The Whippies Awards: Best brands on social in 2017

December 28, 2017

Written by NewsWhip
brands social media 2017

This has been the year for brands.

This year, brands have embraced their role as corporate citizens, and shown their consumers that they cared about the same issues.

We’ve also seen brands find their unique identities, and saw more brands dip their toes into content and social media marketing.

We’ve seen the impact of influencers pairing with brands and the impact of branded content. More publishers are investing in branded content studios, and the results for brands are promising. According to Marketing Land, social users who interacted with branded content saw a 69 percent lift in average unaided awareness and a 51 percent lift in purchase intent.

We expect brands to continue their exploration into the evolving frontier of content marketing. According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads.

So which brands have been notable in 2017 and deserving of our coveted Whippies?

Here are the categories that we judged brands by:

  1. Top brands on social
  2. Top brands in on data
  3. Top Instagram brands
  4. Top socially-active brands
  5. Top newcomers
  6. Top legacy brands

The top brands on social:

top brands all
1. Wendys
For a household-name brand, Wendys has made some bold moves this year. The brand’s Twitter has gone where other brands might have been wary to go before, sassing competitors and followers alike.
Wendy's Tweet 2017

We’ve covered Wendys clap backs on the blog, and saw that social media users were delighted by the brand’s sassiness. The tweets have gone viral throughout the year. In our analysis, we saw that the brand’s stock prices correlated with a lift following a January tweet.

Curious to learn more? Mashable and Reddit both hosted interviews with the brilliant team behind the Twitter.

2. Disney
It’s almost not fair to include Disney on our list, but the brand’s conglomeration of so many other great brands makes Disney noteworthy. At the heart of the House of Mouse, storytelling remains of utmost importance. The brand has grown in the past few years to acquire Marvel, Star Wars, and now 21st Century Fox, among others.

Each gave Disney access to more pre-built fanbases, passionate fans ready to engage with content around their favorite characters and stories.

disney top brand facebook
By building up these powerful narratives, Disney inspires fans, publishers, and brands alike to create posts based on its franchises. Check out LADbible’s post from Star Wars Day:

This is how to celebrate May the 4th 👏👏

Posted by LADbible on Thursday, May 4, 2017

The lesson for other brands here is to find ways to tell a story about their brand or work, or the stories of the individuals that their brand is impacting. Check out our overview here.

3. GE
We’ve noted General Electric’s enormous growth on the blog before. GE has gone all in on content, with an 827 percent increase in its engagements from January to October. GE’s focus on making science and innovation appealing to the social media audience has done remarkably well.

By making science and tech content that’s interesting and compelling, the brand does a much better job of connecting with social media users, vs. traditional advertising methods.
iflscience ge general electirc
This post where GE partnered with “I f*cking love science” allowed the brand to reach a new audience already interested in GE’s niche, and tie in a pop culture reference (sonic screwdrivers) that would further resonate with them.

The top brands going all-in on data:

data brands


1. Netflix
Is it any surprise that we geeked out over the brands that show off their data?
Netflix has been defined by its ability to master its data. It launched its first original show off of a gamble on data, which proved to be highly successful.
Netflix has carried its data over to social media outreach, providing witty insights into the binge-watching masses.

netflix christmas prince


The brand does a great job of engaging and answering its followers with witty comments, showing off a bit of personality. The brand also makes tongue-in-cheek jokes about its own platform, primarily the dreaded and shameful “are you still watching?” prompt.

2. Spotify
Spotify is another brand that translates its data into quippy social media posts.
Just take a look at its “End of Year” analysis of users’ listening habits. This isn’t the first time Spotify has done something like this, but it creates a timely, interactive, and highly shareable experience.

Spotify also uses its data to stay on trend with what users care about and what music and artists are trending. There has been its seasonal videos about music trends (RIP Gingerbread Ed Sheeran), and a “fake news” examination of lyrics.

3. Instagram
Instagram is surprisingly the top brand on its own platform. Unlike MySpace’s Tom, users aren’t automatically required to follow Instagram. Despite this, its posts have regularly driven an average of 927,155 engagements per post (for content from January 1st, 2017 – December 1st, 2017).

instagram post
Armed with user data, Instagram is able to create posts that will be a win every time, following the trends of its platform’s other top performers like National Geographic and GoPro.  

Top brands embracing Instagram

Speaking of Instagram, the company recently announced that there are 25 million active business accounts on its platform. So which brands do we think are creating killer content on the platform?

instagram brands  

1. Hypebeast

When we looked at the most engaged brand audiences on Instagram, there were a few surprises. Hypebeast, a contemporary streetwear brand, had the most engaged audience behind the sports leagues.

hypebeast instagram
Between giveaways, partnerships, and an astute awareness of the pop culture stories that its audience cares about, Hypebeast is able to keep their audience hooked in and coming back for more.

