25 Must-Follow Socially Engaging Brands in the New Year

One of the top cited goals by brands in social media is engagement. Interacting and inspiring engagement with social users impacts business by building brand awareness and word of mouth, creating better customer experiences, converting in meaningful ways and increasing customer loyalty. While there's no "one social size fits all" approach, it's always worth noting what successful brands are doing to pave the way in social media. These 25 brands - curated from multiple industries, social networks and approaches to engagement, listed in no particular order illustrate the multiple strategies and tactics that might give you ideas on how grow and mature your own social engagement.

1. Volunteer Match Volunteer Match is one of the ultimate examples of engaging a socially-minded audience. The organization's Facebook Page and Twitter account engage motivated individuals through posted volunteer opportunities and compelling multimedia content that highlights social impact.  

2. John Deere As one of the most iconic equipment brands in the world, John Deere's Facebook Page shows how clean, visual imagery can fuel social interaction and loyalty. It's also smart marketing; the memorable images keep the John Deere product line top of mind for future purchase decisions.  

3. Jason's Deli Jason's Deli embraces Twitter to connect with deli lovers. Their approach? "Make someone happy." Each Tweet aims to do just that, and has proven a valuable strategy in finding, acquiring, and retaining customers.  

4. Starbucks With one of the most beloved lines of specialty coffee products, the Starbucks Facebook Page is an homage to caffeine-inspired imagery.  Their customer base is fiercely loyal about Liking, Sharing, and Commenting on the consistently engaging multimedia the brand shares.    

5. AT&T AT&T doesn't just push phone  specials on Twitter. They've raised the engagement bar by creating ongoing discussions about relevant topics. From #ilovemyphone memes to inspiring 1 million people to take the #ItCanWait pledge not to text and drive, AT&T has proven that 140 characters can drive brand and advocacy-impacting interaction.  

6. CNN CNN, and each of its news programs, have defined a new face for social news consumption. With the main accounts of CNN, CNN Breaking News and CNN iReport, social users access up-to-the second news as details unravel and can share with their own networks instantly. Fans can also engage directly with news personalities to interact in a more personalized way.  

7. Pier 1 Imports Pier1's Facebook Page About section shares "If it's interesting, if it's impressive, if it's hippy and happy and one-of-a-kind, then odds are it's probably from Pier 1 Imports." Each update and response embodies the brand's persona, providing Fans with a personalized, enjoyable experience.  

8. Aramark You might have engaged with Aramark in social and not have even known it. Checked out a university campus menu on Facebook? Maybe read the Twitter feed of a sports stadium's specials of the day or social updates from a National Park or recreation center? You've seen the social business of Aramark in action.  

9. AAA For all things automotive travel, AAA has its community socially covered. Whether members care about national travel discounts and trends or local area travel advisories and member specials, both the national and local social accounts regularly provide timely, helpful updates and ideas.    

10. Weight Watchers Feeling inspired to get or stay healthy has never been so social. Weight Watchers has created a community of more than one million Fans and dedicates its social presence to inspiration and practical guidance "“delivered with an interactive group of community members supporting each other.

11. Wells Fargo Delighting social customers is something the team at Wells Fargo thinks about everyday. Ask a public question about your account on Twitter? Check into a local branch on FourSquare and tweet it out?  Can't figure out how to solve a banking issue and post it on their Facebook Page? Wells Fargo is likely to chime in, to say hi or to help you solve your query.

12. AutoZone Aside from their corporate Facebook Page that often provides entertaining and often humorous updates, AutoZone is working to create a social presence that creates value for social customers. Honing in on their DIY-focused audience, the AutoZone YouTube account is chock-full of videos teaching social users the what, when, and how of automotive handy work.  

13. RetailMeNot Shopaholics unite and stand ready to pounce on the multiple updates shared daily by RetailMeNot's Facebook Page. As new offers and coupons come in, they are shared by the brand devotees. It's obvious from their engagement levels, there aren't many people who don't "Like" a great deal.  

