The 10 Best Social Media Campaigns

Since social media has become an integral part of our lives, marketers have used their creative talents to develop social media campaigns with various degrees of success which can be measured in a variety of ways.The 10 Most Successful Social Media Campaigns

One very successful social media marketing campaign that was run in 2009 was the competition for the “Best Job in the World” which was based on the simple concept of posting a one-minute video application on Tourism Queensland’s Web site explaining why you should be chosen as caretaker of Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef and you might get to blog and cam your way through a six-month gig that paid about $100K U.S.

The results included 400,000 new visitors to the website in the first 30 hours and 1 million hits the second day the competition was launched.

Success for social media marketing campaigns can mean many things and can include

  • More brand awareness
  • Increased sales
  • The number of Youtube views

or whatever measurement that is deemed important for the brand in achieving its goals

Forbes recently engaged three experts to rank the world’s best-ever social media campaigns.

The judges were

  • David Berkowitz of the New York City agency 360i
  • Brandon Evans of the social marketing agency Mr Youth in New York City
  • Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship, a digital ad shop in Brooklyn

They were asked to take into account the success of the campaigns as well as the quality of the execution and creativity of each one.

Here are the top 10 social media campaigns

1. The Blair Witch Project

This was a low budget horror movie that used a viral social media campaign that used web sites and message boards to incite anticipation and interest months before the its release in 1999. The anticipation was created by spreading  rumors about the fate of the movie’s main characters with fake newspaper clippings and police photos of their missing car being spread on what was then the 1999 version of what we now call social media.

The result for a movie that cost $22,000 to make, at last count it has grossed over $240 million, making it the worlds most profitable movie ever.

2. Blendtec: Will It Blend

This well known series of online videos first burst on the scene in 2006 (not long after YouTube was launched). It shows the Blendtec ‘Total Blender destroying anything from a baseball to an iPhone.

Result: Home sales of blenders has increased by more than 700%

3.  Old Spice: “Smell Like a Man, Man”

Isaiah Mustafa was already popular in TV commercial but when a campaign was created that allowed him to respond to questions via online videos(180 in fact) and Twitter the buzz that it generated spread around the world. The results are still being counted.

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4. Burger King: “Subservient Chicken”

This social media campaign centers around a person dressed in a chicken suit on a website that responds to commands like “make a sandwich” or “moonwalk”. It was created for Burger King by the advertising agency Crispin, Porter + Bogusky for the chain’s TenderCrisp Sandwich.

Result: Website received 15 million hits in 5 days

5. Pepsi Refresh

This was aimed at people’s charitable gene which gave people the chance to get funding for their charity. Its goal was to create a new identity while maintaining its youthful image.

6.  VW: Fun Theory

This was a social experiment using humor to drive engagement and influence customer behavior. It involved Volkswagen transforming a Swedish subway staircase into a giant functioning piano. The result, 66% more people choosing the steps rather than the escalator. This won t the 2010 Cyber Grand Prix  Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

7. Office Max: “Elf Yourself”

The office supply retailer encouraged people during the 2006 holday campaign to upload pictures of themselves. Technology was then applied to the images which would transform them into dancing elves. The creative genius behind this campaign was the Francisco based  agency Toy and San. The result 122 million elves, more brand awareness and increased sales.

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8.  Evian: “Roller Babies”

This YouTube blockbuster showing babies break dancing and busting moves ended up being (according to the Guinness Book of Records) the most watched online ad in viewing history with over 60 million views and 54,000 comments.

9. Ikea: “Facebook Showroom”

This Facebook marketing campaign involved the store manager of the Malmo Ikea store posting pictures of the new showrooms where people who tagged the items first, won that product. The result was a viral word of mouth campaign that quickly spread to people’s Facebook friends and created huge product awareness.

10. Hotmail

This was maybe the first integration of social media and email which involved Hotmail running ads in 1996 at the bottom of every email which said “get your free email at hotmail”. Apparently the judges were a bit divided on this with one rating it as the best and the other the worst and also whether it constituted a social media campaign.

What are some of the core elements that were in these campaigns that made them such a success? For me it includes these elements

  • Humor
  • Competition
  • Curioisity

What appeals to you in these top social media campaigns?


  • Melody Lamb

    Interesting synopsis, Jeff. Thank you for taking the time to put this blog post together.

  • Alison Richards

    I don’t really agree with the list. Although in theory these were clever and well executed on many fronts but… Take #7 for an example:

    Office Max: “Elf Yourself” – I sent this to a crap load of friends and family. If you ask people what the company was… Answer = Office Depot It was a great idea but brand recognition was low.

