Given the nature of social media engagement today, a brand’s social media channel is about more than just followers, fans and photos. Each social campaign and post is an opportunity, as well as a significant responsibility, for a business to show what it’s made of.
The most successful social media campaign is one that’s thoughtfully crafted to reach a target audience, evoke emotion and elicit a response from those users.
Let’s revisit some of the most remarkable moments in social media marketing, and why these top social media campaigns work so well.
Social Media Is the Most Powerful Form of Digital Persuasion
Around the globe, nearly two-thirds of the 13-and-over population are now active on social media, with an average of 9 accounts per person. Engaged followers use a variety of platforms — from Instagram and Facebook to YouTube, Twitter and TikTok — to qualify brands’ trustworthiness and find community.
But today’s typical user doesn’t just count on a fresh stream of social media content to influence their purchasing decisions and provide entertainment. More than half of U.S. adults also scour social media for relevant news. Countless others seek accounts that help reinforce their value systems and even expand their worldviews.
Brands that understand how these factors fit together have opportunities to create the most compelling social media campaigns. Here are the best ones we’ve seen this year:
- ‘Rebuild the World’ by Lego.
- #WomenOwnWednesday by Verizon.
- #PasstheCrown by Dove.
- #COP26 by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- The ‘BTS Meal’ by McDonald’s.
- #FindYourFeels by Spotify.
- ‘You Have to See It’ by TikTok.
The LEGO Group recently updated its 3-year Rebuild the World campaign with 3 brand new, playful “films” on its YouTube channel. The first video of the series spotlights artist Alexa Mead to create a surreal masterpiece with kids through LEGO bricks. Alexa is famous for her pieces that play with perspective, so the video focuses on how children can rebuild their ideas into unique art.
The new videos transform the original campaign’s core messaging with a new storytelling format and a featured artist to inspire children globally. Similarly, in Episode 2, Billy Porter, award-winning actor, writer and singer, leads a conversation with children about the ways the LEGOs can inspire creativity and positivity. Through this conversation, Billy Porter and two children build an intricate LEGO crown to symbolize the heart of the message. Unlike most marketing pieces, this campaign video feels like an uplifting and open discussion between artists and children about the power of imagination and expression — not a pandering ad campaign.
The new series actively encourages children to create their own innovative solutions and overcome differences and challenges through entertaining and educational video content. Beyond that, the series also highlights diverse artists and activists as inspirational role models — a practice that can introduce children to new ideas, worldviews and forms of expression.
LEGO’s 3-episode video series is a standout campaign supplement to their already extremely popular YouTube channel.
In early 2021, Verizon commissioned a survey by Morning Consult to measure female workforce trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey highlighted that about 68% of women noted burnout as a leading factor in their decision to exit the workforce since the start of the pandemic. In response to the high number of women leaving the workforce, Verizon debuted its #WomenOwnWednesday campaign on March 10, 2021.
This exciting initiative aimed to support women-owned small businesses, as well as women entrepreneurs through Verizon’s social media platform spotlights each Wednesday of March, which is Women’s History Month.
Not only did this campaign introduce small, women-led businesses to the Verizon audience of over 230K Instagram followers, but the initiative also included additional perks: Verizon provided mentorship networks and free resources and training for female small business owners and entrepreneurs to help drive success and growth.
The new Instagram campaign also invited followers to tag and post their own #WomenOwnWednesdays entrepreneurs, which boosted engagement while also spotlighting many more female-led businesses than the original campaign was able to include in their own social media. This network of posts was further expanded through Verizon partners, such as New York City-based designer Christian Siriano.
Through his own #WomenOwnWednesdays post, Christian Siriano celebrated handbag and accessories designer Valérie Blaise. Beyond bringing more customers to their shop, the post also explained Valérie Blaise’s impact on the local New York City community as all unworked materials are donated by the shop to local art programs.
Verizon’s #WomenOwnWednesdays leveraged its large audience and celebrity partners to create an ever-expanding network of user generated content that highlighted women-owned businesses during Women’s History Month. And all because of their survey results, which identified the hardships women were facing due to the pandemic.
In 2004, Dove debuted its #RealBeauty marketing campaign to center its platform mission statement around the core values of inclusivity, natural beauty and positive body image. Since then, Dove has become an industry leader when it comes to intrinsically connecting values with new brand-defining campaigns. This past year, Dove kicked off another unforgettable social media marketing campaign called #PassTheCrown as part of its mission to pass the CROWN Act, which is anti-hair discrimination legislation that aims to end race-based hair discrimination, in all U.S. states.
Partnering with the National Urban League, Color of Change and Western Centre, Dove created the campaign hashtag #PassTheCrown to engage with people of color around the world and share their personal hair stories and struggles. Across its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, Dove spotlighted women of color and brought larger awareness to the CROWN Act.
These posts featured beautiful women embracing their natural hair without judgment or worries of discrimination. Furthermore, the innovative play on words with #PassTheCrown paralleled women’s natural hair with royalty and pride. Just as the goal was to pass the CROWN Act, the social media campaign also encouraged women to love their hair as unique crowns.
The brand highlights that 70% of women don’t feel represented in media and advertising — so Dove builds their campaigns to give a voice and a platform to those women. The end result? More inclusivity and diversity within mainstream media.
As marketing campaigns tackle various pressing issues from systemic racism to the impact of COVID-19, WHO has been using its Instagram feed to bring awareness of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) through its #COP26 campaign. The UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, 2021, where all participants will work together to drive action to fulfill the Paris Agreement and the US Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The world is already seeing the effects and impacts of human-caused climate change. Sea levels are rising, wildfires are increasing and extreme weather is becoming the standard, not the exception. WHO’s #COP26 campaign posts depict this “world on fire” motif through a vivid animated Instagram post that captures the severity of the climate crisis. Alongside the striking red and orange fire graphics, a siren blares in the background to catch the viewer’s attention — and hold it.
