The following brands are using hilarious, unique and inspiring content to create a solid social media presence that maximizes user engagement and creates memorable marketing moments.
Such brands are killing it on social media by constantly interacting with their followers through alert social listening, real-time updates and posting edgy content to create positive disruptions.
Their online antics will teach you how to create a strong brand personality and sell products without making them a hard sell, to jump on the latest trends without seeming disingenuous and to build credibility without sounding too self-righteous.
1. Burger King
Burger King is the master of trolling other brands on social media. Its humorous and clever responses make it one of the best brands on social media in 2020-2021.
Their most memorable dig was when they launched a bid to partner with McDonald's to produce the ‘McWhopper,’ knowing full well that McDonald's would turn them down and end up looking like a stodgy corporation.
When IHOP crafted a social media stunt to change its name to ‘International House of Burgers,’ Burger King quietly responded by changing their Twitter name to ‘Pancake King.’
In another clever potshot taken at McDonald’s, Burger King promoted a line of ‘Unhappy Meals’ through a YouTube ad stating, ‘No one is happy all the time. And that's OK.’
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When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and upended life as we knew it, Burger King wonderfully empathized with the state of mind of its followers in a campaign that used dark humor to highlight the issues that people are facing as they re-enter ‘normal’ life after going through unprecedented captivity and ‘confusing times.’
They used YouTube ads and radio spots that stated, ‘These are confusing times. Which is just about the right time to have the Burger King Impossible Whopper. A Whopper made without beef that tastes just like... a Whopper’.
In doing so, Burger King drove home their ultimate message that essentially said the most confusing thing about these confusing times is Burger King’s vegan burger.
In fact ‘Confusing Times’ joins a long list of work that Burger King has created during the pandemic. In November, Burger King asked burger fans to ‘order from McDonald’s’ to highlight the need to support food outlets ‘struggling’ at the hands of the pandemic.
In June, they launched the ‘Lockdown Whopper.’ At the time, Brazil was having a hard time getting people to stay home, and the president wasn‘t necessarily leading by example.
So the brand decided to gamify the lockdown. By using the geolocation feature in the Burger King app, the brand allowed its users to earn meal rewards for staying home, and as an added incentive the longer a person stayed home, the better deal they got on the Burger King app.
Thus, establishing the brand as the true ‘King’ of socially relevant and conscious online marketing.
If Burger King excels at trolling its competition, Pop-Tarts excels at trolling its followers, making it truly one of the brands killing it on Twitter.
Pop-Tarts social media strategy is a bit different from other brands. Its Twitter persona is world-weary and very much ‘over this s**t that is life’, making it one of the best brands killing it on social media in 2021.
The account regularly posts photos of blocking followers who suggest weird new flavors (it's almost a Twitter badge of honor to get blocked by Pop-Tarts) and there’s a bizarre running battle over whether or not Pop-Tarts are ravioli.
The account even does product-based updates cleverly.
Moreover, Pop-Tarts social media team has taken a gutsy approach of engaging with its followers with a jokingly adversarial stance.
As we see in their latest campaign ‘What would Pop-Tarts do,’ the brand gives condescending answers to their follower’s everyday life questions on social media.
This playful fighting and banter with their followers have most definitely paid off for the brand with Pop-Tarts having amassed a following of 214,000 followers on Twitter, double that of parent company Kellogg's 105,200 followers.
Not every branded social media account has to be an outlet for comedy. Nike capitalizes well on its aspirational brand identity, and makes a place for itself among one of the best brands on social media in 2020-21.
Its #Breaking2 social media campaign hyped its Zoom Superfly Elite shoe product launch by building anticipation for runners to break the two-hour barrier for running a marathon (spoiler alert: none did, but Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge came tantalizingly close at 2:03:05).
The company also hasn't been afraid to take a strong stance on social issues and court controversy. Its YouTube videos featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick racked up nearly 30 million views and lent support to the athlete's stand for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The brand has also made the smart move of splitting its Facebook accounts into different product categories, allowing the page to focus on specific audiences.
Wendy's has perfectly wed Burger King's strategy of trolling its competition, with Pop-Tarts' strategy of trolling its audience, to effectively troll everyone.
This makes it one of the most obvious brands killing it on Twitter. The brand is known to take consistent digs at McDonald's for using frozen beef, and will occasionally go after its customers on social platforms.
But Wendy's customer engagement goes beyond snarky comments. In 2017 a Twitter user asked them how many retweets he'd have to get to be awarded free chicken nuggets for a year.
Wendy's replied with '18 million,' and the #NuggsForCarter user-generated campaign was born. Which got retweets from Apple, Microsoft, and even Twitter itself.
The campaign blew up so much that it was even mentioned on the Ellen Degeneres Show.
Although the campaign fell short of its 18 million retweets (it got nearly 3.5 million), Wendy's still awarded the year's supply of nuggets too the lucky guy. This is a perfect example of free publicity, great customer service and masterful social media marketing.
