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Six Brands Ahead of the Social Media Curve
by Jon Thomas


GE wouldn’t commonly be seen as the type of brand that would embrace social platforms early and invest marketing budgets in content creation, especially since its range of products is so vast. But GE has been on the forefront of digital content exploration, particularly as an early adopter of both Vine and Tumblr. GE married the two in an experiment called #6SecondScience Fair, setting up a customized Tumblr blog where the brand curated hundreds of Vine videos of six-second science experiments published by fans using the #6SecondScience hashtag. The experiments could then be “liked” and reblogged on Tumblr, as well as shared on Facebook and Twitter.

The experiment complemented General Electric’s own Tumblr blog, which explores the changing worlds of science and technology through daily GIFs, photos and videos, often shared from GE’s Instagram and Twitter accounts.


Taco Bell put the quick-serve restaurant industry on notice when it released the Doritos Locos Taco (DLT)—a Taco Bell taco encased in a Nacho Cheese-flavored Doritos tortilla shell—in 2012. It’s the best of both worlds, like coffee and donuts or movies and popcorn. Soon thereafter, Taco Bell and Doritos came out with a Cool Ranch flavor, and in 2013, released a Fiery flavor to complete the trio. Taco Bell has sold over 600 million DLTs, more than one million each day.

The problem was that the DLT was only launched in the United States, leaving Canadians chomping at the bit for a taste. Not surprisingly, Canadian Taco Bell fans took to social media to voice their displeasure. Once the DLT finally arrived in Canada, creative agency Grip Limited invited some of those vocal detractors to a special fan event where they literally ate their words: Grip had taken their actual tweets and Facebook posts and used a special laser to burn the text directly on the DLT shell. Said one of the angry superfans, “This is one of the greatest moments of my life.” The #DLTCANADA campaign put an entirely new spin on social listening and response. 

If you’ve ever ridden a mountain bike, skate-board, motorcycle or pair of skis, you’ve wanted to strap a camera to your head while you did it. GoPro nearly has this market cornered, creating versatile, water-proof, heavy-duty, fisheye-lensed cameras small enough to mount to your headgear. The content created by its customers could entertain the Internet for centuries, so it’s no surprise that GoPro is one of the top brands on social media, particularly on Instagram.

Facebook-owned Instagram, which boasts more than 150 million users, launched its video capabilities in the summer of 2013, music to GoPro’s ears. Among a myriad of fashion and beauty brands primed for the platform’s filter-effects-filled photo streams, GoPro ranks just outside the top ten most popular brands on Instagram with over one million followers and just as many posting on the #GoPro hashtag. Its videos, like the one featuring a surfer riding a wave with his paraplegic friend strapped to his back, garner tens of thousands of “likes” and comments.

It’s not a sound strategy for brands to embrace every social platform that emerges, especially when resources are limited and social etiquette on the platforms hasn’t been established. But brands willing to invest in new social media platforms and blaze the trail instead of following along are not only getting a head start on creating a following, they’re also creating shareable content with hardly any competition. 
Even when the channels are established, there are always unique ways to push the content-marketing envelope through story-telling, innovation and risk-taking. If you’re not ahead of the social media marketing curve, you’re behind it. ca Thomas
Jon Thomas ( is a senior digital strategist at TracyLocke in Wilton, Connecticut. He is an avid author and speaker on social media and brand storytelling.