Listen Up Media Companies: You Are the Most Social Brands

Last Updated Jan 6, 2010 4:49 PM EST

If you'd like the media business to continue -- as I do -- you might read Vitrue's second annual list of the top 100 social brands with an eye toward a business opportunity that I hope the media industry isn't missing. Media brands account for much of the list, with CNN and MTV ranking nos. 3 and 4 respectively, and ESPN, CBS, ABC, Turner, Fox News, VH1, Turner and NBC all making the top 100. (Vitrue measured 2000 brands, using its Social Media Index, for the study, looking at sharing activity, blogging and so forth, and leaving out brands such as Facebook that make up the social media backbone.)

As all sites, especially content sites, ponder whether they should become more social, what this list says is that media brands miss a significant opportunity if they aren't actively involved in the social sphere. It's interesting to ponder that CNN, the laggard among cable news networks but the most fashion-forward in usage of social media, is so high up. (Being a global news brand doesn't hurt, either.) Fox News, which probably gets plenty of mentions on sheer controversy alone, ranks no. 54.

Look more deeply into the list, and you'll find that it's chock full of brands which are connected to or contain media as part of what they do. Of the top 10, only one brand -- Nike -- has a relatively tenuous tie to media, although one could argue that Nike.com is a pretty hefty content site in its own right. Other brands in the top ten are the iPhone (#1), Disney (#2), along with the NBA, iTunes, Wii, Apple and the xBox, which take up slots five through nine on the list. If you add up all of the brands in the top 100 that are part of the technology/entertainment/media industrial complex, it's 49 by my count. Almost half.

Let's hope that seeing a list like this will help media companies take a big sip of the hi-tech Kool-Aid this time around. If you look back at the history of traditional media brands and emerging technologies, it would lead you to believe that a big media property wouldn't be nearly so quick to jump on board the latest wave. For years, many big media brands gave the Web lip service. Going back further, it took quite a long time for many broadcast media brands to realize that maybe it would be a good thing to scoop up a few cable channels rather than treat them as second-class citizens in the TV universe.

That said, this time around things seem different. For many of these brands, having a social strategy is de rigeur. Maybe it's because word-of-mouth has always been such a powerful force in media circles, and that's essentially what social media is. Maybe it's also because the link between cause and effect is so close in the media industry in a way it isn't for other types of brands. See people share content; watch traffic rise, and maybe money will follow. Or, at least, that's the hope.