In 2015, social media campaigns that were visually compelling, customer-centric, and creative took the spotlight. Instead of self-promotion and noisy broadcasting, many brands kept customers engaged and entertained on their social media properties by offering unique and valuable content — a brilliant strategy, indeed.

From Facebook to Snapchat and Instagram to Periscope, these are the 30 social media examples I found most inspiring in 2015. I’ve organized the examples by channel so you can reference these brilliant campaigns as you plan your social media strategies for 2016.

Facebook

1. Whole Foods: Valuable videos. Whole Foods handles a corporate Facebook presence and permits local stores to manage their own. On the corporate side, Whole Foods regularly posts how-to videos for the one thing most Whole Foods customers have in common: cooking. These videos are usually brief (30-60 seconds), include text and animation, and feature a CTA for a sale item used in the video. I enjoyed this video example that customers shows how to turn Thanksgiving leftovers into nachos, instead of the same-old sandwich.

2. Newcastle: Band of Brands. Newcastle Brown Ale used Facebook for its award-winning Super Bowl Band of Brands campaign, ultimately generating 2.3 billion campaign impressions. “Lacking the $4.5 million needed to buy 30 seconds of Big Game airtime, Newcastle decided to take a cue from the sharing economy that’s made Kickstarter, Uber, AirBnB and CityBike so popular. Our plan was simple. We’d essentially sell ad space in our ad, asking 20-30 scrappy brands like ours to pitch in for airtime with us, and then cram all 20-30 of those brands into one Big Game ad... It was a simple way to poke fun at the ridiculous cost of Big Game advertising while inserting ourselves, and plenty of other brands, into the Big Game conversation.”

3. eBags: #TravelTipTuesdays. Travel bag manufacturer eBags knows that its customers are savvy travelers, so its Facebook page keeps customers coming back with tips to make travels even easier. They regularly offer useful content on their page about packing, travel hygiene, and more. The content goes way beyond self-promotional posts and discount codes to entice customers to return to the page — and maybe even buy a new bag from eBags once their old one is ready for an upgrade.

Emoji and Bitmoji

4. Taco Bell: Taco emoji engine. Emoji hit the big time in 2015. An increasing number of brands used emoji in email subject lines and social media posts. With more than 10 million likes on Facebook and 1.64 million Twitter followers, Taco Bell has a social media presence that any marketer would envy — and given its propensity for youth-oriented and trendy marketing, it was no surprise that TB used emoji as part of its marketing strategy this year. This year, when the new taco emoji came out, Taco Bell announced a campaign where you could tweet @TacoBell with the taco emoji and another emoji, and Taco Bell would tweet you back an entertaining mashup of the two emoji.

5. Dominos: Pizza delivery by emoji. In other emoji news, Dominos allowed customers to order a pizza simply by tweeting an emoji pizza slice to @Dominos. Here’s how it works: “Once a customer has registered their Twitter handle on their Domino's Pizza Profile, they will then be able to simply tweet #EasyOrder or just the pizza emoji to the Domino's Twitter handle. Domino's will then send the customer a direct message to confirm the order and the Easy Order saved in a customer's profile will be automatically sent to their home.” Ordering a pizza has never required fewer words.



6. Steve Madden: Shoes for your bitmoji self. Bitmoji — avatars of yourself created through the bitmoji keyboard — also became popular in 2015. Steve Madden teamed up with bitmoji to dress up your avatar with the designer’s shoes, proving that no matter the channel, it’s all about personalization.

Pinterest

7. Four Seasons: Curated luxury. Luxury hotelier Four Seasons manages a beautifully curated Pinterest account. With travel destinations, road-ready fashion suggestions, and foodie tips, the Four Seasons Pinterest is a great example of using social media to connect with your customers in a non-promotional way.

8. Collective Next: B2B personality on Pinterest. Consulting firm Collective Next rocks Pinterest — a shining example of how B2B companies can use this channel effectively. For example, the agency has a “Someone once said” board that features quotes aligning with the group’s worldview, an “Our Work” board to showcase projects and results, and an “Inspiration” board. Perusing Collective Next’s Pinterest is a great way to become familiar with the company’s personality. Consider how your business might use Pinterest to do the same.

Vine

9. Lowes: #fixinsix. Its Vines have been popular for a long time, but Lowes continues to innovate this Vine series. Lowes shares tips on cleaning, construction, and general home improvements in six seconds or less. Looking for the Vine lesson? Go for content that’s useful, concise, and substantial.

