6 Predictions From the Best Social Media Campaign Ideas of 2021

Of the billions (maybe trillions) of forgettable posts that are published on social every day, there are always a few social media campaign ideas that we can’t seem to forget.

You know what I’m talking about. That successful social media campaign that goes viral for days and inspires a slew of copycats who wish they thought of the idea first. For example: the #SpotifyWrapped campaign is something I look forward to every year. Another campaign I love is the recent collaboration between the NBA and NBA paint, a fan account with over 70,000 followers, to announce the teams’ regular season schedules.

You don’t have to be a creative genius to dream up the next brand campaign to break the internet. There are a number of tried-and-true elements marketers can borrow from campaigns that have gone viral before, from short-form video to audio-first content to inclusive marketing. In this article, we’ll break down six standout social media campaign ideas from the past year to learn what makes them so successful and what they reveal about the future of social campaigns.

6 social campaigns that captivated the internet in 2021

1. Apple’s #ShotOniPhone

Despite launching in 2015, Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign continues to delight users by showing off the quality of photos taken with the iPhone camera. The campaign has taken off on platforms like Instagram where people are asked to submit their best pictures using #ShotOniPhone, with select images appearing on billboards around the world. In addition to generating buzz around the latest iPhone release, the campaign also helped Apple build a community of loyal customers.

What this means for 2022: By leveraging user-generated content for social campaigns, brands can build trust and credibility with their target audience while demonstrating the capabilities of a new product. It also gives prospective customers an opportunity to see a product or service in action. Seventy-one percent of consumers say social posts by friends or people they know influence their purchasing decisions. By building campaigns around UGC, brands give audiences the authentic testimony they need to commit to a purchase.

2. Anheuser-Busch’s #LetsGrabABeer

To support President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine initiative, Anheuser-Busch launched its “Let’s Grab a Beer, America” campaign offering free beer to anyone who gets vaccinated. This tactic is a favorite of the brewing company, which has a history of hosting sweepstakes for the Fourth of July and major sporting events. Giveaways are an effective, low-lift way to drive online engagement and by pairing them with current events, Anheuser-Busch ensures their brand is always top of mind for consumers.

What this means for 2022: People love free things, and that’s not going to change anytime soon (as evidenced by the number of brands promoting freebies during a pandemic year). Hosting the occasional social contest or giveaway is an effective way to grow your brand’s following and generate awareness across a large or geographically distributed audience. And given how much of 2022 is still up in the air, marketers can quickly stand up giveaways in case their original social plans go awry.

3. McDonald’s Saweetie Meal

Following their wildly popular collaboration with South Korean pop band BTS, McDonald’s partnered with rapper Saweetie to launch the Saweetie Meal and accompanying merchandise line. The latest collaboration builds on both Saweetie’s growing popularity as well as her die-hard fanbase, who already have generated hundreds of thousands of Likes and Shares for McDonald’s social posts. Partnering with young artists and creators not only drives awareness but real business results for fast-food chains. Thanks to their collaboration with BTS, McDonald’s saw restaurant visits grow 12% over the previous week during the first seven days of promotion.

What this means for 2022: Given the buying power of fanbases, don’t be surprised if you see more brands embrace influencer and celebrity collaborations for future product launches. Activating a celebrity’s followers gives brands access to hundreds (if not thousands) of consumers who are ready to engage and spend with that brand. By partnering with BIPOC celebrities specifically, brands are able to reach diverse communities they otherwise might struggle to connect with.

4. YouTube & BTS: Permission to Dance

To promote its short-form video functionality, YouTube partnered with K-pop band BTS on the international Permission to Dance Challenge, exclusively on YouTube Shorts. The collaboration has since generated over 148,000 video submissions across 84,000 channels and BTS’ English announcement Tweet has pulled in nearly a quarter of a million Likes. By capitalizing on the growing popularity of short-form video and joining forces with BTS, YouTube created a social campaign that captivated an international audience.

What this means for 2022: According to the latest Sprout Social Index™, 54% of marketers said video was the most valuable content for achieving their goals. As brands start thinking about their 2022 campaigns, both short- and long-form video content will play a significant role in supporting goals like awareness and community engagement on social.

5. Dove’s Self-Esteem Project

The Self-Esteem Project is Dove’s ongoing initiative designed to empower today’s youth and help users navigate social platforms with confidence. Thirteen years after its initial launch, the Self-Esteem Project has since given way to smaller social campaigns like #TheSeflieTalk and the #NoDigitalDistortion challenge on TikTok. Overall, consumers are responding positively to Dove’s latest body positivity message, generating millions of views for videos tagged with #DoveSelfEsteemProject.

