Visualizing the Strange World of Corporate Social Media Accounts

Showing correlation between sales and twitter followers at fast food chains

I have watched with morbid fascination as huge brands have taken to tweeting in a strange sort of inverse-corporate style that mimics popular twitter accounts.

As many people have noted, it is rather surreal to see the corporate account of Moon Pie exchange existentialist tweets with Clorox. For the most part, it seems this strategy has worked quite well, as it’s won brands lots of free PR and social reach.

I am very interested in the behind-the-scenes workings of these accounts. In my mind, these brands have hired the same 2 or 3 PR firms, who in turn employ a bunch of 24-year-olds and tell them to tweet like they would from their personal accounts.

I’d like to think that many of these twitter scribes were in competing improv groups at Wesleyan and now live within shouting distance of each other in Brooklyn, mixing real-life drama with the razor-thin margins and intense competition of the modern retail environment.

If you or anyone you know works on this sort of thing, please reach out to me (email joe at this website) so that I can confirm my biases, I would love to hear your perspective.

I pulled data around follower counts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the biggest fast food restaurants in the U.S. and visualized it in a few ways. A few things I found interesting / surprising:

Revenue correlates reasonably well with social following, with a few notable exceptions

Starbucks dwarfs even McDonald’s in Twitter and Instagram following.

I had to filter out Starbucks from these charts to make them visually interesting but this chart of instagram and twitter followers shows the magnitude of Starbucks’ social lead.

I assume this is because following a company on social media is a bit of an identity-affirming action and Starbucks is a more aspirational brand than, say, Arby’s.

For brands that are less aspirational, having a native, edgy social strategy seems like it’s more powerful. People were going to follow Starbucks anyway, but if Moon Pie starts tweeting funny things then maybe they’ll follow Moon Pie too.

The Facebook audience is still enormous

Some of this is probably due to Facebook successfully getting brands to purchase likes back before anyone knew the value of any of this stuff. But the numbers of followers on Facebook still crush the numbers on Instagram and Twitter. I need the occasional reminder that core FB is still extremely powerful. Even if users are 4x less active on FB than on Instagram, a brand can still have easily more reach on FB than the others.

Wendy’s Twitter has done really well compared to their Instagram

I bet this is largely due to that kid who wanted free chicken nuggets.

Most of these companies’ social presence is still really dull

Especially on Instagram. Looking at Pizza Hut’s post below, what about this post would possibly make you want to follow them (assuming 3benjaminlee and bekkookie aren’t reading this)? It’s incredibly uninteresting.

My guess is that this account is run by committee, with peoples’ bosses approving posts, leading to lots of safe, self-promotional content with very little voice. It seems like a much better strategy to just give someone the keys to the account and tell them to have fun.

If I have some time, I’ll update this with other brands / industries. Let me know what you think would be interesting.


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