8 best social media ads and why they worked

best social media campaigns

By now, every brand knows that social media is one of the best ways to connect with customers. Which would explain why global social media ad spend is set to reach $219.8 billion in 2024.

Something that a lot of brands haven’t quite figured out, however, is how to create social media campaigns that really hit home for their audiences. 

The fast-paced nature of social media marketing means that you often need to consider a lot of different things in a short space of time. Which, let’s be honest, can make it hard to produce great work.

But the good news is that, with a little inspiration and the right tools to hand, you can cut through the chaos and outperform your competition with every post. 

In this article, we’ll look at the eight best social media campaigns and why they worked. 

Here’s the roundup: 

  1. Apple – #ShotOniPhone
  2. Spotify – Spotify wrapped 
  3. Always – Like A Girl 
  4. Purina x Buzzfeed – Dear Kitten 
  5. Dollar Shave Club – Our Blades Are F**king Great
  6. Airbnb – We Are Here
  7. Adidas – #ORIGINALis
  8. Upwork – This is How We Work Now

Let’s get stuck in and see what we can learn from each!

1. Apple – #ShotOniPhone

Apple iPhone ad
Image source: Ads of the World

Apple, through innovative design and simplicity, makes it easier for ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And the #ShotOniPhone campaign is a brilliant example of how the company captures this brand value through effective social media marketing.  

First launched back in 2015, this campaign used user-generated content (UGC) to show the quality of Apple’s iPhone cameras. The brand did this by asking everyday people to snap and share their photos on social media with the hashtag, #ShotOniPhone. Apple then shared these posts on its own social feeds and billboards around the world. 

Here are three reasons why this iconic Apple campaign continues to be a hit to this day: 

  1. It stayed true to its brand by sharing the idea that anyone can create stunning photos (not just professionals)
  2. It turned your average Apple customer into an ambassador for the brand  
  3. It tapped into the growing trend of people sharing their photos online 

Top tip 

User-generated content can be a clever, cost-effective way to engage audiences. But for your user-generated campaign to really catch on, you need to make it super easy to create and share content. And you need to give them a reason to actually do it. Your payoff could be anything from a global platform to a simple prize giveaway.

2. Spotify – Spotify Wrapped

Spotify Wrapped ad
Image source: AdAge

I’ve written about this campaign more times than I can count at this stage, and I regret nothing. 

Every year, Spotify uses data to provide each and every customer with an overview of their listening habits for that year. Customers find out about their most played songs, their rating as a listener (Arctic Monkeys top 1%, right here!), and lots more. Spotify then turns these findings into a series of relatable and entertaining billboard ads

This social media campaign graces our screens every December and has become an annual tradition for lots of folk around the world. 

Top tip

Humans love to know and share information about themselves, so personalize wherever possible.

And while it might not always be possible to collect data as detailed as Spotify, the most important thing is to understand your audience. When you know what makes your people tick, you can create social media content that feels like it speaks directly to them, even if it’s en masse. 

3. Always – Like A Girl

Always Like a Girl ad
Image source: PR Week

What does it mean to do something “like a girl”? This was the question posed and answered by Always with its 2014 campaign. 

This ad kicked off with a video that tackled the things society does to damage young girls’ confidence. Reframing the meaning of “like a girl” as a positive affirmation instead of something to put girls down. 

What followed was an outpouring of personal stories, anecdotes, and support across social media channels using the hashtag #LikeAGirl. 

It didn’t stop there either. In 2016, Always went on to get the UNICODE Consortium (the emoji makers) to release 44 new girl power emojis that are available on our devices and social media accounts today. 

The brand continues to challenge gender biases by using its successful social media campaigns to start real conversations that matter. 

Top tip

Stand for something, have an opinion, and start conversations. 

Every brand has the power to have a positive impact, no matter how big or small. Having and embodying a set of core brand values can help humanize your brand and your social media campaigns for a more authentic connection with the right social media users.

4. Purina x Buzzfeed – Dear Kitten

10 years on and this campaign still has all those warm, fuzzy feels. This video series was created when the love of cat content was at an all-time high. 

“Dear Kitten” is based around an older cat who shares tidbits of wisdom with a new, baby kitten. The videos were first released on YouTube, feeding viewers’ their daily dose of kitty content and advertising Purina cat food at the same. 

The scripts were beautifully crafted and so charming, with subtle, playful messaging around the cat’s preference of wet food over dry kibble. They became the most watched videos on Buzzfeed that year, with over 12 million views in the first few weeks alone. 

Top tip 

You don’t always need a groundbreaking social media strategy. Often, the most successful social campaigns come from something as simple as knowing that lots of people like to watch cat videos.

5. Dollar Shave Club – Our Blades Are F**king Great

Dollar Shave Club came on the men’s grooming scene in 2012, with an innovative shaving blade subscription service and a hugely successful launch video to match. 

