Social Media Marketing

Viral Social Media Campaigns Of All Time

Millions of people are using social media every day and every marketer is well aware of that. Social media platforms are the perfect place to promote products and services and reach the whole world with several clicks. Creating a social media campaign is not as hard as it seems, but making it successful can be a bit of a challenge for brands.

A social media campaign is a set of activities, which aims to achieve a certain goal or goals over a certain period of time. So, we can define a successful campaign as one that reaches its goals. Though, there are some brands that made their campaign go so viral, that they literally blew the whole world. Most probably, you have seen them all but didn’t know what was behind those campaigns.

In this article, we’re going to discover viral social media campaigns of all time. If you’re struggling to create your next social media campaign, these examples can help you get inspired and who knows, maybe you’ll create the next viral campaign.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Let’s start with one of the most famous and viral campaigns of all time. It would be hard to find a person who has never heard of it or didn’t participate himself. Ice Bucket Challenge was created in 2014 and had the aim of raising awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) disease and encouraging donations. The campaign raised more than $115M in 8 weeks worldwide.

The challenge was very simple: people had to pour a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads and challenge at least three people to do the same and make donations. The challenge went viral after Pat Quinn and Pete Frates, both suffering from ALS disease, joined the challenge and Pete shared his own video.

The campaign was so successful that many celebrities including Bill Gates, George W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Rihanna, Cristiano Ronaldo and many others participated. Overall, more than 17 million people took part in the challenge around the world.

This campaign was successful due to many reasons. First, it was over all the channels, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, news, etc. The visibility was so high that even those who didn’t use social media were aware of the challenge. Secondly, it had a clear and direct objective. People didn’t need to do much effort to take part in the challenge. Then, it had a very important social goal – to help people with the disease. And despite touching on such an important topic, the challenge created a positive feeling and fun. Creating the right mood for a campaign can result in being viral.

Social media campaigns don’t need to always be promotional. Sometimes, social causes like this can have more impact than those aimed to just sell a product. As a result of this campaign, millions of people learned about ALS disease and made donations to help find a cure for it.

Dove - Real Beauty Sketches

This is another example of how a non-promotional campaign can become viral. Unilever in collaboration with the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Brazil created the Real Beauty Sketches campaign. It had the aim to empower women about their looks. They created a video, where FBI-trained sketch artist Gil Zamora was painting portraits of women without seeing them by asking questions about their appearance. He created 2 paintings for each woman, one was based on the description of the woman herself and the other was based on the description of another person.

There were huge differences between portraits. The campaign proved that women see themselves as less attractive than they are seen by others. The brand wanted every woman to understand that they are more beautiful than they think.

The video had more than 114 million views in the first month. It was uploaded in 25 languages on Dove’s YouTube channels. As a result, the number of Youtube subscribers highly increased, and not only, Dove gained new followers on Facebook and Twitter. Besides, the video won many prizes.

Marketing a product is as important as the marketing of a brand image. This campaign showed to customers that Dove not only sells beauty products but also cares about its customers and wants to make them feel better. It connected emotionally with the audience as everyone can relate to its concept. The campaign created positive feelings, and it encouraged people to share the video, as shareability is one of the key points of a viral campaign. Besides, the brand also encouraged conversations. They were monitoring the campaign and answering some of the comments. It’s important to create and maintain a connection with customers to enhance the brand image.

KFC - Herbs and Spices

kfc herbs and spices campaign

KFC, the famous brand selling Kentucky Fried Chicken, created a social media campaign without even paying for it. So, in 2017, KFC unfollowed all the followers on Twitter except for 11 people – 5 Spice Girls and 6 guys with the name Herb. If you didn’t know, KFC’s famous fried chickens are made using the secret ingredients of 11 spices and herbs. Genius right? And after it, they patiently waited until one of the Twitter users, Mike Edgette noticed it. After he made a post revealing what KFC had done, his tweet went viral resulting in thousands of retweets and shares. KFC rewarded the revealer with a customs painting and 52 gift cards. 

