Now that social media is so supremely essential in brand messaging, there are a lot of layers underneath what makes a successful post, video or tweet.
This year, brands tried to utilize the popularity of emerging formats like video, and they kept politics in mind when creating assets while inspiring their fans through acts of social good.
“Brands provided fans with more immersive experiences like Degree Men with its 360 video featuring Stephen Curry,” said Unmetric CEO and co-founder Lux Narayan. “Despite a lot of continued divisiveness on social media carried over from last year’s election, campaigns that celebrated diverse cultures did quite well.”
Unmetric, a company that analyzes engagement data across social platforms, ranks posts from brands with an engagement score from zero to 1,000. Because every platform is different, and every brand has different metrics for success, Unmetric gives scores based on the idea that some metrics (like shares and retweets) have more value for brands than others such as likes or favorites.
Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of some of the social posts from brands that Unmetric scored as 1,000—or were otherwise the most engaging of the year:
Pillsbury, “Crescent-Wrapped Chicken Parmesan”
Much like last year’s most engaging January post, Pillsbury reached home chefs who’ve tired of cooking arduous holiday meals for friends and family. This video was shared more than 1 million times since it was posted.
Under Armour, #TheLegendofTomBrady
With this post-Super Bowl tweet and video, Under Armour was prepared to celebrate Tom Brady’s Super Bowl win.
Continuing the home-sharing service’s campaign of diversity and acceptance, this message was a response to the fraught political atmosphere in the United States.
With this viral marketing stunt that garnered 15 million video views on Facebook, Hum showed audiences how they could “upgrade” their cars.
Starbucks, Unicorn Frappuccino launch
With bright colors and a limited time of availability, this one photo from Starbucks got 175,000 reactions and 50,000 shares. For interested customers, the company included a link in the comments section.
Degree Men, #RedefineWhatsPossible
This 360-degree video invited fans to experience Curry’s time on the court as if they were right there with him. With 19,000 likes and almost 13,000 retweets, the video has been viewed on Twitter more than 13 million times.
GoPro decided to run with some user-generated content to encourage people get out there and enjoy the nearby national parks.
Merriam-Webster, Commenting on “covfefe”
Brands of all types had to learn how to quickly comment on trending topics, particularly ones inspired by the current administration in the White House. Merriam-Webster was no stranger to that type of messaging. One tweet from the dictionary about Trump’s tweet containing the non-word “covfefe” received more than 224,000 likes.
As Wendy’s showed this year, sometimes asking for retweets can pay off. Carter Wilkerson, 16, asked for free nuggets from the fast-food brand in exchange for a certain number of retweets. While he didn’t meet the requirement, his original tweet received more than 3 million retweets, and Wendy’s response and charity donation got 60,000 of its own.
BarkBox, “Dog Mom Anthem”
BarkBox, a subscription service for dogs (and their owners), made waves throughout the year with its original and comedic online content. This first example was a viral rap that got 42 million views written and filmed by the staff, all about being a dog mom.
BarkBox, “Dog Dad Love Song”
Not to leave out the dog dads of the world, BarkBox also created a slow jam the fellas could relate to. It was viewed almost 7 million times since it was uploaded.
Urban Decay, #NakedHeat
While it wasn’t a makeup line from any of the Kardashians, this artfully designed Instagram post got more than 330,000 likes and 30,000 comments from excited beauty fans.
McDonald’s, Szechuan sauce fever
Long story short, fans of the animated series Rick and Morty became very vocal about this special sauce from McDonald’s. So much so, in fact, that the fast-food chain brought it back for a limited time. This preview tweet received 40,000 likes from fans of the series.
In an ad timed to the Fourth of July, Adam Driver teamed up with Budweiser to surprise a well-deserving military family to help support the Folds of Honor foundation. This Facebook video from the brewer has garnered nearly 32 million views.
Beats by Dre, #AboveTheNoise with Conor McGregor
Starring the MMA fighter, this spot from Beats by Dre racked up more than 14 million views on Facebook as a mini-bio for McGregor.
Under Armour, showcasing the talents of James Harrison
James Harrison, a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was featured in this Instagram video from Under Armour in which he lifted an insane amount of weight. This video, which doesn’t even mention the brand at all, has more than 85 million views.
Kiehl’s, partnership with Matthew McConaughey and Autism Speaks
With each share of this video, Kiehl’s promised to donate $1 to Autism Speaks, up to $200,000. According to Unmetric, it wound up getting shared more than 440,000 times, which speaks to the charitable nature of fans on social media and how they respond to brands that feel similarly.
In an effort to bring sustainable light sources to countries like Kenya, Shell created this campaign and video. To date, it has more than 86 million views. Other spots from the oil company’s campaign included a catchy music video.
Wendy’s, commentary on McDonald’s Black Friday tweet mixup
While Wendy’s has long been a brand darling on Twitter, this quick-thinking approach to social media got them 287,000 retweets on one post alone. Thanks to a Black Friday slip-up by McDonald’s, Wendy’s was able to have a little fun with its rival.
Red Bull, “Door in the Sky”
This stunt video has been viewed more than 150 million times after being uploaded a mere four weeks ago. Red Bull found some professional skydivers to “reenact” what everyone does when they miss their flight.
This Instagram video featuring Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad introduced Nike’s Pro Hijab because “sport is for everyone.”
BarkBox, “Dog Mom Holiday Anthem”
With its third entry on this list, BarkBox continued to flaunt its knack for nailing viral hits (utilizing the talents of comedians rather than marketers when it comes to content creation). This holiday-themed rap has been viewed more than 5 million times and shared more than 55,000 times—that’s a lot of dog moms!