10 of the Top Social Media Campaigns of 2021

Phone with heart symbols pouring out. Top social campaigns for inspiration
Phone with heart symbols pouring out. Top social campaigns for inspiration

Running a social media campaign that stands out takes a hefty dose of creativity. The social waters are getting deeper, wider, and more crowded with every passing year. This makes it hard for brands to create content that gets noticed and achieves its purpose.

The remedy? Just look at some of the top social media campaigns of 2021 to get inspired. What about these social media content ideas makes them so influential? What did these brands do well? How can your brand improve on them?

Use this list to spark your social marketing strategy and start creating campaigns that work.  

 Table of Contents:

What Is a Social Media Campaign?

Phone with social media apps.

Let’s start with a definition. What is a social media campaign, anyway?

It’s a lot like any type of marketing campaign: a planned series of events over a specific period of time designed to achieve a certain outcome that can be tracked and measured.

Unlike marketing campaigns that can apply to any number or variety of channels, social media marketing campaigns are specific to social media. Effective social media marketing takes into account each platform’s unique audience, features, and functions and builds the campaign around them.

How Do Social Media Campaigns Work?

Social media campaigns are a slice of a larger social media content marketing strategy. You use content to increase SEO, attract leads, promote products and services, and market your business. A social media campaign is a granular content marketing tool designed to achieve a specific goal. Instead of creating just any type of content, your content should directly relate to the campaign. It’s more specific and focused, especially when you consider all the different layers of social media that must be taken into account.

Every social media marketing campaign begins with a purpose. For example, you might join a new social network and run a brand awareness campaign to ramp up your follower count. Or you might be launching a new product and want to run a social media campaign to raise awareness or sales.

From there, marketers will come up with social media post ideas to spread the word and achieve their goals. This might be custom images with the brand’s logo, quotes from a company leader, facts or stats from recent research, or ad copy that intrigues the reader, for example.

After creating content for social media, you’ll decide where and when to post it. Which platforms will you post on? What time will you post content? How long will you post content around this specific goal or topic? 

Last but not least, you should plan to track your social media posts. See how users engage with and respond to each post. Compare engagement metrics to specific actions, such as purchases, audience growth, or media mentions to see whether you achieved your campaign goals.

Top Social Media Campaigns of 2021

Inspiring your social media content strategy is as easy as looking at what other successful brands are doing. Here are some of our favorite social media campaign examples and what you can learn from them.

1. American Eagle and Snapchat

Engagement was the name of the game in American Eagle’s back-to-school shopping campaign. Using Snapchat’s augmented reality technology, the brand created a digital line of their styles that users could grab to dress up their Bitmoji characters. This isn’t the first time the casual clothier has teamed up with Snapchat; its winter holiday campaign last year brought in $2 million in revenue and contributed to $1 billion in Q1 2021 sales.

The visual content trends spurred by Snapchat and AR technologies have a strong appeal to digital natives. Investing in interactive digital content can be an effective way to keep users engaged with your brand for longer periods, give them something new and different to expect, and create experiences that other brands are not.

2. Chick-Fil-A’s #TheLittleThings

Chick-Fil-A's The little things campaign.

Launched in 2018, Chick-Fil-A’s The Little Things campaign is a collection of stories from real customers and employees. They focus on the small nuances of great experiences and serve as reminders that life’s little moments can make the biggest impacts.

The campaign has been alive and well in 2021, with the story of a Chick-Fil-A regular using her 50,000 app points to feed a homeless shelter. She and an employee of her local store were featured on the brand’s social media channels to share the story, dubbed “Lanika’s Idea,” and create a positive image of the restaurant. 

3. Vienna Tourist Board on OnlyFans

An unlikely place for social media success from a brand on a world stage, Vienna Tourist Board shocked the marketing world when it turned to OnlyFans for a recent promotion. A city rich in art, the brand grew tired of Instagram and TikTok removing some of its posts of the city’s most prestigious artwork because they broke the nudity guidelines.

Instead, the brand found a channel that embraced the human form so they could continue to highlight the city’s artists, famous creations, and most beloved museums. The brand’s OnlyFans account features a paywall for content that is rated “Adult 18+”. The move encourages interested travelers to take a sneak peek at the city’s art along with raising awareness about the general censorship of fine art.

