When Facebook (FB) first started getting popular in the mid- to late 2000s, no one knew what to expect. MySpace reigned as the premier social network at that time, and the term “social media” was absent from popular culture.
My, what a difference 10 years makes. Today, Facebook is a global cultural — and commercial — phenomenon.
The combination of its enormous user base and hyper-targeted advertising opportunities puts Facebook in a league of its own. The network’s 1.4 billion monthly active users allow brands to connect to and engage with their fans in ways previously unimaginable.
Nowadays, social media isn’t just a cool way for brands to advertise — it’s a business necessity.
The following brands know that already; they’re the 10 brands with the most Facebook “likes” today, according to stats from Fan Page List.
#10: KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)
Number of Fans: 37.3 million
The Colonel might boast a silver mop, but don’t think for a second that he doesn’t know how to work Facebook.
Among KFC’s most notorious accomplishments is the Double Down sandwich, a concoction that replaced slices of bread with meaty slabs of fried chicken and took America by storm in 2010, selling 10 million sandwiches in the first month.
Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn’t just break barriers to reach new customers — it leverages star power, too. In 2009, it teamed with none other than Oprah Winfrey to offer free Kentucky Grilled Chicken at thousands of its store locations.
A far more valuable claim to fame for the company though, is its sprawling Facebook following, which the company can market to directly. At 37 million “likes” and counting, KFC has the 10th-largest following of any brand on Facebook.
#9: Converse/Converse All Star
Number of Fans: 37.5 million
Converse might come off as an unlikely member of this list, but the brand’s signature Chuck Taylors simply refuse to go out of style.
Let’s be honest, though: Chuck Taylor All Stars are immortal either way.
The old-school shoe company keeps its Facebook page fresh by posting daily photos of its iconic kicks in visually striking arrangements. Fans frequently share, “like” and comment on the pictures, often posting pictures of themselves rocking their favorite pair.
#8: Samsung MobileNumber of Fans: 39.2 million
It’s no secret that Samsung (SSNLF) and Apple (AAPL) have a somewhat strained relationship. In the three years between 2011 and 2014, the two companies filed more than 40 patent lawsuits against one another before finally signing a peace treaty dropping all lawsuits outside the U.S.
And although Apple remains the most profitable company on the planet, Samsung is beating Apple in at least one area: Facebook. Samsung Mobile has more than 39 million “likes,” vs. some 11 for Apple’s best page, which centers around its App Store.
How did Samsung gain such a massive social media presence? Its high-quality products might have something to do with it. Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6, earned 4.5 out of 5 stars from CNET, which called it “the first great smartphone of 2015.”
Number of Fans: 40 million
“Milk’s favorite cookie” turned 100 years old in 2012, but just because it’s over the century mark doesn’t mean it lacks a mean social media game.
Diehard fans of the chocolate and creme cookies don’t care how long they’ve been around — they just want them to remain available on store shelves. That shouldn’t be a problem, as global Oreo sales topped $3.2 billion in 2014, easily making it the best-selling cookie on the globe.
To understand just how popular Oreos are, consider this: The combined sales of Girl Scout cookies and Little Debbie treats only amounted to about a third of Oreo’s sales last year.
#6: Red Bull
Number of Fans: 43 million
Red Bull, the brand behind the energy drink that “gives you wings,” certainly soars above its competition when it comes to Facebook “likes.” At 43 million fans and counting, Red Bull has more Facebook fans than The Beatles — arguably the most popular band of all time.
It’s really no surprise that Red Bull deftly navigated the path to being one of the most popular brands on Facebook — the company’s branding efforts in the 2000s have been nothing short of legendary.
The annual Red Bull Flugtag competition, wherein doomed homemade flying machines are launched off a pier only to plummet into the expectant waters below, radiates a lighthearted yet intense aura that the Red Bull brand cheerfully embraces.
And when, in 2012, Red Bull sponsored Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner as he became the first man to skydive from outer space, its Facebook page got more than a few “likes” with the avalanche of publicity.
Number of Fans: 46.7 million
The House of Mouse remains as relevant as it ever was. In fact, Disney (DIS) is arguably a more influential media company today than it has ever been.
In the last 10 years alone, under the brilliance of CEO Bob Iger, Disney bought Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, giving Disney an even more dynamic entertainment portfolio that will likely go unchallenged for decades to come.
In the modern-day era of the blockbuster superhero movie and with another Star Wars trilogy on the way, Disney has come a long way from its humble beginnings.
Most importantly, Disney is still tapped into the boundless imaginations of young fans, as 2013’s Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film of all time, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Number of Fans: 48 million
Like Disney, MTV is yet another media company with a young target audience. Is it any surprise that these youth-focused companies should enjoy a huge Facebook following? After all, 87% of 18- to 29-year-old Americans with Internet access use Facebook, according to data from Pew Research.
While MTV hasn’t truly embraced its “Music Television” roots for years now, it still knows how to churn out compelling content. Catfish: The TV Show, Teen Mom, Ridiculousness and True Life are all reliable institutions that MTV can lean on to fill out its programming schedule.
Number of Fans: 56.9 million
The largest fast-food restaurant on the face of the planet also pulls its weight on Facebook, where McDonald’s (MCD) has more fans than any other restaurant in the world.
As rivals like Taco Bell, Burger King and others tweak their menus to lure the morning crowd in fast food’s “breakfast wars,” McDonald’s presence on social media is more important now than ever.
When it comes to self-promotion, McDonald’s has found a winner in the McRib, which commands a loyal following of devout fans who have been known to flock from location to location as the limited-time offer intermittently pops up.
McDonald’s is currently promoting its new Sirloin Third Pound Burger — or at least trying to. The Hamburglar recently emerged from an extended hiatus, though public opinion about the revived character is mixed.
Number of Fans: 80.7 million
It’s no wonder that YouTube is the second most-liked Facebook brand page. After Google (GOOG, GOOGL) and Facebook, YouTube.com is the third-most-visited website in the world. In fact, Facebook and YouTube enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship — YouTube videos are able to go viral more easily through Facebook, which also means Facebook users become more engaged with the content in their feeds.
YouTube also appeals to a young demographic, not only because web-based video is growing by leaps and bounds, but because anyone, in theory, can become an overnight “star.” Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube as a 12-year-old Canadian kid, and look at him today!
Well, maybe that’s not the best example.
But his YouTube music video with the rapper/actor Ludacris, “Baby,” is the second-most-watched YouTube video of all-time, garnering over 1.1 billion views to date. So there’s that.
Number of Fans: 162 million
OK, so it’s not exactly fair. But it is true: Facebook is the most-liked brand on Facebook, with more than double the fans of runner-up YouTube. About 14% of the social network’s 1.4 billion monthly active users “like” the page.
Technically, “Facebook for Every Phone” outranks Facebook as the page with the most likes — it has more than 520 million of them, but those numbers are artificially inflated. When you download the Facebook mobile app, you’re given the option to “like” the Facebook for Every Phone page when you first log in — an advantage no other page enjoys.
At the end of the day, one thing is clear no matter how you slice the data: Facebook itself is far and away the most-liked brand on Facebook, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon.
As of this writing, John Divine was long shares of GOOG stock, GOOGL stock, and AAPL stock. You can follow him on Twitter at @divinebizkid or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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