Welcome to the first edition of the Post Performance Report (PPR). A series where we compile and analyze social media posts and campaigns inspiring us, and break down what makes them so genius. We will unpack how your brand can use these examples to spark your own scroll-stopping creative ideas—while maximizing your budget and doing more with less.

We dig deeper by not just examining the flawless creative execution of every post or campaign, but the business impact, too. We help you envision how social can increase your brand’s awareness, foster community engagement and grow the bottom line.

Here’s our lineup of brands already breaking through, and takeaways you can use to follow suit this year.

Auntie Anne’s: The crown pretzel of community engagement

Auntie Anne’s, the beloved brand behind your favorite soft pretzels, is knotted up in the latest Taylor Swift conspiracy. Why? Because they identified overlap between the Swiftie fandom and their target audience, and they are community engagement experts. They posted a black and white photo with the lyrical caption “Are you ready for it?”, as a reference to speculation that Swift might be announcing the release of her re-recorded album Reputation.

A screenshot of a post on X (formerly Twitter) from Auntie Anne's. The caption reads, "are you ready for it?" and is accompanied by a black and white photo of a delicious-looking soft pretzel.

When she didn’t, the brand followed up with the same image, only this time their social team drew on the pretzel to make it look like a clown to show solidarity with the fellow “clowns” in their community.

A screenshot of an Auntie Anne's post on X of the same black and white pretzel as the last post, but this time the pretzel has the face of sad clown drawn over it roughly. This post's caption reads: "Don't blame me, pretzels made me crazy."

Within 24 hours, the posts racked up 2.9 million impressions, 4,200 reposts and 28,000 likes, proving how well the Auntie Anne’s team knows their audience.

For another recent example of Auntie Anne’s top-tier community engagement, when the brand noticed a video about their pretzel bucket go viral, they quickly reached out to the creator and reshared it. This unexpected boost on social correlated with an increase in sales by 2,800 units year over year.

The play: As Auntie Anne’s demonstrates, the best community engagement content costs $0. But it does require:

  1. Giving your content a human touch.
  2. Using tools that elevate posts your community is already sharing.
  3. Granting the social team more creative freedom.

Independence Village Senior Living: Retirees have more fun

Racking up millions of views and hundreds of thousands of likes is not unusual for Independence Village senior living communities. With many viral videos and a late 2023 TikTok advertising campaign under their belt, their team and residents have fun putting their own spin on the latest trends.

Like this recent video of residents interacting with the maintenance team. The post quickly racked up 1.2 million views, 230,000 likes and 787 comments. Like most Independence Village content, this video is wholesome, fun and illustrates the life-enriching culture of their communities.

By showcasing the high quality care residents receive, Independence Village is more likely to recruit top talent and give future residents and their loved ones peace of mind. When you consider the rates of loneliness and negative experiences at senior living facilities and nursing homes, joy-filled videos like these are powerful tools.

The play: Independence Village turns the popular adage “go where your audience is” on its head. In cases where traditional channels are hyper-saturated, go where other companies like yours aren’t, even if it means trying something unexpected.

Topicals: Skincare in the club

Skincare brand Topicals has done something most brands fail to do: centered the experience of Black consumers through celebrating Black creators and culture. In their recent brand trip to Ghana, the brand captured (and had creators and influencers capture) content they’ve been repurposing across social. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

As TikTok creator @ashathemuseologist puts it, “Topicals…is employing brand strategies that have never been before—have never touched this Earth. Organizing a brand trip with Black influencers across the diaspora to go to Ghana during Detty December has to be, could only be, the brainchild of a young Black woman…I’m the demographic.”

The content they captured on the trip delivered 80,000 likes across Instagram and TikTok, like this video of someone putting their skincare eye patches on in the club.

This post inspired similar posts, and a Topicals spin on the In and Out post trend.

According to Sprout Social Listening data from December 5th, 2023, to January 5th, 2024, consumer sentiment of Topicals was 91% positive, gradually increasing toward the end of December when the brand trip to Ghana started. The brand trip also coincided with a 614% increase in engagements across social channels, compared to the previous 30-day period. Already the fastest-growing skincare brand at Sephora, this boost to their brand awareness will only propel the brand to new heights in 2024.

The play: You might not have the budget to send creators from across the globe on a brand trip, but what you should have is people on your team who reflect your target audience and understand what matters to them. Don’t be afraid to pitch ideas that haven’t been done before just because you’re afraid you won’t secure buy-in. Even partnering with influencers offline can fuel social buzz, as Topicals demonstrated. Trust that you are the ultimate expert of your community.

