The social media sphere is an increasingly noisy place, especially for brands. But hiding somewhere in the static are strong signals from companies reaching 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.

Spring is the thing people are talking about across social media platforms this week, and the companies leveraging that are seeing the biggest engagement. While News Corp. retook the top spot from National Amusements, we didn't see any big moves in the top 20, though Facebook and Kraft both rose two spots. The three brands that caught our eye latched on to events like St. Patrick's Day, attitudes like taking time to relax and play games on Facebook as well as practical needs like wearing spring clothes. So grab a Shamrock Shake, close out of Texas Hold 'Em and take off that Gap hoodie. Spring is here and so is a new crop of hot brands on the Social Business Index.

McDonald's has gotten pretty good at this whole marketing thing over the past half century, so we're not surprised to see them emerge as this week's biggest mover with a ten rank jump to No. 30 on the Social Business Index. As is typical for Mickey D's, the company has leveraged the change of season and holiday. This spring, McDonald's is "bringing the double back" and the Shamrock Shake, too. On Twitter, they've been working the #ShamrockShake, offering people #luck in exchange for @mentions. On Facebook, it was also all about the Shamrock Shake, and it looks like variety was the key to keeping fans interested. After posting a teaser letting everyone know the shake was on the way, McDonald's followed up with a video, a photo, an announcement that the shake was now available and finally a thank you note for all the support. They were all different calls to action and McDonald's fans listened with hundreds of shares and comments and thousands of Likes on each post. Then again, it certainly helps that McDonald's has over 18 million Facebook fans.

Zynga is obviously a social media powerhouse. Since its entire business is based on playing games with friends and (for the most part) doing it on Facebook, it's not at all surprising that Zynga exploded up the index this week, rising 98 spots to No. 44. The epic performance is directly related to the launch of a free-to-play version its flagship game Texas Hold 'Em Poker. "The wall has been blowing up since the announcement, with each post pulling in 5,000 likes and hundreds of shares and comments," Allison Squires, a Dachis analyst, told The Atlantic Wire, adding that Zynga's releasing a game is hardly the end of its efforts to get people involved. "Engagement stays high on the page, mostly because the brand is constantly posting poker tips, free chips and other deals to keep fans coming back." And if you thought McDonald's had a lot of fans, think again. Most recently, Zynga's been approaching 60 million.

Believe it or not the Gap did not completely fade into irrelevance after it more or less dominated mainstream fashion in the 1990s. Lately, the group of brands has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to some engaging social media marketing campaigns, and this week, it climbed 16 spots to land at No. 81 on the Index. It appears that the company is using partnerships with much hipper companies to expand its reach. "This week it was all about ‘the designer’ (Gap) and ‘the coupon’ (Old Navy).   Gap’s Facebook page has been buzzing about the new Diane von Furstenberg collection at GapKids," says Lauren Picarello, an analyst at The Dachis Group. "The collection hits stores March 15, but Gap has had us all watching and waiting all week. This sneak peek YouTube video and set of sneak peek images of the clothing line have received particular fan attention. In addition to the exciting new collection, Gap has put forth a set of engaging and relevant posts recently on  the brand’s design partnership and fan competition with Threadless and consistent fan photos from Gap’s Instagram feed." While their fanbase is still growing, fashion companies are getting lucky not only with the buzz around fashion week but also unseasonably warm weather across the country that means people need to buy new spring clothes. And take pictures of them with Instagram. 

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 others. The index, which currently covers approximately 25,0000 companies and 27,000 brands, detects behaviors and activities exhibited by these companies and 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 end of the day on Sundays.