From ice-cold water to some seriously funny tweets, a lot of brands did social right in 2014. Our experts ranked the year's best of the best in social media.
A lot of attention gets given to how brands fail on social media, but 2014 also saw some major brand wins. Our experts weighed in on who killed it on social this year.
10. Monty the Penguin
As if British department store John Lewis' 2014 Christmas advertisement, "Monty the Penguin," wasn’t a big enough hit with more than 19 million YouTube views, the company also created a Twitter account for the eponymous penguin. Monty currently has 35,300 followers. Monty is the best Christmas mascot we’ve had in years, according to Victor Piñeiro, vice president of social media at Big Spaceship, "It was smart choose a penguin, as it's the cutest seasonally appropriate animal not owned by Coca-Cola,” says Piñeiro.
9. Alex From Target
While a tweet of a good-looking Target checker was just a flavor-of-the-week fad, Target’s response won the brand major social media points. While Alex was a huge hit, marketing consultant Jeanne Jennings worries that Target could have done more to shield its employee from unwanted press. "One of the reasons I rank this lower than others is the negative fallout from this campaign; namely, Alex’s loss of privacy and his subsequent frustration as a result," Jennings says.
8. Snickers Luis Suarez Tweet
Snickers had a quick response to the World Cup incident that involved a Uruguay player biting an Italian opponent. The response was a hit, with more than 47,000 retweets, making it one of the most buzzed about of the World Cup. Media strategist Tessa Wegert says that the best part of Snicker’s tweet was its sophistication, considering the speed with which the brand rolled it out. "[Snickers] was really responsive and smart about real-time marketing and live tweeting without compromising their integrity," says Wegert.
7. Taco Bell Social Media Blackout
To promote its new mobile payment and ordering app, Taco Bell completely blacked out all its social media accounts, directing users to mobile with the hashtag #onlyintheapp. The gamble paid off. The company reported that just 24 hours after launching, 75 percent of its stores had received a mobile order. Stephanie Miller, partner at TopRight Partners, thinks the campaign was the year’s most daring. "This was incredibly courageous. Bet that others will attempt it, perhaps with mixed results," Miller says. "There must be a very strong brand trust to get away with that."
6. Arby’s Pharrell Tweet
When Pharrell raised eyebrows with his questionable sartorial choices at the 2014 Grammy’s, Taco Bell was quick with a one liner that read "Hey @Pharrell can we have our hat back?" The tweet garnered 79,328 retweets along with 47,175 likes on Facebook. While Twitter quips can sometimes be disastrous for a brand, marketing strategist Krista Neher says that Arby’s is a perfect example of a brand understanding social. "Big brands getting real time right shows the power of social media," says Neher. "Rather than trying to force something, this worked well because it was a natural fit."
To celebrate Mother’s Day, greeting card company American Greetings created a fake job posting listing all a mother’s duties then recorded applicants balking at the list. The YouTube campaign sparked more than 22 million views and reminded social media users to call their mothers. Stephanie Miller says that the secret to the brand’s success lies in the video’s originality. "The campaign is a brilliant, one-of-a-kind promotion that they can now own for a few more years," says Miller.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation made huge headlines when they let one special little boy take over San Francisco for the day dressed as Batman. #BatKid was tweeted about 750 million times and photos from the day were viewed an astonishing 120,439,533. Jennings loved the campaign’s message, particularly because the video content was relevant to the foundation. "This was a great idea, and a great cause," Jennings says. "Unlike ALS, it was closely tied to the cause. Truly a social media case study to be emulated."
Procter & Gamble brand Always flipped negative stereotypes and boosted young girls’ self-esteem with a series of videos titled #LikeAGirl. The videos pulled in more than 53 million views and the hashtag took off on Twitter. Neher says that the genius of these videos was their touching, on-brand message. "This campaign shows that viral videos aren't about creating hype and hoping that tons of people share - it starts with clear consumer understanding and brand values," she says.
2. Ellen’s Oscar Selfie
Ellen had one of the most star-studded selfies ever at the 2014 Oscars, and her tweet featuring the picture was a win for sponsor Samsung. The picture was the most retweeted of the year. Jennings says that while the photo was brilliant, Samsung did miss a golden opportunity to give back. "The idea was so simple, yet so brilliant," says Jennings. "But I wish it had been for a charity rather than benefiting a corporation."
1. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge had celebrities, athletes, and millions of others dumping gallons of cold water over their heads, all for the purpose of raising awareness and funds for the ALS Foundation, which helps fight the devastating disease. While the challenge was definitely the social media event of the year, Neher worries that it may spawn too many imitators. "This campaign was huge; the challenge is that now every nonprofit wants to figure out how to replicate the success," Neher says.