The social media sphere is an increasingly noisy place, especially for brands. But hiding somewhere in the static, some companies are sending strong signals that reaches their customers in innovative ways. The Dachis Group has recently begun a real-time ranking of which companies have the most effective social strategies with their Social Business Index. Every week we're taking a tally of who's getting heard, what they're saying, and why it matters.

The explosion of conversation leading up to the holidays shifted into a lot of forward-looking activity in the world of social media this week. Once again -- and it's starting to get weird -- the top ten companies remained largely the same compared to last week, though National Amusement's dropped one slot giving News Corp. sole reign over the top 20 brands in social media. Further down the list, Electronic Arts scooted up five spots and Pepsi advanced two. But the real winners were further down the list with a full force social media blitz from the politics team at NBC News, buoyed by a partnership with Facebook and an upcoming GOP Primary debate on MSNBC. Nike continued to dominate with more well-timed shoe releases and a very simple Q&A session with its Converse fans. Finally, BMW shows us that sometimes people just want to look at pretty pictures of pretty machines. We know we do.

NBC Universal is a huge media, so when they team up with the hugest social network, the impact is seismic. Thanks to aggressively pursing innovative, realtime GOP primary coverage, the network and its affiliates skyrocketed 28 slots into the top 100 this week. A large part of the increased chatter surely comes from NBC News's partnership with Facebook for what amounts to a pretty interesting-sounding renovation of how polls work: rather than depending on branded, top down polls, the new Facebook-NBC News polls offer people a more open-ended way of voicing their opinions. The questions so far simply ask Facebook users in the primary states what issues are most important to them; the economy is far and away the number one issue. (Check out a full chart of the results here.) This is all to prepare for the GOP debate on Meet the Press this Sunday, which will stream live both on Facebook and MSNBC's website. Meanwhile, the NBC News team will continue to make engagement with viewers and readers a top priority. "We really want to set the standard as a news organization that is engaging and interacting on social," NBC News social media editor Craig Kanalley told The Atlantic Wire. "Social media is two-way conversation."

By now, everybody knows that the holiday rush to buy the new Air Jordan Concord was insane, but the strategy that boosted Nike 15 spots into No. 30 this week is so simple it's silly. On New Year's Day, Nike subsidiary Converse just asked its 20 million Facebook fans flatly: Any big plans for 2012? In the words of Dachis analyst Allison Squires, "The response was huge." A thousand people shared the story on their own feeds in addition to the 15,000 Likes the post garnered. Not unlike the Facebook-NBC News strategy, it's the similicity that made it work. "This simple and personal question provided fans with an engaging, fill-in-the-blank way of interacting," Squires said. Of course, Nike also makes shoes that people love to talk about. The release of Nike's "Year of the Dragon" special edition Kobe VII System Supreme -- that's a lot of descriptors to talk about -- gave the brand's @Nikestore handle a lift of Twitter. So did the special reflective helmets Nike made for their hometown heroes, the Oregon Ducks. (Pre!) Some people loved them; some people hated them. Everybody talked about them on social media. "For now, the Ducks will sport the reflective gear, opponents will have to deal with the glare," Squires explained. "Nike scores big from the buzz."

As we noted a couple of weeks ago, people love talking about cars on social media, especially German ones. BMW is already a pretty successful brand when it comes to leveraging conversation, but a few new efforts are paying off handsomely giving the company a boost from No. 57 to No. 52 on the Social Business Index. Three things powered the bump: pretty pictures of fancy cars, props to motorcycle fans and a Romanian driving game. "Photos of a Limited Edition BMW 7 Series specifically designed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the unification of the United Arab Emirates received over 27,000 Likes, 800+ comments and was shared nearly 3,500 times," Dachis analyst Ellen Reynolds told us, adding that BMW's photos of new models tend to do well. "A staggeringly successful post," she admitted, "even for a page with 17 million fans." From there the interactive tag team offered by the newly launched Motorrad page offered motorcycle fans their own portal to chat in and Romanian fans, a custom-made interactive driving game. "Overall, a successful week for BMW," said Reynolds. "Looks like the ultimate driving machine may also have the ultimate social media experience."

Methodology: A project of the Dachis Group, a social business professional services group, the Social Business Index analyzes the conversations on social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and othrs. The index, which currently covers approximately 25,0000 companies and 27,000 brands, detects behaviors and activities exhibited by these companies, analyzes their execution and effectiveness at driving outcomes such as brand awareness, brand love, mind share, and advocacy. The Atlantic Wire takes a snapshot of the rankings at the close of business on Thursdays.