from that week’s action, the moments that matter .

Biggest Movers on Social

Instead of just focusing on the top three brands, we wanted to take a look at the social best practices of some of the brands that had the most growth in 2015. Of the Top 25 brands, the following had the most significant percentage change in engagement compared with 2014.


Hollywood Life

Anastasia Beverly Hills

Telemundo generated 301% more engagement in 2015 than 2014, which helped it become the seventh-most-engaged brand on Facebook. It’s growth was driven by Facebook, where it experienced engagement growth in excess of 306%.

The Spanish-language TV network captured 93% of that engagement on Facebook by leveraging the popularity of its stars, offering a behind-the-scenes look into their lives. It’s not the first time we’ve seen brands and publishers use celebrities to generate engagement.

Three of the network’s top five posts in 2015 featured actress Adamari Lopez, who also hosts Telemundo’s morning show Un Nuevo Día, with her newborn daughter.

Telemundo employed a similar strategy in 2014; three of its top five posts featured Lopez when she was still pregnant. But the biggest difference between 2014 and 2015 was the use of link posts. Engagement from links increased 465% in 2015 to 40% of total actions, up from 7% in 2015.

Hollywood Life jumped into the Top 25 this year by generating 243% more engagement in 2015 than it did the year before. And the entertainment publisher generated that engagement by posting more often than any other brand in the Top 25. Hollywood Life posted more than 54,000 times to social in 2015, including 5,400 times to Instagram, 16,800 times to Facebook, 32,100 times to Twitter.

That’s 15 Instagram posts, 46 Facebook posts and nearly 88 tweets a day, well above the 2015 average daily post total among entertainment publishers (2 Instagram posts, 15 Facebook posts and 24 tweets).

While it posted most frequently to Twitter, Hollywood Life generated 93% of its total engagement on Facebook.

Three of its top 10 posts, including its top post, featured Justin Bieber, the most-engaged celebrity on social in 2015 .

Tips, tricks and tutorials aren’t new to social, but they’re popularity skyrocketed in 2015 as producers found a way to simplify them for audiences, who could pick up useful information in seconds.

Video recipes dominated Facebook because they’re perfect for the platform’s autoplay feature. They’re short, include on-screen instructions and don’t require sound (BuzzFeed Food, which produces video recipes, saw the most year-over-year engagement growth of any brand at 2,094%). But on Instagram, Anastasia Beverly Hills took the makeup tutorial to another level.

The cosmetics brand leveraged its talented fans to post user-generated content . Anastasia Beverly Hills posted only 43% of its content in 2015 to Instagram, but generated 99% of its engagement on the platform.

Doing so helped the brand post the top three Instagram posts among beauty brands in 2015.

Top Industries

Among the nearly 80 billion social actions generated in 2015, nearly half came from the Entertainment industry (35.3 billion actions). That was followed by Media (25.2 billion), Sports (9.1 billion), Retail (5.2 billion) and Consumer Goods (1.5 billion).

But the fastest growing industry was education. Education brands, organizations, schools and cultural institutions generated more than 1.1 billion actions in 2015, a 102% increase from the year before.

The most-engaged educational institution is New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which generated 12.1 million social actions. It took the top spot on Instgram and Twitter and generated the second-most actions in the education category.

The Met’s top Instagram posts used works of art to comment on current events, as it did with #PrayersforParis and #LoveWins , to recognize artists or highlight collections . Its top tweets again prove the power of celebrity. Eight of its 10 most-engaged tweets featured actors and musicians who attended the annual Met Gala fundraiser.

Though, the Met’s audience may have engaged just as much with that content to see what those celebrities were wearing.

The other two top 10 tweets included images of lavish gowns and links to their collections on the Met’s website. The most-engaged tweet of the two included #FashionFriday. Tweets that included that hashtag appeared 47 times in 2015 generated 30% more actions than the average Met tweet last year.

Did you engage with one of the Top U.S. Brands in 2015? Let us know in the comments how they captured your interest.

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