Instagram

10. TOMS: #withoutshoes. In May 2015, TOMS donated one pair of shoes for every person who snapped a pic of their bare feet and shared it on Instagram. This campaign tapped into TOMS customers’ philanthropic sides and spread the word about TOMS to thousands. Even if your brand can’t give away a free product to everyone who posts about you on Instagram, the point is to tie your organization’s products to a greater good.

11. Chipotle: Behind the scenes. Chipotle takes Instagram fans behind the scenes to see ingredients before they become burrito interiors. For example, in this image, Instagram fans go crazy for a picturesque bowl of avocados before they’re mashed up to become guacamole. Other examples include a bright fistful of cilantro, bare corn chips pre-salt, and freshly washed jalapenos. The photos reinforce Chipotle’s message that it’s a transparent company preparing food with real, whole-food ingredients. How can you take customers behind the scenes of your company?

12. FedEx: B2B Instagram success. When you think of FedEx, you probably think of cardboard packages and signature-required forms. Not the most photogenic stuff. But FedEx has a creative Instagram account where it publishes photos of FedEx trucks and planes in lovely settings; for example, a truck in the background of a New York City street scene or a plane flying overhead in San Diego. The images are lovely and reinforce the idea that we’re all connected by what we mail to each other.

13. Starbucks: #redcupcontest. For the second year in a row, Starbucks hosted a red cup contest on Instagram to collect customer ‘grams of their famous holiday red cups. In 2015, the contest received more than 40,000 entries! From the contest rules: “Show us your creativity by tagging your photo #RedCupContest for a chance to win… Five grand prizes of $500 available to be won.” I’d say 40,000 entries was a success — that’s a lot of salted caramel mochas.

LinkedIn

14. Citi: Linking customers with useful information. Citi runs a great LinkedIn page where it posts relevant financial news, advice for entrepreneurs, and finance-related career advice (like knowing your professional value or how to ask for a raise).

15. L’Oreal: The beauty of innovation. L’Oreal is a global beauty brand using LinkedIn in outside-the-box ways. L’Oreal posts career advice, insights on the future of innovation, and business content about their brands. For example, check out this example where L’Oreal goes behind the scenes in branding and marketing at the Body Shop. Its LinkedIn page provides an inside look into L’Oreal that business readers would find especially intriguing.

16. Virgin America and Richard Branson: A ticket to LinkedIn fun. Airline Virgin America posts frequent updates and interesting articles on its LinkedIn page. But what makes the Virgin America LinkedIn presence exceptional is the frequent blogging by Richard Branson. The beloved entrepreneur Branson writes about topics ranging from work-life balance to finding joy in Halloween as an adult. His posts are then shared on the company page, which injects the Linkedin page with personality and fun.

Snapchat

17. Political candidates: A vote for Snapchat marketing. Politicians Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, John Kasich, and more took to Snapchat in 2015 to reach younger voters. Sanders called it “Snapshot,” Clinton was “just chilling,” and Ohio Governor John Kasich released a Snapchat ad mentioning his “awesome”ness. This is the first election cycle where politicians are marketing themselves through Snapchat.

 

18. Coca Cola: Snapchat-specific content. Coca-Cola has the budget to make specialized content for every social channel. As Coca-Cola revealed to FastCompany, “‘We learned we needed to adjust the way we talk to Snapchat’s audience, because they detect when it’s advertising,’ says Coca-Cola North America content SVP Emmanuel Seuge. The company’s ads repurposed from TV and other social networks performed poorly during Snapchat’s Live Story for the NCAA Final Four tournament. The soda brand continued working ‘hand in hand’ with Snapchat to develop more ad programs; not long ago, as part of Snapchat’s back-to-high-school Story featuring scenes from kids’ first day of classes, the completion rate for a Snapchat-exclusive 10-second Coke spot shot up to 54%.”

19. CNN: Content discovery, one snap at a time. In January 2015, Snapchat launched the new “Discover” section of the app, featuring snaps sent by publishers like CNN. CNN uses Snapchat to create news stories that target a younger demographic. According to CNN, “Let's assume that TV audiences are in their 50s, desktop audience are in the 40s, and mobile is maybe 10 years younger than that… Being on Snapchat helps us reach every decade — we are going to reach those people in their 20s and younger on this platform."

20. Cinnabon: Getting sweet on Snapchat. To launch its new Snapchat account, Cinnabon partnered with social media influencers Danny Berk and Evan Garber to take over the brand's Snapchat account and ask fans to share snaps of sweets. Cinnabon’s account garnered 2,000 followers in two days. Why Snapchat? Jill Thomas, VP of marketing at Cinnabon, explains, "I loved the idea that [Snapchat] was very one-to-one and personal."