    As for Blair Witch Project; yes, a fabulous marketing strategy. Too bad the film sucked.

    The good news is that we can learn just as much from a failed effort as a successful one and with this lot there’s plenty of room for improvement.

  • Kayla @EssentialU

    Great post Jeff — forwarding to my team!

  • Connor Bringas

    I definitely agree with this post. Its clear that these are incredibly popular. However some were not necessarily advertised and just suddenly exploded in popularity. You never know how the consumer will react thats for sure.

  • Brian Landi

    I think this is a great list. I also agree with many of the comments so far. Ultimately, I think what this list shows us is that the end product is often times irrelevant to the initial marketing buzz for better or worse. Thanks for the post!

  • Todd Defren

    More like, “plain old advertising campaigns that (sometimes) used social media.”

    Putting an ad on YouTube = not a social media marketing campaign, in my book.

  • Tim Reid

    I gotta say, I really dislike seeing campaign results like “…66% more people choosing the steps rather than the escalator. This won t the 2010 Cyber Grand Prix Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.”


    How did it really add to the bottom line. Cannes awards don’t even ask for sales results…much less factor them in to whether the campaign was successful or not.

    The positive side is…there’s at least 10 advertisers out there willing to entertain us…that’s good thing.

    Post whinge, I do think WILL IT BLEND is a brilliant idea and can see a direct line bewteen idea and sales. Afterall, isn’t that the idea?!

  • Ben London

    That’s a great post Jeff. I think I watched the evian ad about 20 times. Do you think Blair Witch would have grossed more, or people would have been as gullible if it was released today with todays social media awareness?

  • Aaron Bramley

    Wowza. 122 millions elves. Amazing that the social media campaigns that get the most attention are the ones with the goofy little activities.

  • Dale O’Donnell

    That baby add does nothing but freak me out!

  • Rutevera

    Muito boas. Umas são hilárias. Valeu!

  • cast

    Thanks admin nice site nice posssttt

  • Normal

    Wow. This list is subpar at best. The first problem was that the “experts” ALL came from NYC & from an agency. #fail

  • Jason Keath

    Agree, agree, agree. Which ones would you add Brenna? #Curious 

  • Jason Keath

    Agree, agree, agree. Which ones would you add Brenna? #Curious 

  • Jenni

    The Ikea Facebook competition is a great idea, however it directly goes against Facebook’s competition rules that says you are not allowed to use a Facebook mechanism (in this case, tagging) as a form of entry into a competition. Therefore they risk their page being shut down and losing all their fans. 

  • Old Spice

    Commercials are genius – they make me laugh everytime I see them.

  • Bruno Pierre Gebarski

    Fabulous social media campaigns are measured by their fruit and 50 million + video viewings is a monumental success such as ‘the Evian video’ thanks to its unique, creative and funny content! Like Wolfang Amadeus Mozart’s magical pen, who basically wrote his music on a “fundamental” 1-5 and 4 chord succession, his writting and  work remain the strike of a genius because simplicity is what makes a genius come alive! Likewise those campaigns are for us information to reflect upon and ponder as all of those are inspired and driven by the forces of humor, creativity, content and uniqueness!  

  • Kartik

    I loved this post, always get back to check on a few of the campaigns, yes agreed, many of them are digital /creative campaigns, IKEA and Blendtec are truly social media driven. Most of the recent campaigns we talk about are unfortunately less social and more creative/paid media driven and the buzz generated is more on website hits than true social media KPI’s.

  • Jaiser Abbas

    Jeff these campaigns were rock, it was history in social media marketing campaigns, many new social media marketer learn from these stuffs, thanks for reminding us about these awesome marketing skills :)

  • Jaiser Abbas

    Jeff these campaigns were rock, it was history in social media marketing campaigns, many new social media marketer learn from these stuffs, thanks for reminding us about these awesome marketing skills :)

  • Marco

    I think that we should go further the simple “social media” prefix on campagigns. We should talk about social campaign, that are able to cross different media. A guerrilla stunt that generates video published on youtube, than shared on twitter and facebook? Is a pure social media campaign? I don’t think so, it is just virally social? I think yes! And then it is actually effective.

    I prefer not to be a purist of “social media” campaigns, i think that social hybrid campaigns could be the way!

  • Ricky

    Oh that was neat! I like Old Spice videos a lot and I think Coca Cola is doing a great job on the social front too.

  • Tessa

    Love it