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6 Ways Nike Built a Strong Brand on Social Media

Kavya Ravi

From the iconic swoosh logo to the ‘Just Do It’ slogan which is now part of pop culture, Nike is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The retail juggernaut has moved beyond the domain of selling sportswear to branding themselves as a lifestyle. It should come as no surprise that Nike takes the cake on social media as well. Nike embraced digital before digital was even a norm. From football communities on social media to Nike+ Run Club app, the brand has adapted to digital age and has grown aggressively, connecting with consumers locally and globally.

Overall Social Media Activity

With a total of 318 social media profiles catering to a multitude of products and geolocations, Nike is one of the most followed brands online. Nike has social media profiles on all major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn. The brand diversified their online presence by creating separate pages for its products catering to different target audiences. The sportswear giant is a champion on social media with quite a few reigning statistics to their name. Nike Football with 44 million fans is one of the top ten most followed brand pages on Facebook, while the brand’s primary Instagram account is the second most followed with 77 million followers!

We analyzed Nike’s primary social media profiles across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for the period from January 01, 2017 to December 31, 2017. Here’s what we found out.

Facebook

Nike has over 29 million followers on its primary Facebook page, gaining over 2 million new fans in 2017 alone! The brand published 51 posts in the time period and promoted more than 80% of them. In terms of content, Nike posted 38 videos and 10 photos. Videos were also the top performing content for the brand. It is noteworthy that Nike has been focusing their Facebook strategy on videos even prior to the algorithm change in 2016.

Campaigns

Nike’s most engaging posts were part of two major campaigns they ran in 2017. Their ambitious ‘Breaking2’ project brought a huge amount of social media attention for the brand. World-class marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese attempted to run 26.219 miles in under two-hours, a feat that has never been done before in the history of the sport. Regardless of the outcome, the ultimate winner was Nike as the athletes wore a customized version of Nike’s racing shoe for the event.

The chart above shows the engagement over time that the ‘Breaking2’ campaign received. It was the most successful of the 6 campaigns that Nike ran during the time period. As part of the campaign, Nike posted 5 times on Facebook including a pre-event trailer. The brand live-streamed the event which garnered over 5.4 million views! The campaign video below received 11K shares and more than 6.6 million video views.

Nike launched the ‘Equality’ campaign during Black History Month in February. The highlight of the campaign was a 90 second video-spot featuring Serena Williams and LeBron James with voiceover by actor Michael B Jordan. The campaign which debuted at a time following the announcement of Trump’s immigration ban garnered a lot of limelight.

Content Strategy

Quality Over Quantity

Nike posted just four times a month on average. The brand does not follow a consistent pattern in posting.Instead ,the posting frequency is topical, with Nike posting frequently during their campaigns or around international sporting events featuring their brand ambassadors. In order to understand Nike’s low posting frequency, we delved a bit deeper. It is interesting to note that from 836 posts in 2012, the brand has seen a steep decline in content being posted to Facebook over the years, with the brand posting a meagre 28 times in 2015.

Megastar Endorsers

Nike undoubtedly has the biggest names in sports as their spokespersons. From Roger Federer, LeBron James and Michael Jordan to Cristiano Ronaldo to name a few, the who’s who of sports are associated with Nike. By personifying the brand through these sporting legends and putting their faces ahead of the brand or their product, Nike has earned themselves a special place in the sporting world.

Go Beyond the Product

Storytelling as a marketing strategy has proved to be extremely effective for brands. Instead of a product being the centerpiece, the video below has Nike telling a story. The brand has effectively used this 2 minute video to communicate its core values. The video received more than 4.5 million views and over 30K shares!

Twitter

Nike added more than 58K new followers during the time period, bringing its total follower count to 7 million. The brand tweeted over 15K times, i.e. 41 tweets per day (including replies and retweets) on average. Similar to its posting frequency on Facebook, the brand posted only 50 proactive tweets in 2017.

Top Tweets

Nike’s ‘Equality’ campaign received high engagement on Twitter as well. The campaign which included 3 tweets, received 23K retweets and 30K likes.

Mentions

Nike’s partnerships with high profile celebrities is reflected in the mentions they recieve on Twitter. Nike’s top 10 influencer mentions include the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr and Kevin Hart who also are among the top 50 most followed accounts in Twitter.

Campaigns

Nike took a concerted effort for the ‘Breaking2’ campaign on Twitter as well. In order to drive traffic, the brand engaged in conversations with their followers. From the chart below, it is evident that the reply rate peaked from May 4 – May 6 during the campaign. Nike also ran 17 ads on Twitter for the event, some of them targeted to specific geographies.

Nike live-tweeted the event on May 6th on a Twitter thread that saw a high level of activity. The tweet below received more than 14K retweets and 50K likes.

The campaign was such a success that even their rival Adidas couldn’t resist it!

Customer Service

Nike uses Twitter prominently to address customer queries with 99.2% of the brands tweets being replies. On average, Nike replied in 8 hrs. Brand mentions peak from 2 PM to 3 PM, while Nike replies the most from 12 AM to 1 PM. The brand replied the most on Fridays and Saturdays.