14. Discover Financial Services Discover has worked to put a personal touch on social activity. Their community managers are put front and center on their corporate Twitter account, showing you that each time you get a personal response to a question, engage in a #ShopDiscover conversation or receive feedback on a mention, you're talking with a real person.  

15. HomeAway HomeAway embraces social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to stimulate travelers"™ interests and ideas for travel experiences.  Rather than leading with property listing updates, HomeAway leads with experiential ideas (Dream Home, Beautiful Bathrooms, Beachfront Getaways) that speak to the interests of different travelers. They also engage directly with users, adding "bonus ideas" and helpful traveling tips.    

16. Life Time Fitness Looking for fitness inspiration? An extra push to get you to the gym tonight? Life Time Fitness will give you that boost, keep you up to date on local fitness trends, and let their active, engaged community expand and drive the discussion.  

17. Target Through a multi-channel, integrated social media presence, Target combines all the things customers and brand advocates love about the company: great deals, clean visual imagery, and a little humor and personality to make interactions more unique.  

18. Lexus The Toyota owned brand touts "the pursuit of perfection" as its mission and that"™s just what it strives to embody "“ visually and with great content - on each social channel. From stunning automotive images to social activity that supports social causes, Lexus inspires their hyper-loyal brand advocates to engage across FacebookTwitterFourSquare and more.  

19. AARP Yes, that AARP. With more than one million Facebook Fans, 50K Twitter Followers, and almost 8.5 million views from YouTube videos, the organization that serves the 50+ community also knows how to connect, entertain, and engage. Who else has viral videos starring Betty White as an, ahem, car wash manager, or a Grandparent"™s Day rendition of "Call me Maybe"?    

20. Whole Foods In addition to maintaining globally managed presences on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, among other social networks, Whole Foods allows its 340+ stores to provide relevant, local, timely content to their communities.  This allows each region to share its own local flavor while preserving brand integrity. Want a healthy serving of swoon-worthy food photo? Follow them on Instagram.

21. Accenture B2B brands like Accenture are finding more ways to connect with their audiences. By identifying the value they can create for customers, prospects, and partners, Accenture quickly took advantage of new LinkedIn Company Page functionality and is now regularly engaging their 630,000+ Followers. Interaction-inspiring status updates, a complete Services overview (to invite organic recommendations), and featured groups and resources have made them one of the biggest presences on LinkedIn as a brand.  

22. USAA USAA is more than a financial services institution. They are a conduit between financial resources and military service members (and their families) who have served the nation. Keeping that identity in mind with every social activity they make, USAA"™s social media presence embodies one of the most identifiable and engaging presences supporting our country"™s veterans.    
23. US Cellular US Cellular may not be the biggest cellular phone service provider but they are one of the most interactive with their customers on Twitter. Make a comment about your US Cellular service, the recent new phone you purchased or give public feedback about the company? Chances are, you"™ll hear a "thank you", get a RT, receive a link to more resources or a simple acknowledgment of your message.  
24. Hershey"™s Reese"™s Candy aficionados are intensely loyal about their favorite confections. Hershey"™s, one of the most recognizable candy brands, and its line of Reese"™s Pieces might be the most social candy products to date. 10 million fans strong on Facebook, fans literally tag their own pictures of Reese"™s by the hundreds while the community managers at Reese"™s stay busy responding personally to questions, requests for the candy to be sold in locations around the world, and of course, provide visually engaging daily posts to satisfy your sweet-tooth.  
25. Warner Brothers (The CW) More than 67 million Facebook Fans have swarmed around the uber-popular TV shows from The CW (think Gossip Girl, America"™s Next Top Model, 90210, One Tree Hill, etc).  Each account has its own distinct personality and voice "“ a la the show and its characters "“ offering everything from show recaps and insider footage to funny e-cards and discussion starters about plotlines.  
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