Calvin Klein: The “Yes, Chef” heard around the world

Not just another celebrity heartthrob, Jeremy Allen White is lovingly referred to as the internet’s boyfriend. In the first week of 2024, Calvin Klein unveiled a campaign featuring the popular actor in their iconic underwear. Though it’s not revolutionary for a clothing brand to feature celebrities in their campaigns, what was so brilliant about this strategy was how right it was for Calvin Klein to drop right before the Golden Globes, where Allen White took home the top prize. It’s clear they understand internet culture, their audience and how to reinforce their brand image.

A screenshot of the Calvin Klein YouTube video featuring Jeremy Allen White. In the video, the actor can be seen strolling the streets of New York before ascending the stairs of a building to get to the roof. On the roof, he performs various physical feats in Calvin Klein underwear.

The campaign’s first five Instagram posts nearly broke the internet, receiving 1.5 million likes and 22,000 comments the day after the posts were published. The campaign’s YouTube video received 282,000 views and their TikTok post received over 3.3 million views at time of this article publishing. Previous Calvin Klein social posts achieved only a small fraction of this performance, even those that feature notable A-list celebrities.

Sprout Listening data from December 5, 2023, to January 5, 2024, reveals mentions of Calvin Klein spiked from 2,747 to 37,190 and mentions of Jeremy Allen White increased from 537 to 32,958 on X (formerly known as Twitter) the day the campaign launched.

The play: Even if you don’t have a Hollywood budget, finding the right spokespeople, influencers and creators is critical. Invest where it counts with your audience (and when) to maximize your ROI.

UPS: Making drivers the star of the holiday show

UPS drivers are the heroes of the holiday season, often working overtime to deliver gifts across the country. This year, UPS spotlighted their hardworking drivers on social, orienting their holiday strategy around the people behind their business. Like in this video, where a member of their communications team interviews Quincy, a UPS driver. The interview is mostly full of rapid fire holiday questions, but also reveals Qunicy’s impressive daily delivery rate.

@ups

Get to know your UPS driver behind the wheel! Delivering the #holiday cheer and working hard to make sure your gifts arrive ahead of Santa’s visit, that’s what #UPSer Quincy does every year! 🎁🎅

♬ original sound – UPS

Fans of the brand responded enthusiastically, sharing their love for the UPS team in the comments section.

A screenshot of the comments section of the UPS TikTok video where Lesly, from the UPS social team, interviews Quincy, a driver for UPS. Comments include messages like "I love this video, so so cute," and "Happy holidays and thank you for all that you do, Quincy."

In another post, UPS reshared a user-generated video where a customer posted a sign asking their UPS driver to hide packages from their husband. In the video, the customer can be seen finding UPS-delivered packages hidden in their outdoor decor, with the text overlay “Best UPS driver ever!” hovering in frame.

Highlighting their drivers paid off for UPS. According to Sprout Listening data from December 11, 2023, to January 10, 2024, mentions of UPS spiked on X on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, key dates for last-minute package deliveries and returns. Yet, despite inevitable customer service inquiries, the brand maintained a healthy 83% positive sentiment.

The play: Frontline employees who interact with customers, members, patients or students are what make companies so great. Allow them to shine in your social content.

Creator spotlight: Mychal at the Sonoma County Library

As a bonus addition to our roundup, I highly recommend following @mychal3ts. Though not technically a brand or influencer, I wanted to end this list with a reminder of the positivity and connection social makes possible. Mychal is a librarian at the Solano County Library who shares uplifting stories about working with “library kids” and “library grown-ups.”

In their videos, Mychal reminds social media users why libraries are so essential to our communities and that everyone is welcome, even those who might have felt excluded in the past.

@mychal3ts

You never have to ask if you can keep coming to the library! We want you in the library! Library long for you to feel that you belong in your library, that you feel safe in your library (even it means being a bit “too loud” sometimes ☺️) #BookTok #LibraryTikTok #Storytime

♬ original sound – mychal

The play: No one knows the darkness of social firsthand like social media teams. But there are many pros of social media, too. On the days when the cons seem too hard to grapple with, remember how much joy, levity and connection social can bring.

Be a social media innovator in 2024

That wraps up our first installment of the Post Performance Report franchise. Stay tuned for next month’s edition where we’ll be focusing on brands who are transforming social customer care. In the meantime, remember these key takeaways:

Post Performance Report Takeaways

  • Trust you know your audience best and lean into unconventional ideas.
  • Invest in community engagement efforts by humanizing your brand on social.
  • Spokespeople and influencers must fit your brand and audience.
  • Social is a place to spread joy.

 

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And if you see a social post or campaign that deserves to be highlighted, tag us @sproutsocial and use #PostPerformanceReport to have your idea included in a future article.