Nike also has a separate Twitter handle solely dedicated for customer service, @NikeSupport. The average reply time (ART) of @NikeSupport is 7 hours and the response rate is 75.9%.


The brand replied from 3 AM to 8 PM, with the reply rate peaking at 11 AM. They provided customer support on all days of the week, responding the fastest on Saturdays and Sundays with an ART of less than 3 hours.

Nike also promptly responds to customer queries directed at other Nike handles.

YouTube

Nike has over 777K subscribers, adding 133K new subscribers in 2017. It is interesting to note that in comparison to their other social media profiles, Nike posted more frequently on YouTube with the brand uploading 70 videos.

Top Videos

Nike’s YouTube strategy is primarily focused on putting their products on center stage. Behind-the-scene-videos detailing product stories and their making form a major portion of their video marketing on YouTube. The video below, featuring the brand’s latest product Nike AirVapor Max, is the most-viewed content for Nike in 2017 with more than 20 million views!

Campaigns

Campaigns also form a major part of Nike’s YouTube strategy. Undoubtedly, Nike promoted ‘Breaking2’ on YouTube as well. They released 8 short videos of less than 2 minutes showcasing behind-the-scene preparations of the event.

Another video series that Nike launched was ‘Meet the Revolutionair’. As part of the campaign, Nike released 12 short videos featuring 12 creatives from around the world who were invited to co-create their version of Nike Air Max. Nike simultaneously ran a ‘Vote Forward’ poll that asked the audience to vote for their favorite design.

By benchmarking Nike’s YouTube stream against their biggest competitor Adidas, we find that Nike uploaded more videos than Adidas (50). Their videos also gained better engagement and positive response in terms of likes and comments.

Instagram

Nike holds the unparalleled golden standard on Instagram. With an astonishing 77.1 million followers, Nike is the second most followed brand on Instagram. The sports giant is also the 16th most popular account on Instagram, the only brand other than Instagram and National Geographic to make it to the top 20 list.

In 2017, the brand saw a 10.7 % growth in followers, adding more than 7 million new fans. Nike uploaded 53 posts in during the time period, a frequency that the brand has maintained across various platforms. The chart below shows the posting frequency of the brand suggesting that Nike does not have a consistent pattern in posting.

Engagement

On Instagram, Nike received the highest engagement for photos which consisted of just 30% of the published content. The brand received the highest engagement during 7 AM and 8 AM, while posting frequency peaked at 11 AM. Sunday was the most engaging day for the brand as they published more content on that day.

Top Content

The photo below received the highest engagement with 780K likes!

Content Strategy

Influencers

Who doesn’t want to learn from their hero? Nike celebrates their influencers and showcases them as inspirations. Their top posts featured the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and artists like Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Kevin Hart.

Everyone loves an underdog. #justdoit

A post shared by nike (@nike) on

Hashtags

Nike used their brand hashtags on posts. Their most used hashtag is #justdoit (22%) followed by #nike (15%). They also created event hashtags like #Breaking2 for their campaign and #airmaxday for their product launch.

Products

Nike uses Instagram’s highly visual platform to introduce their latest products. Videos and teasers are released to boost product launches.

It’s not a shoe, it’s a movement. #AirMax

A post shared by nike (@nike) on

Social Media Crisis

Nike had a relatively peaceful year in terms of PR disasters that most brands find themselves in. But, the brand came under social media ire when Nike unveiled its first hijab sportswear called ‘Pro Hijab’ for International Women’s Day in March. The move was met with mixed reactions with many praising it while many dismissed it.

Many claimed that hijab normalizes the oppression of women and threatened to boycott Nike as a result. The brand remained tight-lipped on social media.

Nike was caught in a rather embarrassing goof-up when they posted a childhood picture of Cristiano Ronaldo after his Champions League win in July. Fans on social media were quick to call out Nike for cropping out the original Adidas logo.

Key Takeaways

More than a brand

Nike’s social media makes one want to hit the gym! Nike is all about its brand identity on social – visually stunning content that showcases the Nike lifestyle. Instead of just selling the product, Nike takes a holistic approach to centering their brand identity around the concept of fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

What’s in the numbers

Nike does not believe in crowding their social media profile with posts. They focus on creating quality content and promoting it whenever they post, rather than posting frequently.

Seeing is believing

Nike focuses on telling stories that resonate with their consumers’ aspirations, goals, lifestyles and dreams. Posts and stories that celebrate positivity and empowerment is an effective exercise in emotional branding for Nike.

Campaigns rule the roost

Nike leaves no stone unturned for promoting their campaigns on social media. The brand curated different strategies for the different social channels and successfully utilized their offline campaigns to create the much needed hype.

Keep your customers close

With their friendly and approachable attitude to customers, Nike does not let down their fans. Their eagerness to streamline all the discussions and complaints to their dedicated customer service channel showcases the importance the brand places on their fans.

The big names

Much of Nike’s success can be attributed to its sponsorship and deals with the greatest names in professional sports. Nike capitalizes on their high-profile influencers on social media as well. Their diverse set of influencers across different sports acts as a credible and a trustworthy voice for the brand.

Nike’s social media strategy and its effectiveness can be seen in the sheer number of followers the brand has. There’s something every brand can learn from Nike and emulate.

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