Twitter

21. Alex & Ani: No social follower left behind. As Jay Baer says, customer service is the new marketing, and jewelry brand Alex & Ani takes that to heart. Just check out Alex & Ani’s ever-present and ever-helpful customer service on Twitter. The company replies to every tweet it receives, making no exceptions for the holidays or busy times. For Alex & Ani, this “no customer left behind” approach has transformed the way customers talk about their brand on social.

22. Arclight Cinemas: Regional content works. Arclight is an upscale movie theater chain. They run regional Twitter accounts that can provide more details about special screenings and local events than a single corporate account could, while still retaining the corporate message and voice. For example, Arclight tweeted about an upcoming screening in Southern California of Reservoir Dogs, while Chicago-area customers see a tweet for a special screening of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Arclight understands that a single corporate Twitter strategy wouldn’t work and, instead, empowers regions to do their own thing.

23. Slack: Productivi-tweet. Workplace communication tool Slack lets people chat at work. When software problems arise, customers want to suggest new features, or users simply want to thank Slack for a great product, many turn to Slack’s Twitter account for a quick and helpful response. A look through Slack’s recent tweets shows a lot of help, humor, and emojis. Slack also released a new podcast in 2015, proving that Slack is considering every channel to deliver more valuable and productivity-centered content to users.

24. House of Cards: A vote for Twitter gifs and quotes. In 2015, Netflix political drama House of Cards (@houseofcards) kept its Twitter account entertaining even when a new season had been out for months and no new release date was in sight. The show tweets gifs, still images, short clips, and plain-text quotes from the show that fans RT in huge numbers. Check out these two examples that drive loyalty and excitement for the next season, which should premiere in March 2016.

25. Pittsburgh Penguins: Click-to-reveal Twitter interactivity. Back in March, the Pittsburgh Penguins tweeted a trivia question with an interactive twist: when you clicked on the image, the answer revealed itself in a new image. We saw a growing number of brands put their own spin on this tactic, and it’s an easy one to test for your own company’s Twitter account. Here’s how to create one of your own click-to-reveal Twitter images.

Periscope

26. Burberry: The runway goes mobile. In April, Burberry live-streamed its new fashion show on Periscope: “Audiences on the Burberry Periscope account will have an access all areas pass taking them from their arrival at the iconic venue, to their front row seat to watch the entire show… Periscope is the latest chapter in a successful history of collaborative innovation with Twitter, which acquired the live-streaming app earlier this year.” For product launches and events that have strong visual and time-sensitive components, Periscope is a natural fit.

27. Target: Live fashion and backstage action. In May, Target premiered a new collection with Eddie Borgo and promoted it through Periscopes: videos of the fashions, an interview with Eddie Borgo, and fashion tips. The Periscopes gave fans a more personal and intimate experience with the collection’s release, as people watched it unfold on their mobile phones live, instead of a canned commercial on TV.

28. GE: #DRONEWEEK. GE is often an early adopter of new social channels. In 2015, GE launched #DRONEWEEK, a project that allowed “viewers to criss-cross the U.S. via Periscope and get a drone's eye view of some of the company's least accessible facilities where jet engines, locomotives, wind turbines and industrial machinery are made and tested to extremes, featuring interviews and expert commentary from GE scientists and technologists.” Instead of simply Periscoping an existing company event or launch, GE developed an entirely new idea to Periscope and share.



Spotify

29. Lululemon Athletica: Fitness powered by music. Activewear brand Lululemon experimented with Spotify in 2015, releasing two playlists that perfectly coincide with the brand’s fitness-driven aesthetic. The Lights Out. Go Run playlist currently has nearly 500 followers and features songs designed to deliver an extra boost of energy and focus to runners. Music and fitness go hand in hand, so Lululemon’s translation of activewear into playlists makes perfect sense.

30. Buzzfeed: Power to pop culture. Publisher Buzzfeed boasts more than 24,000 followers on Spotify — pretty impressive. With throwback playlists and pop culture tie-ins, Buzzfeed promotes its Spotify playlists through the same impossible-not-to-click articles that make the rest of the site so popular. For example: 31 Songs from the ‘00s that Understood Your Teen Angst; 99 of 2015’s Best New Songs (So Far).

After all that inspiration, are you ready to supercharge your company’s 2016 marketing strategy? Download the Dawn of the Digital Marketer e-book now. It's filled with more real-life examples of successful marketing campaigns for every stage of the customer lifecycle.