They continued the joke by painting a whimsical painting of colonel Sanders with the Twitter user who revealed the joke. With this humorous and creative campaign, the brand created organic conversations with followers. The campaign showed that KFC is a lighthearted brand that loves to play with its customers. And again, the positive feelings that the brand incited, won the heart of customers. Add the sarcastic humor, and the viral campaign is ready.

Apple - #ShotOniPhone

Apple - #ShotOniPhone

This campaign was so successful that it’s still ongoing. The campaign was very simple. Users had to share their photos shot on iPhone with the hashtag #ShotOniPhone for a chance to appear on billboards. As the campaign was very successful, Apple’s official Instagram page now is dedicated to users’ pictures #ShotOniPhone.

This was a very ingenious way to use user-generated content. UGC is the content that is created and published by unpaid contributors – fans, customers, social media users. So far, the hashtag was used 12.9 million times, with 6.5 million only on Instagram. Besides, users themselves created hashtags, which associate with iPhone and used in their posts – #iphoneography, #iphotography, #iphonephoto, and #shotoniphone12pro.

With this campaign, Apple showed how easy it is to create a stunning picture with their product, not using special equipment. And by making their customers part of the creative process they gained more social proof and at the same time engaged their customers. User-generated content is always a good idea to use to promote a brand or product, it gets higher engagement rates and click-through rates. And if done right, it can go viral as Apple’s campaign did.

Old Spice - The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Old Spice has many creative successful campaigns that are worth paying attention to, but this one is special as it went viral. The brand created a video with the Old Spice man in 2010. But this time it was more dedicated to appeal to the female audience and give an indirect message to men to buy Old Spice. The ad video has more than 59 million views so far and got many positive reviews.

But this was only the beginning. A few months later the ad agency Wieden + Kennedy created a series of 200 short videos featuring the Old Spice man as a response to comments and questions on Twitter and Facebook. The results were worth the efforts: a 1000% increase of Twitter followers and 600 000 likes of the ad on Facebook. 

By answering comments with a personalized video, they amazed their customers. Moreover, they replied to the comments of celebrities like Kevin Rose, Alyssa Milano, Justine Bateman and others and reached their audience in a massive way. Using the network of influencers can immensely increase the reach. At the time, videos were mostly used on YouTube, but Old Spice found a way to integrate other channels as well. This campaign was a very engaging and fun way to reach its target audience.

Disney - #ShareYourEars

Disney - #ShareYourEars

Disney used user-generated content and a social cause to get viral. In 2018, it was the third year in a row that Disney was supporting Make-A-Wish for their #ShareYourEars campaign. This time, they pledged to donate 5$ for every photo of a person with Mickey’s ears posted with the hashtag #ShareYourEars.

Since 1980, Disney was a part of Make-A-Wish which fulfills the dreams of many kids and families. In fact, every third wish is granted by Disney. With the #ShareYourEars campaign in 2018, Disney donated 3 million dollars to the social cause. The campaign was very successful, there were more than 1.77 million photos posted, 420 social media impressions and they increased the number of followers on Instagram and Facebook.

This campaign was simple, fun, and had a good cause at its core. By participating, everyone helped someone’s wish come true. Besides, it’s very easy and fun to just post a picture with ears. The campaign was a massive success and even celebrities participated in it.

Always - #LikeAGirl

Always - #LikeAGirl

This is another example of how a campaign with an empowering social cause can go viral. Always, the female hygiene product brand, created the campaign #LikeAGirl to ruin the stereotypes and help young girls gain confidence. The phrase “Like a Girl” has always had a negative connotation and the brand tried to change that.

They filmed a short video where they showed the weak meaning of the phrase and how confident young girls were redefining the phrase into an empowering statement. It encouraged people to make discussions about what it meant to be a girl. Social media was full of stories, anecdotes, personal achievements, and encouragement for your girls and teenagers.

