Social Brands 100: The Youth Ranking 2014: NUS Case Study

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Toni Pearce: National President at NUS


Since its formation in 1922, the National Union of Students (NUS) has campaigned for its members as for a fairer, more prosperous society; shaping the future of education for the better. As a voluntary membership organisation representing seven million students, NUS fights discrimination, isolation and injustice, supporting and strengthening students’ unions and the voice of students. As a result, NUS appeared in the list of most popular brands within the youth audience and ranked no.70 in the Social Brands 100 –The Youth Ranking. Toni Pearce, National President at NUS, attributes their success to addressing the concerns of the youth audience, whilst fully immersing themselves in their world of social spaces. 

NUS is a large and complicated organisation and this is reflected through the complex arrangement of their social channels, in which they use to ‘encapsulate [their] mission’. Their social strategy is similarly diverse but when simplified, can be seen as twofold: balancing the commercial,   the socio-political and member students’ unions. In order to achieve this equilibrium, NUS has three separate Twitter channels, one dedicated to each.

With 195 brand partners, NUS extra is a commercial entity; operating student discounts in well-loved high street stores via the card.  It is unsurprising then, that this channel incurs high engagement levels from its target youth audience.[i] Maintaining this level of engagement is vital for Pearce, alongside her other main concern of follower acquisition, stating: ‘what’s the point of having 100k Facebook likes, if only 1200 people are talking to you?’

On the other hand, the non-profit organisation has daily conversations with students across a separate Twitter channel NUS UK, to aid their social and political campaigning. One of Pearce’s personal highlights from the year across social was the success this channel saw with their #HousingHell campaign, which accompanied the launch of NUS’ Homes Fit For Study report and gained traction and support from BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat. The biggest concern for Pearce however in this is, ‘making sure we don’t isolate disengaged students with jargon and highly politicised language. We need to talk to students, like students.’ One method which enabled this behaviour is through Twitter webchats, a technique employed by NUS in a campaign to combat ‘lad culture’.

However Facebook was the platform that earned the NUS the highest engagement levels in Social Brands 100 – The Youth Ranking, and one reason for this could be the diversity of content. Content is created around a calendar of activity. These calendars are set a year in advance, formalised a month in advance and set in stone a week in advance, with all content being repurposed through a multi-channel strategy.  However posting timely and relevant content is top priority, Pearce adds; ‘so if we’re reacting to a piece of news, a development in Parliament, on campus or elsewhere, everything goes out of the window and we join the conversation on social media!’

Although NUS have an appointed marketing and social media coordinator based in Macclesfield, the group communications team in London also coordinate the social channels. Despite this, Pearce claims several members of the organisation play a part in contributing towards content, including the elected student officers, who add their own personal spin.

In addition, NUS also track sentiment on a campaign-by-campaign basis and employ Hootsuite Enterprise’s modular analytics tools to aid the process.


[i] Marketing Magazine (2013) reported that students ‘want either material gain – free products, a good discount or a winnable competition’ out of their interactions with brands on social media.


Social Brands 100 Youth Ranking is here!

After many months of planning and analysing, we are excited to announce that the first Social Brands 100 ranking on Youth Brands, is officially live.

You can download the white paper report and infographic from; we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.

2014 is the 4th year that we’ve bench marked how top brands perform in social spaces – and this year we’ve focused on a series specialist reports instead of one big ranking, which means that the launch of The Youth Ranking, is just the first part of the Social Brands 100 of 2014.

We had two partners for this report: Voxburner, a youth insight specialist who provided us with the 100 most loved brands by this audience, and Socialbakers who provided the data that enabled us to analyse the brand’s engagement.

We looked at three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – and we looked at data from a four week period, throughout February and March in order to rank the 100 brands. For more on the methodology please click here.

The #1 brand was Pizza Hut UK, who scored particularly highly on Twitter and Google +. They also came top out of the 11 other hospitality brands in the ranking. Next were Greggs (2), followed by (3) , Waterstones (4) and Krispy Kreme (5). Other brands who featured in the top ten and scored highly on Twitter were Pepsi Max (6) and Warburton’s (8).

Facebook remains the biggest platform for brands, even though recent reports indicate that youth consumers are turning to other platforms in order to engage. The brands that performed most highly on Facebook were Comic Relief, Movember and Cancer Research UK.

