In 2014, social media campaigns seem to have hit their stride. With so many channels available for brands, from the obvious Facebook and Twitter to the more niche-serving Pinterest and LinkedIn, we're seeing brands do some special things. Take a look at this list of the best campaigns so far this year, organized by channel, and consider what you can learn from the innovative companies behind these initiatives.
1. Motorcycle Helmet Art from Biltwell, Inc.
Biltwell makes motorcycle accessories, and they also make great engagement happen on their Facebook page. Check out this example of the fan helmet art they routinely highlight, which encourages fan submissions and generates a feeling of togetherness around the brand. It seems to be an ongoing campaign of Biltwell's.
2. Qdoba's Queso Showdown
On Facebook and Twitter, Qdoba queso eaters could vote for their favorite new Qdoba queso. A good, old-fashioned vote is one thing, but I appreciated how Qdoba updated the results in real-time over the contest. It shows fans they are still engaged with the effort, and generates more buzz and excitement around the whole endeavor.
3. "My Nat Geo Covershot"
Nat Geo launched a contest on Facebook where fans can experience the thrill of having their own photo on a National Geographic magazine. Fans simply upload their photos through Facebook, caption it, and then are entered to win a travel package. Seems like a great image generator that fans will also want to share on their own Facebook pages.
4. Urban Decay's Coachella-meets-cosmetics contest
When I think of Coachella, I think of the Coachella look: laid-back boho fashion, jewelry and hair that makes a statement, and a general rock-star visage. Cosmetics purveyor Urban Decay created a Pinterest contest where users could create their own board with favorite festival looks, with a chance at winning festival tickets. The contest is over now, so you can't see it in action, but here's the board that inspired the contest.
5. Offbeat Bride's boards
It's the wedding gift that keeps on giving. Wedding site Offbeat Bride has a wonderful Pinterest account that not only pins content from their own site, but also general wedding information and inspiration. It's all curated with the same editorial care as the full Offeat Bride site. The account is a must-follow for soon-to-be brides using Pinterest, and surely has a great conversion rate for sending traffic to their website.
6. Copa90 + Hyundai
I think tickets to the World Cup are the single best prize that marketers could possibly offer this year. Hyundai teamed up with YouTube channel Copa90 for a contest with the World Cup of prizes. Check out the video.
7. April Fools: Climate Controlled Virgin flights
Virgin America Airlines and Google-acquired Nest team up to offer "climate-controlled" flights. See the video.
8. April Fools: Helium Beer!
This is one of my favorite examples of video content that reaches a broader social audience, thanks to the short-form and perfect-for-social storytelling. Samuel Adams' new beer ingredient is not hops, not wheat, not barley, but . . . helium?
9. Mashable's Easter Egg Vine Challenge
Easter social media contests are tricky. There's only so many bunny or chocolate references that consumers can withstand. I enjoyed how Mashable brought Easter to Vine with this creativity-inspiring campaign. They explain: "In many countries around the world, decorating Easter eggs is an annual spring tradition. So for this week's Mashable Vine Challenge, we want you to fire up your imagination, and decorate your own."
10. Oreo Snack Hacks
Has your brand experimented yet with Vine? How-to and DIY-style content perform at a top rate on this microvideo site. Check out Oreo's snack hacks videos for ideas on how six mere seconds can really tell a full story.
11. #Tiffany Instagram video
Tiffany blue is back in a big way. A search for "Tiffany blue" on Etsy turns back 22,000+ items! This simple but pretty video, starring Tiffany's signature color, already has 18,000+ likes.
12. Marks & Spencer is Eggceptional
This British brand's entire Instagram account is an example of stellar execution on a visual scale, but I especially enjoyed their quirky Easter video.
13. Microsoft's company page
Sometimes overlooked as one of the big social media channels, LinkedIn is actually the third most popular alongside Facebook and Twitter, according to recent research. If you're looking for ideas on how to kickstart your LinkedIn efforts for marketing, take a page out of Microsoft's book. They include behind the scenes looks at the company; question-and-answer posts; blogs and thought leadership; and more.
14. CapitalOne's company page
CapitalOne has a snappy and relatable brand voice for a bank. Check out their LinkedIn updates for a closer look, including examples like this image:
15. Four Seasons' company page
One in three professionals online is on LinkedIn. How many of those are making hotel reservations around the world and spending company money? Plenty. That's why it's so smart for Four Seasons to build a helpful, engaging LinkedIn presence. They feature great videos and readable content, and they also post job listings. It's a great example of a LinkedIn company page done well (and they were also selected as one of LinkedIn's top company pages of 2013).
16. NPR's company page
Why do people get on LinkedIn? To improve their career and knowledge about their industry. NPR answers the LinkedIn call with valuable posts that educate and inspire readers.
17. #PeterSomForKohls on Google+
Google+ has left some marketers scratching their heads on what to do with the platform. Is it for content marketing? Is it for engagement? One answer might be influencer campaigns. Take a look at Kohl's fashion-oriented Google+ campaign for the Peter Som line. A simple search for the hashtag on Google+ reveals the whole string of associated posts by both influencers and Kohl's.