Besides the bright, animated post filled with critical climate change facts, the WHO also included personal video pieces in its campaign, such as the above. This post gives a face to the cause through Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, who bicycled from Geneva to London as a show of support for immediate climate change action.
Climate change is an alarming issue that has caused widespread concerns for the future health and safety of our planet. WHO’s campaign doesn’t shy away from the severity of the situation but it still provides examples of hope and inspiration through personal stories, such as Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum’s bike ride to London.
McDonald’s is a household name across the globe. In fact, it’s hard to imagine entering any major airport or city and not finding the iconic golden arches somewhere — so you know McDonald’s is an expert in social media strategy and advertising campaigns.
In May 2021, McDonald’s kicked off a one-of-a-kind marketing campaign partnering with BTS, a South Korean boy band that’s become a global phenomenon with dance-pop hits such as “Butter.”
Their campaign began with cryptic posts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter teasing the “BTS Meal” alongside a list of countries that would be offering the elusive new combo. The campaign instantly went viral as McDonald’s took advantage of the enormous buying power of BTS’s global fanbase. Partnering with young celebrities isn’t a new idea, but this collaboration stood out for its embrace of the all-Korean singing group as its main focal point.
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) May 26, 2021
Their tweet alone garnered over half a million likes and 182K retweets. Consisting of 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, two limited-time sauces, fries and a Coke, the BTS Meal was a huge marketing success; McDonald’s saw a 12% increase in restaurant visits during the first week of promoting the BTS Meal compared to the previous week.
Besides the quantifiable product launch success of McDonald’s BTS Meal, its social campaign introduced a positive and much-needed celebration of Asian artists in 2021. According to the World Economic Forum, anti-Asian hate crimes surged by 169% across 15 major U.S. cities between 2020 and 2021. Social media can’t end systemic racism, but it can reach out to marginalized communities and shine a light on positive representation. Due to the success of the BTS Meal, McDonald’s has continued to partner with BIPOC celebrities to make more specialty combo meals, such as with rapper Saweetie.
In September 2021, Spotify launched a multi-channel influencer campaign called #FindYourFeels directly targeting its specifically Gen Z audience. For reference: Pew Research recently classified anyone born after 1996 as part of Gen Z.
Gen Z is recognized as an especially unique audience as most are digital natives with little to no memory of a world without smartphones and WiFi.
According to Spotify, #FindYourFeels is designed to “empower Gen Z to express themselves” by showing how music helps young people find themselves. This campaign showcased a diverse variety of role models including blind disability activist Lucy Edwards, poet and artist Shaquille-Aaron Keith, trans activist Kenny Ethan-Jones and many more celebrities. Each partner shared their feelings about significant moments in their lives and the songs that bring them back to this time or motivate them through hardships. These videos were then shared across each featured role model’s social media channel from TikTok to Instagram to Twitter. In addition, the campaign was featured on partner sites such as Popsugar, COMPLEX and SoleCollector.
In the above Instagram post, Kenny Ethan-Jones lists important songs that have inspired his professional life and trans-self-discovery journey, including Candy, One Wish and We Got Love. With bright animated graphics and captions, the video is both motivating and educational as he shares his own story.
Spotify nails the multi-channel brand approach, which is increasingly important when trying to reach the tech-savvy, younger audience that is Gen Z. However, they not only succeeded in the medium but also the means. By partnering with diverse, socially active and inclusive role models and giving them power over their own narrative, Spotify can advertise its platform while transforming the traditional commercial format.
In March 2021, a New York City-based TikToker @samanthartsoe uploaded a one-minute video detailing a mysterious hole she found behind the mirror in her bathroom. This video and its multiple subsequent updates horrified and captivated audiences across social channels as it was shared through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. A day after the first video, Curbed featured the viral story and reported on the story, which is many apartment renters’ worst nightmare.
@samanthartsoeseriously never would I have expected to find this… and I documented all of it #mystery #fyp #nyc #secret #foryou #apartment #storytime♬ Mysterious – Andreas Scherren
TikTok videos often go viral due to their quick, easy-to-consume nature, but the company decided to take this story and run with it. They produced a new campaign with the help of Publicis Groupe’s creative collective Le Truc called ‘You Have to See It’ to highlight exciting viral videos, such as the mysterious apartment series.
In this exciting video, a range of social media users, celebrities and viral TikTok creators take turns exclaiming about the stranger than fiction, yet 100% truthful story of the woman who (spoiler alert) found an abandoned apartment behind her bathroom mirror. The conversations span different settings and locations to mimic the way people actually tell viral stories to each other in real life. The result is an amusing, clever video that acts as an inside joke to users who saw the original TikTok and an inviting story for those who haven’t created an account — yet!
High-quality content is getting harder to create because the definition of “high quality” continues to evolve.
In one context, it might mean gathering and sharing lighthearted or even silly user generated posts. In another, it could mean boiling down science-backed guidance into a shareable graphic. Across the board, social media users are raising expectations around what an effective social media campaign can and should accomplish.
When choosing which social media campaigns to highlight, we opted to feature those that:
- Offered a truly unique, fresh take on a familiar brand, product, service or industry.
- Tactfully expressed values that resonated with those of their audience.
- Thoughtfully delivered memorable on- and off-screen experiences.
Brands looking for a starting point can use web and social media analytics to understand the types of content their audience responds well to. From there, it will become clearer where and how innovative social media marketing campaigns will fit in.
Editor’s Note: Updated November 2021.