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 reach their customers in innovative ways. The Social Business Index from Dachis Group provides a (free) real-time ranking of more than 30,000 global brands based on their social performance. Every week we're taking a tally of who's getting heard, what they're saying and why it matters.

The brands in the top twenty this week are starting to shuffle. While National Amusements remains at No. 1, News Corp. moved up a rank to No. 2 and knocked Google back to No. 3. The other interesting detail to note is Apple's climb. Just a few weeks ago, the Cupertino, California, company was nowhere to be seen, and now it's in the top ten. But this week, we're more interested in what's happening further down the list. Nintendo and Volkswagen, while two very different companies, are doing a great job pulling the heart strings of their customers. In an attempt to keep things fresh and interesting, we've also spotted some good strategies coming from Harley-Davidson.

Good news for all nostalgic boys and girls born in the 80s: Nintendo is attempting a turnaround. After getting pummeled in the press last year for its inaction when faced with a declining market share the Japanese gaming company is using social media to start talking directly to its customers. As the brand rose 25 spots in the ranks this week to No. 77, Nintendo's new strategy seems to be working. A week ago, the company's president and CEO Reggie Fils-Aime took to YouTube to let everyone know about some upcoming changes to Nintendo products and new games that will soon come out. It's nearly 12-minutes long, boring at times but inevitably a good effort. Elsewhere, there are signs that Nintendo is refocusing on its Wii strategy. The break in updates, apparently, is a good thing when it comes to social media. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," Dachis analyst Ellen Reynolds told us, "and Wii fans are ecstatic to know that Nintendo is finally bringing them a piece of the action."

It's atypical for us to feature a brand that didn't move at all on the Social Business Index. But Volkswagen is an interesting exception, this week. Following a decent amount of chatter after yet another successful Star Wars-themed Super Bowl commercial, the brand stayed steady at No. 49. Volkswagen has been moving up since its addition to the Index, and it's starting to get interesting. "It’s no secret that Volkswagen owners are a passionate bunch, so it should come as no surprise they’re willing to share how they feel," the says Dachis Group's Ellen Reynolds. And this in mind, VW's sister brand Audi is getting sassy lately on Facebook. "The posts where Audi pitted their cars against competitive models (Audi A6 vs Lexus GS350, Audi A8 vs BMW 750Li) were the most liked, commented and shared, generating almost 17,000 likes, 450 comments and 2,000 shares." This is with only a million fans -- a paltry number compared to monster brands like Coca-Cola which has 40 million.

Harley-Davidson is winning with pictures. The company pushed up nine slots on the ranks this week to No. 135, thanks to good use of images in engaging with its Facebook fans. "Every day, Harley loads up their Facebook page with a “Photo of the Day,” fun facts, bike customizations, and other text-heavy posts. The photos of vintage bikes, highly-coveted rides, and romantic Valentine’s shots (!) receive between three to 12 times better engagement than Harley’s brand posts," Kate Rush Sheehy, an analyst at the Dachis Group, told us. "Visual content typically performs much better than text-based posts on Facebook, and Harley’s Facebook page is a perfect case that people would rather see their hogs than read about them." It all makes sense. After all, motorcycles aren't fun because they're safe (they're not) -- they're safe because they look cool. They also sound cool, but we haven't seen anybody doing interesting things with sound effects on social media. Yet.

 

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.