Not only does the brand highlight cool products, but it acts like a publisher too, with attention-grabbing stories and asking followers to share their opinions.  

2. Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz continues to be a brand that innovates on Instagram. The luxury brand isn’t afraid to break down traditional advertising boundaries, sharing visually stunning photos from fans, using emoji and hashtags, and pairing with relatable influencers.

mercedes whippies


Luxury brands are a natural fit for Instagram’s inspirational nature, but Mercedes-Benz is undoubtedly the leader among auto brands. Take a look at the brand’s engagements for September through November 2017:

Check out our report for more on how automotive brands are winning on Instagram.  

3. Barbie

When you’re a toy brand, how do you appeal to the ones buying the toys? If you’re Barbie, you evolve with your audience. On Instagram, Barbie has become incredibly savvy to what its Millennials followers care about.

With its BarbieStyle account, the brand creates content that addresses subjects like marriage equality, gender stereotypes, and body positivity. Other posts join in on pop culture moments or partner up with Millennial influencers.

barbie style instagram
We analyzed Barbie and how similar brands are creating engaging content in our recent toy brands report

Top newcomer brands

newcomer brands  

1. Halo Top

Halo Top takes first for our new brands that scored big wins on social this year. Of course, press from BuzzFeed Tasty and Delish is a pretty big deal too.

Through giveaways, endless enthusiasm, and a passionate fanbase, Halo Top is just a fun brand on social. The brand is also willing to admit when it makes mistakes, or #HaloFlops. This led to some of its top engaged posts this year on Facebook and Instagram.

foodbeast halo top
Plus, Halo Top is willing to experiment with sometimes controversial topics, as in its partnered post with Foodbeast.  

2. MoonPie

We love seeing old brands learn new tricks. MoonPie, which was started in 1917 (100 years ago, no big deal obviously), still counts as a top newcomer brand in our rankings for its sass and tongue-in-cheek posts.
moonpie tweet
MoonPie’s tweets drive thousands of retweets and likes. The brand is highly active, answering followers and often teasing them, even going meta.

3. Glossier
Glossier came out of nowhere, starting as an online-only startup. Fanatical beauty enthusiasts on social helped the brand achieve cult status.

Using relatable memes and approaching beauty with an authentic voice, Glossier is able to really resonate with the social media audience. Plus, Glossier listens to its fanbase — it used feedback from Instagram followers to create a new moisturizer.  

Socially-conscious brands

top socially conscious brands  

1. Reebok

Paying attention to what your users care about is key. We’ve talked about how well Reebok stays ahead of the curve with its reactive storytelling newsroom.

In 2017, Reebok became even more on the money.

When Elizabeth Warren was silenced in the U.S. Senate and the subsequent phrase, “Nevertheless She Persisted” went viral, Reebok’s global newsroom quickly mobilized. The brand turned around an actual t-shirt that connected the moment to the brand.

Our data showed a spike in social media engagements for Reebok:
reebok persisted
While traditionally viewed as risky, these moments allow brands to show consumers that they care about what they care about.  

2. Patagonia

Patagonia is another brand that got involved in politics this year. When Trump signed an order that reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah by nearly 2 million acres, Patagonia made a big move.

It replaced its homepage with a banner calling out the action.

patagonia land
Like Reebok, the company is on-brand. It can be risky to take a political stance, but rather than alienating consumers, Patagonia is showing its aligned with what its consumers are passionate about.  

3. Shell

It doesn’t always have to be political. Shell’s commitment to efficient and clean energy on social connects it to something bigger than the brand. Oil companies often don’t get the best rep, so this philanthropic purpose is more amenable to social media users.

According to Shell, it’s called the #makethefuture campaign, and the brand has had a few famous faces help out.

This year, Shell switched from an 80 percent focus on traditional marketing to an 85 percent focus on digital media.

With a variety of posts from globally-focused stories and futuristic Facebook Live, Shell creates snapshot moments that stand out on social.  

Legacy top brands

We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the brands that continue to do an incredible job on social media.

legacy brands  

1. National Geographic

NatGeo continues to be the top brand (after Instagram itself) on Instagram. Captivating followers with micro-storytelling and captivating, out-of-the-ordinary visuals, the brand is one to keep an eye on.



Do we all just secretly want to be astronauts? Psychoanalysis aside, NASA does an amazing job of getting social media excited about space. From solar eclipses to interstellar discoveries, NASA’s social content is still out of this world.nasa

3. Red Bull

Red Bull’s pivot from brand to media powerhouse continues to be inspiring. Far beyond just a beverage brand, Red Bull has associated its name with thrill-seekers and adventurers.

red bull  

Want to learn more about how to create viral content? Check out our 2018 guide.



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