4. YouTube’s Shorter Side of YouTube Campaign

YouTube's Shorter Side of YouTube campaign

While TikTok is raking it in with its short-form video content, YouTube sought a way to show its users that it’s still king when it comes to digital video. The brand launched its “Shorter Side of YouTube” to compete with TikTok and attract its core demographic. 

The campaign recruited the likes of DojaCat and The Weeknd, showcasing their short-and-sweet content and inspiring a whole new movement of social video.

5. NatGeo’s #ThinkBeforeYouLike

NatGeo's Think Before You Like Campaign

Many social media fans wouldn’t think twice about clicking Like on a cute picture of cuddly-looking cheetahs. But National Geographic believes that users should think twice before engaging with anything, even innocent photos that appear safe on the surface. 

Its recent #ThinkBeforeYouLike hashtag campaign was designed to educate users on the ongoing cheetah exploitation and smuggling ring. In the campaign, the brand warns users against clicking Like on photos of people with their “pet” cheetah cubs, claiming that doing so only encourages the trafficking behaviors they’re working against. 

It’s a good practice to apply to any social content and serves as a reminder that not everything is as it seems.

6. TikTok’s Re: Make Campaign

TikTok's make campaign.

A memorable social media marketing strategy doesn’t always hinge on originality. If you can take a common theme or idea and put a new spin on it, you can make strong connections with your audience because you’re building on something that’s familiar. TikTok’s ReMake campaign is a perfect example of this.

TikTok asked its users to think about the most iconic ads of recent times and make their own version of them. 

The goal: remake classic ads into TikTok shorts.

The larger goal: draw attention to TikTok as an advertising platform and encourage more marketers to invest more in TikTok content creation.

The campaign garnered a variety of remakes, including the fan-favorite “You’re not yourself when you’re not hungry” ad from Snickers, only this time with a young man and his grandmother taking on the gym.

7. McDonald’s #McSpicy Debate

Mcdonald's Mcspicy campaign.

Will McDonald’s new spicy chicken sandwich leave you sweating bullets? Does it have a little kick, or will it get you to spill all your secrets? That’s the focus of the #McSpicy debate, where users could share their thoughts on the spice factor of McD’s new chicken sandwich. Spicy food is always a bit of a heated discussion, one where fans have strong opinions over whether a dish meets their expectations of spice level.

McDonald’s cashed in on this sensitive topic while promoting its new sandwich and racking up tons of user-generated content to boot.

8. Spotify Only You Campaign

Spotify's only you campaign.

Spotify has prided itself on helping users discover new music and artists that speak to them. Its recent Only You campaign builds on this sentiment by creating personalized Audio Birth Charts and summarizing users’ listening habits. This is a great exercise in personalization because every chart is unique to the user. And just for fun, the experience also included the chance to build a “dream dinner party” with your favorite artists.

9. Dove’s #NoDigitalDistortion

Dove Reverse selfie campaign.

One of the benefits of social media campaigns is the ability to connect audiences that share something in common but would otherwise have no physical connection with each other. Powerful campaigns like Dove’s #NoDigitalDistortion do this beautifully by illustrating experiences that millions of women have shared but didn’t realize others were listening.

In this campaign, we see the “reverse selfie,” where a teenage girl posts a selfie on social media before revealing all the different steps she took to alter the image. The campaign calls attention to the fact that 80% of girls have a distorted image of how they look online by the time they reach the age of 13. This is also the generation that has grown up on digital technologies. The short Instagram video went viral with the help of several high-profile influencers. 

What’s more, Dove used the video to ask its audience to take the #NoDigitalDistortion pledge, which encourages adults to talk openly about the dangers of retouching apps. 

10. Cadbury’s Worldwide Hide

Cadbury campaign.

One of the most creative social media marketing strategies in 2021 goes to chocolatier Cadbury, which aimed to spread a little sweetness during a time of social distancing. The brand created a global Easter egg hunt, allowing users to “hide” a virtual egg somewhere in the world while the UK was still under lockdown restrictions. Users could share a personalized clue with a friend or family member, plus they could purchase a real Cadbury egg to send to someone.

These social media campaign examples are just the tip of the iceberg. How will you use them to inspire your strategy? For help developing your next campaign and making the most of social media marketing, contact Meltwater today.