Who's winning the social media war? Maybe nobody

Taco Bell and Coca-Cola
(From left): Adam Jeffery | CNBC; Getty Images

Social media success tends to correlate with higher profits for major brands, but consumers don't always have good things to say. (Tweet This)

CNBC got an exclusive look at data to be reported Tuesday by Brandwatch, a social media analytics company, that tracks the social media efforts of 50 of the largest restaurant, food and beverage brands. The company pulled Facebook and Twitter posts mentioning each brand and rated the visibility, responsiveness and positive or negative sentiment directed at each brand.

The higher a company ranks in quantity of mentions, the more negative the comments tend to be. Fast food chains like Taco Bell, Domino's, and Subway have a lot of people talking about them, but they are close to the bottom when it comes to sentiment scores.


Contrast that with a brand like 7UP, which tends to get positive comments on social media—but from few people.

According to the data, it is rare for a company to have both high visibility and positive sentiment. Coca-Cola is practically the only brand that can pull off both—and that's coming from the fourth most valuable brand in the entire world, according to Forbes.

The most disdained food and beverage brand among the 50 examined between January and April was Frosted Mini-Wheats. The Frosted Mini-Wheats account is not very active, so it doesn't benefit from retweeted positive messages from the brand itself, said Brandwatch content researcher James Lovejoy. The low social volume could also allow a few negative comments—like some recent mentions advocating for Mini Spooners (a generic brand) over Mini-Wheats—to swing the brand's net sentiment to the low end, he said.


Companies that tend to respond to consumers' social mentions tended to have higher sentiment scores. Social engagement is also the metric that best predicts a company's overall social score in the Brandwatch index, said Lovejoy.

"In 2015, companies have to care a great deal about their overall social media presence because social media is the public's go-to forum for praising or cutting down products, services and brands," Brandwatch CMO Will McInnes said in an email. "Having a high social engagement or positive sentiment from consumers can definitely affect a company's bottom line."

Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications at Domino's, said that while their own studies indicate that most of the company's social interactions are neutral, they are neither surprised nor dismayed by Brandwatch's finding.

"We strive to achieve exceptional customer service and our customers have come to learn that they can use our social media platforms to reach out to us with a concern," said McIntyre in an email. "In this case at least, we view the negative to be a bit of a positive."

The company monitors Twitter and Facebook mentions closely and responds as quickly as possible, and the company's sales growth and stock value indicate that the company's strategy is working, he said.

Representatives of Taco Bell, Subway, and Kellogg's did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

UPDATED: This story was updated to include comment from Domino's.