With the year coming to a close, it’s time set your eyes toward 2017. What social media tactics and strategies do you have planned for the new year? In order to help get those creative juices flowing, we’ve put together a list of some of the top social media marketing examples of 2016.

Instead of copying these examples, use them as inspiration. Think of how your brand can work outside the box to put together creative campaigns and reach your social media goals for next year.

1. BarkBox

BarkBox was very creative on social media in 2016, with a particular focus on YouTube and Instagram. From their “Congratulations! You’re a dog person,” campaign to their influencer marketing efforts, they’ve really set themselves apart by being entertaining and appealing directly to their target audience.

Why It Worked

First and foremost, BarkBox’s content reaches a particularly passionate group of people—dog owners. Anyone who owns a dog immediately resonates with BarkBox’s videos and photos. Since it’s so relatable, people feel like the content speaks directly to them.

BarkBox is also an example of recognizing which social media platforms are best for your brand. Since Instagram and YouTube are both filled with photos and videos of dogs, it makes sense that BarkBox chose those two social platforms for their content.

Pay attention to who your audience is and which social networks they use. Then build your strategy around that. If you already have a following, use Sprout’s Group Report to learn more about your audience demographics.

audience demographics sprout social

2. Lowe’s

We may be saying R.I.P. to Vine in 2017, but that doesn’t take away from the creative social media marketing campaigns we saw from brands in 2016. Lowe’s has always stood out on Vine, and brought us some of the best content of the year. The #LowesFixInSix clips were particularly noteworthy.

For this campaign, Lowe’s put together a series of six-second stop-animation Vines that showed some DIY home improvement tips. The loops gained millions of views and earned Lowe’s plenty of media coverage.

Why It Worked

Aside from social video marketing being extremely popular, Lowe’s saw success with Vine for a few reasons. For one, the Vines were helpful. When you can create and share content that’s valuable to your audience, you’ve already won half the battle.

On top of that, the clips are extremely entertaining. The stop-motion style and use of claymation makes them immediately grab your attention, and entice you to share. Add on the fact that they’re only six seconds long, and you have a recipe for success.

Another lesson you can learn from this social media marketing example is to not be afraid to use different networks. Even at its height, there weren’t a lot of brands on Vine, yet Lowe’s saw the potential and capitalized on it. If a network looks promising and you think you can provide value on it, don’t be afraid to give it a shot.

3. Taco Bell

It’d be easy for a company the size of Taco Bell to sit back and coast through social media. However, the company continues to innovate and prove why its one of the best brands on social. The 2016 blind pre-order campaign is an example of how Taco Bell sets itself apart.

The concept was simple. Customers could order a new unannounced menu item from 2-4 p.m on February 6th. The campaign coincided with the company’s Super Bowl ad, which is when Taco Bell finally revealed the new Quesalupa mystery item.

taco bell quesalupa snapchat

Why It Worked

This campaign was the perfect example of taking a multi-channel approach. Taco Bell combined Snapchat, Twitter and television in a single strategy to reach more people and appeal to different audiences.

Instead of looking at your social media profiles as separate entities, think of ways you can use them all together.

4. Burberry

In April 2016, Burberry became the first luxury brand to run a Snapchat Discover channel native ad. The company used the opportunity to promote its new men’s scent Mr. Burberry.

The campaign came at an interesting time for marketers because most brands were still skeptical of Snapchat content’s short lifespan. But as Burberry showed, Snapchat provides a different type of experience that’s just as valuable as any other content.

Why It Worked

Two words: early adoption.

When you’re the first major company to do something, it naturally garners attention. There are plenty of luxury brands on Snapchat, but by being the first to run its own Discover channel ad, Burberry made a name for itself on social.

Snapchat and Instagram Stories have proven there’s added value for content that doesn’t necessarily live forever. In fact, it gives people motivation to consume the content due to fear of missing out.

When a new social network or a feature in an existing one starts to become popular, be an early adopter. Even if you’re not the first brand on the network, there’s still value in being the first in your industry. We’re seeing this happen right now with Instagram Stories. It’s still new and a lot of brands are still hesitant to try it out. Break the ice and get active now instead of waiting.

5. BuzzFeed Tasty

BuzzFeed is no stranger to being acknowledged for its social media marketing chops. But 2016 sparked a new craze with its short video recipes hosted on BuzzFeed Tasty. The clips take a new approach to an already popular concept. Recipe videos have been huge on YouTube for years, but BuzzFeed figured how to successfully translate those videos into bite sized pieces that are more usable on other platforms.

Buzzfeed cut out the talking, prep work and other pieces commonly used in recipe videos and just included the critical parts of the videos.