What this means for 2022: Inclusivity is one trend that never goes out of style and consumers want to see brands cater to more diverse audiences. One survey revealed 62% of US adults say diversity in a brand’s advertising impacted the way they perceived that brand’s products or services. Consider who is represented in your brand’s social content, amplify the voices of marginalized people in your campaigns and question who makes up your target audience. The people interacting with your social content aren’t a homogenous group of consumers and are actively looking to see which brands are prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion on social.

6. American Eagle & Snapchat: Back-to-School

In preparation for back-to-school season, American Eagle created an augmented reality try-on experience with Snapchat and enlisted the help of influencers and actors like Caleb McLaughlin. To further connect with their Generation Z audience, the retailer also created a digital clothing line for Bitmoji, giving consumers the chance to personalize their Bitmoji with AE clothes. The back-to-school campaign marks the third collaboration between AE and Snapchat, with AE’s winter holiday virtual shopping experience bringing in $2 million in revenue and revenue for first-quarter sales reaching $1 billion.

What this means for 2022: With Millennial and Gen Z buying power poised to increase, brands would be wise to embrace the social platforms and features that most appeal to these digital natives. Even if your brand isn’t quite ready to be on a platform like Snapchat or TikTok, laying the groundwork now and testing visual content ensures you’ll be ready to pursue new formats and platforms when the time is right. By keeping a pulse on the trends most relevant to digital natives, brands are better able to build lasting connections with this younger generation of shoppers.

Bring your best social media campaign ideas to life

Planning and executing successful social media campaigns can be daunting, but the long-term impact they can have on your brand is well worth the effort. With so many moving parts to keep track of, consider breaking your campaign approach into four clear steps:

1. Start with a brainstorm

Effective brainstorm sessions draw inspiration from multiple sources and incorporate feedback from your immediate team, leaving you with plenty of social media campaign ideas to choose from. In addition to looking at your favorite brands and closest competitors for inspiration, consider tapping sources like newsletters, webinars and customer feedback to fuel your creativity.

Social listening is another tool marketers can use to support their brainstorming sessions. With listening, marketers can uncover trending topics, popular influencers and other themes relevant to their target audience and industry. It’s also an effective tool for measuring audience sentiment and identifying customer needs, insights which can be applied toward your brainstorm to be as consumer-centric as possible.

UI Listening Related Hashtags

2. Develop a campaign brief

With your social media campaign ideas in hand, it’s time to pull together your brief. This is where you’ll outline the goals and objectives of your campaign, who the key stakeholders are and what creative assets you’ll need. Your creative brief should also include your campaign distribution details and how various assets will support parts of the buyer journey.

For example, consider using your brief to outline your target audience with details like age, location, interest and as well as their preference for social networks. List out which social networks you plan to use for organic and paid social distribution, and treat your brief as the single source of truth for all stakeholders to refer back to come launch time.

3. Build your content calendar

Once your creative assets are finalized, you need to plan when and where you’ll publish each throughout your social campaign. Creating a social media calendar will not only save you time but also enable you to track and test your publishing strategy to identify what resonates strongest with your audience.

Instead of picking arbitrary dates, times and networks to round out your calendar, an analytics tool like Sprout Social can help you make more selective, informed decisions. Conducting a social media audit, for example, generates insights like engagement and publishing metrics that tell you what types of content perform best on specific networks. And with a tool like Sprout, you can dig even deeper into each of your brand’s networks to further refine your content publishing strategy.

PI Analytics Reports Home

4. Measure and optimize in real-time

Your campaign is finally live—congratulations! But just because your plans are in motion doesn’t mean you’re quite ready to leave your social campaign in the past. Keeping an eye on how your campaign performs is key to ensuring you meet your goals and can address any unexpected challenges as they arise.

Social analytics and listening solutions enable you to measure in real-time how your campaign paces toward your goals as well as your audience’s sentiment toward your marketing efforts. For even easier tracking, Sprout Campaigns allow you to build, evaluate and optimize your campaigns in one seamless experience. The Campaign Planner enables you to quickly identify top- and low-performing content so you can make adjustments accordingly based on how your overall campaign is trending.

PI Publishing Create New Campaign

Don’t sleep on tomorrow’s social campaign

Social campaigns have the power to grow your audience reach, create memorable consumer experiences and positively impact your overall business goals. As daunting as it may seem to pull off a successful social media campaign, the reality is you have all the tools and inspiration you need to get started. With plenty of inspiration to draw from and a clear roadmap outlining your goals and next steps, bringing your social media campaign ideas to life is more feasible than you might think.

To ensure your next social campaign is a success, check out the Content Benchmarks Report to make sure the content you’re creating is guaranteed to resonate with your audience.


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