Once upon a time, Facebook was a social network used only by top-tier university students, Twitter was a newfangled platform populated solely by tech-savvy early adopters, and selfies weren’t yet a trend. A lot can change over a decade, though, and that’s precisely what’s happened in the realm of social media since the dawn of what was once referred to as “microblogging.” New ways to communicate with one another seem to emerge on a daily basis and our digital media habits are ever-changing as a result, but one thing has become clear above all else in recent years: the power of a strong social media campaign can’t be underestimated. Gone are the days when tweets meant nothing and emerging brands could rely on analog forms of marketing without worrying about their digital presence. And for a few select companies, organizations, and subsets of the global population, those popular daily portals are more than just a way to stay connected to their audiences; they’re also a source of power, prosperity and progress. Here, we take a look at the most buzzworthy social media campaigns of 2015.

YouTube as a power tool

One unifying theme across every social media platform is emotion. Whether people spend time online to seek answers, stay up to the moment on current events, connect with friends or just cure their boredom, no one is immune to moments that harness our emotions and compel us into action.  Greenpeace landed itself the distinction of Webby Honoree for Best Viral Branded Campaign in 2015 for its “Everything Is NOT Awesome” campaign, in which it pleaded with LEGO to end its partnership with Shell through a deftly-executed, note-perfect video campaign using a somber version of the popular song “Everything Is Awesome” from the blockbuster LEGO Movie.

Launched after the oil company announced plans to drill in the Arctic, the video (above) spoke for itself, and paired with a strong social media presence thanks to the hashtag #EverythingIsNotAwesome, it quickly went viral on Twitter and Facebook. Earning more than 7 million views, its call to action at the end of the YouTube video prompted more than 1 million consumer email messages that ultimately convinced LEGO to, indeed, end its relationship with the oil company and pull its products from station shelves in 26 countries around the world. While the campaign itself was executed in late 2014, its buzz carried well into the following year, earning it a slew of industry accolades and showcasing the power of social media integration.

Prosperity 101

HK_Admiralty_太古廣場_Pacific_Place_shop_clothing_Burberry_interior_Nov-2013

Back in the day, fashion followers without coveted Fashion Week seats had to wait with bated breath for style publications to report from the runways. Not anymore, thanks to the emergence of social media tools wielded properly by fashion houses with a leg up on the competition. Case in point: Burberry, who took to Periscope and Snapchat to cover one of its own menswear shows in Los Angeles in June 2015. Simply by harnessing the exclusive power of the live-streaming apps during a live event it was already planning on producing, the British clothier broke its own customer engagement records with more than 100 million impressions.

Yes, 100 million impressions — which, aside from a few billable hours of planning and paying the day’s rate for the person holding the phone, likely didn’t cost the company one red cent. Not bad, considering the brand reported a nearly $200 million increase in global revenue as the year drew to a close.

The path to progress

AskHerMore

While those unfamiliar with the inner workings of marketing campaigns might think social media strategies are a piece of cake to pull off successfully, those in the know understand that a slow burn can sometimes be the perfect percolator when it comes to creating change. Dating back to early 2014, the #AskHerMore campaign began with a nonprofit organization called The Representation Project using social media to encourage awards show interviewers to focus on more than just fashion when speaking with women in the entertainment industry. Citing a difference in the way men and women were interviewed on the red carpet, the campaign called for crowdsourced support and ideas for alternative interview questions, seeking to change the DNA of pre-awards coverage to a more balanced version of itself.

While the hashtag made headlines, it wasn’t until 2015 when a second push bolstered the campaign into the mainstream, helped greatly by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, another nonprofit led by the eponymous megastar (and, incidentally, Golden Globes co-host alongside Tina Fey that year). Taking twitter and Instagram by storm, the movement’s second wave visibly moved the needle of the season, gaining strong support from stars like Reese Witherspoon, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Connie Britton, Poehler, Fey and more. Perhaps the most notable result: celebrity interviewer extraordinaire Ryan Seacrest didn’t ask one fashion-related question all season long, choosing to let the stars talk about the projects that had brought them there instead.

Want to brew up an effective social media campaign around a branded event? Get in touch with Kennedy Creative Events to create a little digital history together.