From Gucci to Dunkin' Donuts, six brands making smart use of social media

1. Banana Republic


This manufacturer of stylish, moderately priced clothing knows that its target demographic is on Facebook, and has created a page that allows users to mix and match items to see how clothes work together.

There's an application for shopping while staying on Facebook, and users can even tune in to a fashion show that is periodically shown on the page. The clean, easy-to-use page complements the company's other marketing techniques.

2. Gucci


Although many wouldn't imagine a luxury brand like Gucci to aggressively market itself on Facebook, the manufacturer of high-end handbags and clothing has a dynamic page.

Users, of course, can check out the latest Gucci apparel and accessories and can also flirt with their friends by sending an "Eye Want You" card. Gucci understands that income level doesn't have much to do with Facebook usage, and its page design efforts have been rewarded by more than 2 million fans.

3. HomeAway

[image-3]HomeAway has come out with two innovative pieces this year.

It came out with a bang for its 2010 Super Bowl commercial, as well as its 2011 customizable commercial. Employing awesome technology, it managed to make the Super Bowl commercial completely customizable, allowing users to upload their own images onto the baby's face, and actually "star" in it.

HomeAway also launched an app that allows users to pull their vacation rentals into an ad with a customizable tour; shareable with friends, family and prospective renters.

4. BMW


Another luxury brand that has capitalized on Facebook marketing, BMW has a no-nonsense page that lets users interact with the brand.

Features like BMW TV are geared to show off the cars' abilities and get people excited about driving them. The videos are also shareable, allowing users to market the company by embedding videos on their own news feeds.

5. Dunkin' Donuts

[image-5]The Dunkin' Donuts Facebook page is very user-friendly with lots of games and competitions for users.

These games are usually designed to be quick to play and easy to learn, making it simple for a user to impulsively click and use them. For instance, one game asks, "What Dunkin' Iced Coffee Flavor Are You? Find Out!"  The page is a fun way for users to play with the brand online.

6. Heinz


Capitalizing on one of its most popular products, Heinz has created a Facebook page devoted mostly to — you guessed it — ketchup. While this narrow focus might scare off some businesses, it actually works in Heinz's favor, since users can easily identify with what they initially find on the page. The use of a popular product that most people are familiar with makes it easy for people to get engaged quickly. While the fan base is still growing, there's potential.

So if you're ready to test the social media waters, just remember that it's easier to stand on the shoulders of giants than reinvent the wheel. Some of the best ideas stem from something else and are improved upon.

Which one of the above ideas might be a good social addition to your business plan?

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The social media landscape is not a forgiving place.

Though opportunities abound, it's tough for business owners to implement a social media idea that pays off and takes root.

The good news is that social media marketing platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to experiment, and you can often get instant data about how many people have shared, seen or used your new application.

But unless you're a real marketing genius, it might be a good idea for you to look to successful examples for ideas.

Here are six brands that aren't going anywhere due to their clever and consistent use of social media.

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