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At one point, Wendy’s also established itself as the most responsive brand on social media when a woman named Megan Jantos tweeted that her son Julien is a big Wendy’s fan and shared a storyboard and script that her son created for a Wendy’s commercial called 'The Burger.'
Wendy’s social media team came across Jantos’ tweet and within seven hours created a video based on Julien’s idea.
The chain’s advertising team at VML helped to quickly source stock footage, score original music, and secure approval from his mom to bring Julien's artistic vision to life. Thus, completely winning their audience over with this endearing and very smart use of social listening.
Such creative marketing strategies along with a faultless customer service makes Wendy’s one of the best brands on social media in 2020-2021.
NASA is proof that you don't need stunts or humor if you've got incredible content. The space agency's Twitter and Facebook feeds are virtually the same, but the content is so awe-inspiring that the duplication barely matters.
NASA's social media team knows its major strength is in access to jaw-dropping imagery and video footage. They use such footage expertly across all their social accounts and have managed to nab 47.6 million Twitter followers, 68.2 million Instagram followers, and 24.3 million Facebook followers.
Proof that content is king and that NASA is one of the biggest brands killing it on Instagram and Twitter.
Target does retail social media marketing brilliantly, making optimum use of different social media formats to showcase its products.
The brand uses carousels on Facebook to allow users to scroll through products and smartly includes a 'Shop Now' button on its profile page.
Target also uses social media for ultra-responsive customer service. It regularly and promptly replies to comments from customers and uses its social media to update them on customer service issues.
However, the one criticism we'd level at Target is it doesn't do Twitter humor particularly well. By playing it a bit too safe, its attempts at jokes fall flat.
However, it showcases products and engages with customers so well that we're willing to give it a pass.
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KFC deserves a spot on this list simply for its most intriguing revelation of all time, that the only accounts it follows are all five spice girls and six guys named Herb.
In other words, 11 herbs and spices. Also, please note that KFC didn't point this out. It patiently waited for Twitterati to notice their subtle stunt.
Which they did, creating the right kind of buzz! That's a well-earned slow clap.
Basically, KFC has nailed the art of creating viral content. Like most recently, it encouraged social media followers to create sexy male dancer videos for their mothers on Mother's Day. By creating a tongue-in-cheek video of a buff Colonel Sanders, which still haunts our nightmares.
With this, KFC also launched an Indiegogo campaign to build a remote control in the Colonel's iconic cane shape.
All in all, the brand uses some truly whacky material that we not only adore but also tip our hat in respect for.
GoPro is the gold standard for leveraging user-generated content. The brand uses its Facebook and Instagram page to promote user-submitted videos and photos shot on GoPro cameras.
It engages its audience by offering them the chance to have their content showcased, and even runs exciting contests to hand out lucrative prizes for the best imagery shot on their equipment.
The brand also understands the concept of using different platforms for different types of content. While its Facebook and Instagram showcase user-generated content, its Twitter updates consumers on the latest products and developments.
Go Pro’s YouTube channel, meanwhile, offers tutorials on how to use its products.
This way, Go Pro ensures they cater to the needs of different types of followers based on the social media platform, thereby securing their position as a helpful, considerate and customer-first brand.
Moreover, GoPro has expanded the amount of content they share by opening regional handles featuring localized content and customers in over 10 international markets.
This decision resulted in growing their total follower base to nearly 18 million.
Look up ‘snarky’ in a Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, and it's likely the perfect definition for the Merriam-Webster's Twitter account.
The lexicographers are quick to jump on the misspellings and misstatements of public leaders with a wry offer of aid, as was the case when Donald Trump tweeted about meeting with the ‘Prince of Whales’.
They also use their Twitter to promote their incredibly entertaining content, such as their 'Words At Play' series.
But Merrian-Webster’s most mention-worthy social media stunt is how they've mastered the use of a deftly placed Simpsons GIF.
Merriam-Webster deserves a nod for taking a brand associated with scholarly seriousness and injecting it with so much fun and life.
Deloitte uses its gravitas to absolutely own LinkedIn. The global consulting firm pumps out high-quality content that positions its brand as a thought leader in the realm of business disruption.
Its content ranges from deep analytics on the current state of global commerce to forward-looking pieces on the future of business and work.
What do all these social media stars have in common?
Here are the factors that help these brands kill it on social media:
- They have clear goals in mind for every post they publish, on every platform.
- They consistently and frequently engage with their audience and followers.
- They share more user-generated content, featuring consumers as the heroes in their stories and promotions.
- They use a consistent tone, style, photography, design, voice, and branding in all their posts and across different social media platforms.
In short, these brands are not afraid to get creative and innovative and to think outside the box with whacky campaigns and edgy content - while also creating campaigns that are meaningful and authentic and therefore, powerful, inspirational, and relatable.
But the most prized takeaway from brands killing it on social media would be to focus on adding value to customers' lives.