Why It Worked

These video clips take something that’s typically seen as difficult and intimidating like cooking, and make it look easy. Even if they’re the same exact recipe, seeing it done in 30 seconds seems a lot more doable than a 10-minute video. It’s all about perception.

Also, the videos are valuable and get straight to the point. Give people what they want in a way that’s easy for them to digest, and you’ll see more success on social media.

6. Make-A-Wish Foundation & Disney

Social media can be used for much more than increasing sales and branding. One of the best social media marketing examples of 2016 was all about raising money for a great cause. The Make-A-Wish Foundation partnered with Disney for the #ShareYourEars campaign.

Why It Worked

Aside from being launched for a great cause, this campaign also benefited from tons of user generated content (UGC). Every time someone shared their photo with the iconic mouse ears, the hashtag reached an even wider audience.

The lesson you can take from #ShareYourEars and similar campaigns is to activate your audience through UGC. It shows you appreciate them and allows them to feel like a part of your brand.

7. Reynolds

Have you ever seen a piece of content or campaign on social media that made you think “I wish I would’ve thought of that!” Well, that’s exactly what went through most marketers’ minds when they took at look at the Reynolds Instagram page in 2016. The company turned its Instagram feed into an endless table.

To pull off the visually striking campaign, Reynolds took photos of eight tables filled with food and strung them together to create one endless table, with recipes organized by season.

Why It Worked

Reynolds is the perfect example of using social media even if you’re not selling the most exciting products in the world. People aren’t rushing to Instagram to find out about aluminum foil, but Reynolds showed that a little creativity can go a long way.

In addition to creating the visual, Reynolds also reached out to food bloggers, popular chefs and Instagram foodies to have them come up with recipes for each table.

If you’re in an industry that isn’t as thrilling as fashion, art and entertainment, think outside the box. Do something that stands out, while still being relevant to your brand and industry.

8. TOMS

TOMS is the perfect example of integrating your brand’s values into your social media marketing strategy. Rather than go the route of a giveaway, TOMS put a twist on its one-for-one shoe pledge. The company offered to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for everyone who posted a barefoot Instagram photo with the hashtag #withoutshoes.

The hashtag generated hundreds of thousands of Instagram posts and went viral.

Why It Worked

The interesting thing about this campaign is the entrants didn’t receive a tangible prize for participating. TOMS relied on their followers’ commitment to their brand values to spread #withoutshoes.

The lesson you can take from TOMS is you don’t just want to get followers. You want followers who believe in your brand and what your company stands for. Your brand values don’t have to be as philanthropic as TOMS, but it should be something people can associate with.

For instance, Nike is all about performing at your peak performance. Whole Foods supports sustainability and natural products. By making these values known, both companies attract followers and customers that align with them. The end result is an engaged audience that helps promote their initiatives.

9. Knorr

Video marketing was wildly successful in 2016, and it’ll continue on in 2017. If you’re looking for a social media marketing example of a brand that successfully used video, look no further than the#LoveAtFirstTatste campaign from Knorr.

Knorr’s fun and entertaining campaign featured matchmaking based on food taste instead of looks and personality.

The video above went viral with 7 million views in a single day, and over 60 million throughout 2016.

Why It Worked

The power of video is undeniable. But on top of that, the Knorr campaign had an emotional connection by touching on the topic of love.

If you’re going to start creating videos for your brand, think of what emotion you want viewers to feel. Whether it’s humor, anger or in Knorr’s case, love, appealing to specific emotions will make your content memorable.

10. GoPro

We’re not featuring any specific campaign from GoPro. The reason GoPro is on the list is because they’re arguably one of the top non-celebrity brands on Instagram. The GoPro page has over 10 million followers, gets hundreds of thousands of engagements on every post and shares some of the most exciting content you’ll find on Instagram.

Why It Worked

The reason GoPro is killing it on Instagram is largely due to the content they share. You could spend hours scrolling through all the pictures and videos on the account.

GoPro also does an excellent job sharing UGC. A lot of the content they share is from customers using their products. This is a cool and subtle way of promoting how great their products are without being overly-promotional.

Try uploading content with people using your products. It’s much more compelling than generic photos that essentially look like ads. Sometimes you just have to let your product speak for itself.

Get Ready for 2017

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Keep in mind that ideas are only part of the equation. You also need to monitor what’s working and what’s not. Use Sprout’s social media analytics tools to get insight into your top performing social content, audience demographics and other data that’ll help you achieve even more success in 2017.

What were some of your favorite social media marketing examples of 2016? Leave a comment below and let us know.