As a new startup, the brand didn’t have big bucks to splash out on a flashy marketing campaign. So, they made this hilarious social media video for less than $5,000 and managed to go viral almost instantly. More importantly, Dollar Shave Club gained 12,000 new subscribers in less than 24 hours after the video was released. 

The brand has since built up a loyal following across all of its social media platforms. Dollar Shave Club’s social media posts are funny, brave, and almost always low-budget. 

Top tip

One of the beauties of social media campaigns is that it gives organizations the chance to raise brand awareness and leave a lasting impression for a relatively low cost. 

This effective social media campaign from Dollar Shave Club shows that you don’t need a huge budget to make a viral campaign. Your product/service and personality are worth way more than the amount you spend on creating content. 

Create stronger social media campaigns with Filestage 

Making social campaigns can be a lot of fun. But it can be a lot of work too. Which is why you need a trusty review and approval tool to help your team make the most of their time for better, faster results.

Filestage lets you share, review, and feed back on all your social media campaign ideas and executions, in one organized space. That means no more chasing feedback, no more mixed messages, and no more unnecessary meetings or emails! 

This user-friendly tool makes it easy for teams and clients to collaborate on each element of a campaign as it works for a wide range of file formats, including: 

  • Documents
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Live websites 
  • PDFs
  • Audio files 
  • Interactive HTML

6. Airbnb – We Are Here

To launch their new Trips service, Airbnb harnessed the power of video, storytelling, and Facebook Live to launch a content six-part series in places like Seoul, Miami, and Venezuela. 

The digital marketing campaign was aimed to inspire travelers and advise potential guests. These videos were both candid and immersive, making the audience feel like they were the ones on the adventure. The campaign was a massive hit, with the live streams getting over 6.2 million views from countries around the world. 

Top tip 

There are a lot of clever tactics used in this viral social media campaign. But the most obvious is probably their use of social media. 

With this content series, Airbnb didn’t just use social media and a sharing platform. They incorporated social media into the idea itself. The 24-hour live stream built a sense of intrigue and excitement around the campaign.

Staying up to date on the key features of every social media platform could help inspire your team to create fresh, interactive, and engaging campaigns. 

7. Adidas – #ORIGINALis 

To promote its Originals line of hip-hop and fashion-forward clothing, Adidas created the hashtag #ORIGINALis as part of a highly successful Instagram campaign

In a bid to catch their target audience’s attention and build cred on social media, Adidas teamed up with big names like Snoop Dogg, Desiigner, and Stormzy. 

The overarching theme of the social media campaign shows and encourages people to do things their own way. It kicked off with an empowering, celebrity-studded video ad set to a remix of Frank Sinatra’s classic, “I did it my way”, which took off across the brand’s social media channels. 

Since then, this global campaign has won a wave of new Adidas fans and some pretty big awards too. 

Top tip 

This social media campaign by Adidas is a great example of influencer marketing done right. 

The brand created its Originals line based on hip-hop culture, and they spoke to their target audience through famous people who already had a huge following in that world.  

While the scale of these influencers played a significant part in this campaign’s success, you might choose to work with nano-influencers who have a smaller but loyal following among your target audience. This tactic doesn’t just boost brand awareness. It is social proof that can help build trust and credibility around your brand too.

8. Upwork – This is How We Work Now 

Upwork is a platform that helps businesses find and work with different freelancers like developers, designers, and copywriters. 

With this brilliant B2B campaign, the brand wanted to open more minds to the new way of working – i.e. outside of a physical office. So, naturally enough, Upwork brought an old boss back from the dead to tell everyone that “this is how we work now”. 

The two-minute video ad might seem completely bonkers. And that’s because it is. But it’s also incredibly clever, as it shares the brand’s philosophy in a totally fresh way (aside from the fact that the main character is physically decaying, that is). 

This all-singing, all-dancing video is unexpected and entertaining. Which made it stand out from the rest of the category to get over 50,000 views on YouTube and TikTok within the first couple days. 

Top tip 

Social media video ads should be attention-grabbing and shareable, whether you’re B2C or B2B. 

While it’s improving, the B2B advertising space is still dominated by safer, more practical content. But while B2B needs to deliver key information, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in a weird and wonderful way. 

Being braver and more social-focused with your B2B social media campaigns will ultimately help you stand out and stay ahead of the competition. 

Final thoughts 

Social media is used by many brands and businesses in every industry. But to really get the most bang for your social media buck, you’ll want to take the time to understand what works and what doesn’t. Then you can build an effective strategy and create the best social media campaigns that supercharge your business.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed scrolling through our pick of the best social media advertising examples. And if you’d like to see how Filestage can help you seamlessly review and approve your next social media campaign, start your free trial today.