The need for brands to create engaging content strategies across all three platforms and not just Facebook is important. Never more, have brands needed to be flexible in their approach to social, to remain on top of trends and stay relevant for their consumers. Long term content planning and having the flexibility to adapt to real-time events to create timely content is key.

A selection of the top five brands very kindly spoke to us about their winning social marketing strategies, and how they manage to deliver engaging content on social channels.

For our no. 1 brand Pizza Hut, it’s not surprising that social media is extremely important to them. Amy Mahalla, the brand’s digital marketing manager says ‘it is a means for communicating and listening to consumers, testing new product ideas and offering consumers added value.’ Pizza Hut tries to keep their platforms, as social as the pastime of ordering pizza with friends. They say that ‘people get together to share their pizza and their stories with friends and family. Pizza Hut wants to ensure that we are creating memorable happy pizza moments for our customers.’

Pizza hut have an ‘integrated approach to social media’ and they understand the rate that social is growing, and have adapted their channels to keep in line with evolving social trends to market their products to consumers. Amy explains how they have ‘explored new areas of social, developing even richer, more valuable campaigns for our customers.’

Greggs, who may be better known for their pasties, are becoming increasingly popular on social media. Coming in at  #2 in the Social Brands 100 Youth ranking, we spoke to Neil Knowles who is Greggs Digital Brand Manager, who said “it’s definitely a main factor, in anything we do as it one of, if not the most important channels we have in reaching out to our customers. We want to make sure our content is as engaging as possible, that’s probably the first step for our audience.” Using a friendly informal tone of voice, Greggs have managed to capture the youth audience with humour and banter with their responses to customers. Creative campaigns such as #PastySanta have also captured the youth’s attention, turning Greggs into must follow platform. Their low cost value and friendly approach, means that social has worked wonder for brand awareness for Greggs. We also spoke to who ranked #3 in our top 100, Carol Dray, marketing director said they ‘make posts visual and exciting; funny photos or videos are much more likely to be shared amongst their wider network than content that is just a sales plug. We make sure all content is worthy of sharing and don’t post if it’s not”. From the ranking and speaking to the top brands, it’s easy to see that engaging content isn’t always content that is 100% relevant to your brand; it’s about getting your brand out there and being approachable to consumers.

Ultimately, content is the winning element for any successful social brand, and at Headstream, we firmly believe in carefully planned content strategies that can also be agile and flexible. We work with a content marketing strategy framework, which helps brands create bespoke user journeys to simulate each customer phase. This enables us to work out what content is relevant for each phase of the journey and tailor our strategies accordingly.

If you’d like any more information on the content marketing strategy framework or how Headstream could help your brand, don’t hesitate to contact or give us a call on 02380 828 525. For any more questions or info about Social Brands 100, you can either see our report, methodology or give us a tweet on @socialbrands100.

9 Things That Wowed Us This Week In Social Media..

  1. ‘That Selfie’ Ellen DeGeneres Oscars Selfie

This week seems to have been the week of the selfie. The 86th Academy Awards took place on Sunday evening, but come Monday morning what were we talking about in the office? The winners? Discussing the outfits? Hmm no. It was all about host Ellen DeGeneres’s selfie. We won’t go into too much detail as we’re sure like us; you’ve seen more of that selfie this week than you have of your Mum. With over 3.2 million retweets, it’s become the most retweeted tweet EVER! It even broke Twitter, it really shows just how much we love a selfie.

Of course we have seen many parody selfies over the week, The Simpsons one is up there as our favourite but it seems that Ellen’s selfie has inspired many others to jump on the selfie bandwagon.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic took a selfie mid way through playing in a exhibition match at Madison Square Garden’s to celebrate #WorldTennisDay on Tuesday. Whilst Andy opted for a standard selfie, Novak went for a slightly more playful approach. We love these selfies from two of the world’s best tennis players, but lads, an in focus photo never hurt anyone. #justsaying

We are big fans of Ellen DeGeneres, she even featured in our Social Brands 100 2013 list. Ranking 4 in our entertainment category, and we know why. With her amusing, endearing tweets, and well those hilarious manip’s she creates, just why wouldn’t you follow her?