18. Fresh Updates from Rotten Tomatoes on Google+
Posting articles and interesting content is a great use for Google+. Rotten Tomatoes keeps their page current with the latest "Tomatometers" and entertainment reviews. They post almost every day on Google+, making sure that their connections always see what's new.
19. Nest's presence on Google+
Now that Google owns Nest, it stands to reason that they'd have a good incentive to build a Google+ presence. Nest frequently posts a variety of Google+ content, including job postings, safety tips, and company updates.
20. White House #getcovered
This social media campaign from the White House allows users to tweet their personal stories about the security and peace of mind that comes as a result of securing health insurance. For a visual element, they also added a Storify slideshow to the page.
21. Tweet for Cheap Pizza: Domino's
I wish Domino's would have used a more brand-recognizable hashtag than #letsdolunch, but the sentiment stands, nonetheless. Explained by SimplyZesty, "Domino's UK ran a clever Twitter campaign today that got fans interacting with them, all in the name of cheap pizza. Domino's reduced the price of the star pizza today according to how may people tweeted in time for lunch – knocking the price down from £15.99 to £7.74. The promotion ran from 9am-11am GMT this morning, and people had to include the hashtag #letsdolunch in their tweets to knock down the price of a large pepperoni pizza." It's a tasty campaign, and the pizza isn't bad, either.
22. Doritos #crashthesuperbowl
User generated content is a win-win for customers and brands: brands get more awareness, exposure, and impressions, and customers get their voices heard (or get their commercial on TV during the Big Game, as was the case with this Twitter hashtag campaign).
23. Samsung #Oscars celebri-tweet
If you weren't familiar with selfies before, you definitely became hip to them after Ellen, Bradley Cooper, and the rest of the Oscars gang showed up in a selfie. I'm not sure how many people knew this was a Samsung ploy, but for those who found out after the fact, it was a fun brand moment. "Brilliant marketing on Samsung's part," said Mashable.
24. Pepsi - London #LiveForNow
As part of its #LiveForNow campaign in London, Pepsi Max created a bus shelter ad that made it seem like crazy events were happening in the street. Watch the video of passersby reacting. Crazy idea (I would have loved to be a participant in the whiteboard meetings for that one), and I like how it turned out.
25. Sochi and McDonalds
Way back at the beginning of the year, McDonalds launched a campaign for fans to congratulate teams and athletes. From a press release in January: "Supporters can send personalised good luck messages – or ‘cheers’ – directly to their favourite athletes and teams by using the hashtag #CheersToSochi on Twitter, or by visiting www.cheerstosochi.com. These ‘cheers’ will then be shared at a special display in the Athletes’ Village in Sochi, where athletes can view and print the messages onto ribbons to wear around their wrists. Athletes may even tweet their appreciation back to lucky fans."
26. April Fools: Legos Turtle Delivery
27. The Cross-Channel NBACares Program
Forbes writes, "The NBA Cares Instagram following increased from 6,854 on October 14, 2013 to 29,373 on April 18, 2014 (an increase of roughly 425%). In that same time-span, its Twitter followers grew from 68,219 to 79,500 and its YouTube channel video views went from 633,044 to 1,294,271." Not too shabby for a campaign focused more on the NBA's philanthropic efforts than on the excitement of courtside hoops.
28. Social airline seating: Meet & Seat
Ever wished you could sit next to a LinkedIn contact on an airplane, or choose a person with clever tweets as your travel companion? "With Meet & Seat you can view other passengers’ Facebook or LinkedIn profile details and see where they’ll be sitting – long before your flight leaves the ground." It's a social campaign that boosts both the airline's profile and your travel experience, potentially.
29. Marc Jacobs Model Campaign
Via FashionTimes: "So you want to be a model? Well, we have good news for you. Marc Jacobs is currently looking for a new face for his contemporary label, and all you have to do in order to be considered is post a picture of yourself to Instagram or Twitter.On Wednesday night, Jacobs took to Twitter to announce his #CastMeMarc casting call, which encourages fans to submit their best photos in the hopes of becoming the brand's newest face." Pick me, Marc!
30. NASA's #GlobalSelfie
In honor of Earth Day, NASA has invited everyone to take part in a Global Selfie. What's that, you ask? A picture you take of your environment that NASA will compile into a global mosiac. NASA says they will monitor photos posted on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Google+ that include the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. Users could also go to the #GlobalSelfie event page on Facebook, the #GlobalSelfie group on Flickr, or join the #GlobalSelfie Google+ event page.
So, what have we learned from these 30 campaigns? First, I must be hungry, because I included so many food and drink examples (Oreos, Sam Adams, Qdoba, Domino's...). Second, any platform, including video and, yes, even Google+, can be used to great effect if you're speaking your audience's language. Third, give your audience what they really want. That could be a job, a deal, a prize, or simply some useful information. As Jay Baer always says, just be useful.
With the right mix of content and creativity, any campaign can become social.