The video got 66 million views on YouTube and won several awards. Millions of people admitted that they no longer associate the phrase with something negative. 2 out of 3 male viewers said they’d think twice before using the phrase as an insult.

With this campaign, the brand created a strong emotional connection with customers. They didn’t try to sell anything, they just wanted to support their customers and they actually contributed to a very important cause. The hashtag went viral as it was very relatable to anyone and almost every girl and woman would have a story associated with it.

OfficeMax - Elf Yourself

This is probably the oldest campaign on this list, but it’s still alive in our days. For Christmas celebrations in 2006, the office supplies retailer OfficeMax created a campaign. They launched a website called Elf Yourself, with dancing elves. People could upload images of themselves to the website and generate videos of themselves as dancing elves.

At the time Facebook was still a new platform and not so popular as it is today. So the brand used email to make its campaign go viral and it did work. When the campaign was launched, the website had 200 hits per second and 8 elves were created per second. As technologies advanced, OfficeMax adapted to them by creating mobile apps, AR filters to make it easier to share the video with people. Elf Yourself has become an annual holiday event that has no sign to disappear. Sometimes, they offer the new users a coupon or a discount for sharing their first video.

The longevity of the campaign is proof of its success. The brand played on humor, fun and personalization, which resulted in millions of posts and shares. Once again, positive emotions and interactive content where the users can take part themselves, are the keys to a successful campaign.

Procter & Gamble - #DistanceDance

During the pandemic, dancing became a very popular activity. Procter & Gamble, the consumer-packaged goods company, decided to use this trend to stay connected with their audience and have fun during the crisis. The brand partnered with TikTok influencer Charli D’ Amelio to create the campaign. It had the aim to encourage people to stay at home during the pandemic and post a video of them dancing with the hashtag #DistanceDance.

As a result, millions of people participated and the company committed to donating to Matthew25 and Feeding America for every single video of the first 3 million videos. To date, the hashtag gained 17.7 billion views on TikTok and over 1.9 million videos were created during the first week.

Using a trend and collaborating with a top influencer can result in a big success. Besides, the campaign aimed to encourage people in difficult times and help them have some fun. It spread a lighthearted and simple message, which spoke to the heart of millions.

Straight Outta Compton - #StraightOutta Memes

Straight Outta Compton - #StraightOutta Memes

When the biographical drama Straight Outta Compton (based on rap group N.W.A.) was due to start in theaters in 2015, Beats by Dr. Dre and Universal Pictures created a website to promote the movie. On the website, people could create their own #StraightOutta memes using any picture and post them on any social media they wanted.

The hashtag went viral very soon and the number of visitors to the website passed over 10.8 million. People started creating their own memes and posting them everywhere. Within 24 hours it became the number one topic on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Users created humorous, sarcastic, personal memes and the uniting thing in all of them was the N.W.A.’s iconic logo.

This campaign was so successful that many celebrities also participated in it, including Serena Williams, Bette Midler, Ryan Reynolds, LeBron James and even Oxford University. It made the campaign go even more viral and reach more people. This clever move promoted the movie in a way that nothing else could. They used humor, user-generated content to create a social media campaign that ended up being viral.


Let’s sum up to understand what made these campaigns go viral. 

  • First and most importantly they all created positive emotions and feelings, some of them used humor and sarcasm which is a great way to grab people’s attention. 
  • Many of the brands used a topic that was relatable and important for many people around the world.
  • They make users participate in the content creation process and have some fun.
  • Promoting a brand is as important as promoting products, and from these examples, it’s clear that people appreciate the brands that are not just trying to sell a product but rather are trying to help people and empower them.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Digital Growth Formula Team

Digital Growth Formula Team

At DGF we know the power of digital marketing, and we can prove that you can scale your business with us. Our team has a deep understanding of the industry, and we want to share our experience and expertise with you.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Leave a Reply

Hey There👋

Let's Have A Chat!

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get notified about new articles from DGF