2. Is Twitter The New Must Have TV Companion?

Whilst the Ellen selfie was the main talking point of the Oscars, we can’t forget the ceremony itself. Twitter released stats this week, revealing that there were an incredible 3.3 billion impressions of Oscars tweets worldwide. During the ceremony, 19.1 million tweets were sent out and 37 million people viewed those tweets though Twitter’s mobile and desktop applications. This almost matches to the 42 million people who actually watched the Oscars. With stats like this it really does reinforce how differently we watch television these days. In January it was reported that 60% of Twitter users are watching TV at the same time.


This weekend Austin, Texas sees the annual SXSW Interactive festival roll into town. In previous years, big names in social media such as Twitter and Foursquare have come out of SXSW. This year, it seems that E-commerce apps, wearables and apps from across the globe are set to be this year’s success startup stories. We’re intrigued and excited to see what comes from this year’s SXSWi, check next week’s 9 things to see what wowed us from the festival.

  4. Getty Opens Its Image Library To Bloggers

Getty Images announced this week that they are making 35 million (!) of their images free for non commercial use. Disrupting the photographic industry, bloggers will now be able to embed Getty Images into their posts for no cost at all. This not only benefits online users, but also Getty themselves. They hope that embedding photos for free will bring them traffic to their site, image attribution and provide them with analytics of how and where images are being used to use for their advantage. We think this is a great opportunity for Getty and social media users.

 5. Visify is acquired by Yahoo.

Social data website Visify has been bought out by internet giants Yahoo this week. Speaking in a statement on their website, Visify say how they are ‘sunsetting’ the website to create visual data for Yahoo. The website itself will be shut down and for current paid plan users; they’ll be given a full refund. Neither Visify nor Yahoo have yet revealed their plans for the future. We wait with baited breath.

 6. Blendle Set To Be The New iTunes For News.

 A Norwegian start-up is looking to change the way we read news online. Blendle is a new app that lets you read all the major newspapers and magazines in one place. Users will pay a single paywall and then by simply clicking they can pay for whatever articles they read. Not only can users read a plethora of articles, but they can also see what articles are trending and what stories friends/influencers have shared. There are many other functions to the app such as setting up email alerts for articles on specific subjects or keywords. The app launches in Holland in April, but the creators have promised other countries will be able to get the app soon. If it’s a success, Blendle could revolutionise the way that we read news online, and that is an exciting prospect.

 7. The Friday Read: UK Social Media Attitudes by Social Media London

UK Social Media Users Attitudes 

This week Social Media London released new statistics about the attitudes of UK Social Media users. How would you feel if you lost your Facebook account? 13% said they’d be devastated whilst 45% would be annoyed and the remaining 42% didn’t care. Which camp are you in? Among the statistics, Facebook ( 56%) and Twitter (23%) were revealed as the top two visited social networks in the past month. Definitely worth a look.

 8. The Weekly Chuckle: ‘Dave Calling’

We love twitter for many reasons. But on Wednesday evening, we were reminded of just how much. When David Cameron tweeted a very serious picture of himself ‘on the phone’ to Barack Obama, pretty soon Twitter, was full of viral parody photos. The most famous parodies were from comedian Rob Delaney, writer Michael Moreno and actor Patrick Stewart. It definitely brightened up our evening. The only question now is, was it really Barack on the other line?

9. Cool App of the Week: Wake Up and Smell The Bacon

If you’re anything like us, getting out of bed in the morning can be quite the struggle. However this new app developed by Oscar Mayer (an American meat and cold cut production company FYI) could mean you’re waking up to the smell (and sound) of bacon being cooked. Wake Up and Smell the Bacon, is a revolutionary app and iphone dongle, which when plugged into the headphone jack, the waft of bacon cooking is released as your alarm goes off. If this sounds up your street, we have bad news. Sadly it isn’t for general sale, but you can enter a quiz on the Oscar Mayer website where you’ll have the chance to win the exclusive app and dongle. The competition is running till the 4th of April, 2014.  We think this is an imaginative way to get people out of bed, but to be honest we’d rather be presented with an actual bacon sandwich on awaking from our slumber.

Social Brands 100 case study: Kiss FM

What is it about cats? According to Kiss FM Web Editor Karen Campbell, pictures of cats along with other funny pictures, competitions and funny games and tasks requiring listener response are the most engaging forms of content for its social media community. Continue reading

#TheStream – Issue 35

Google stock hit a near 52-week high following the first day of their annual I/O event in San Francisco last Wednesday – this week we’re dedicating #TheStream to brief summary of what was announced. Continue reading