It’s fair to say 2022 has been a busy year for social media marketers.

According to McKinsey, inflation has put a dent in consumer confidence, with shoppers feeling twice as pessimistic about the economic outlook as during the pandemic.

This pessimism has prompted a change in shopping behavior as consumers look to “trade down,” with 60% changing the number of their orders, 44% delaying purchases, and 37% changing retailers to access discounts or lower prices.

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At the same time, McKinsey’s data shows that the end of lockdown measures has sparked an upturn in spending in several categories, including restaurants, apparel, travel, and pet supplies.

As ever, changing behaviors represent opportunities for savvy marketers. Opportunities to reach new audiences, unlock new revenue streams, and foster meaningful customer relationships.

Inevitably, some brands have been more successful than others. We’ve rounded up eight top social media campaigns that went viral in 2022 to learn who got it right and what they did differently.

1. McDonald’s Leverages the Menu-Hacking Trend

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The McDonald’s menu contains dozens of items from fries to McNuggets to the class Big Mac. Yet that’s not enough choice judging by the social media popularity of McDonald’s menu hacks, whereby fast foodies share their favorite Frankenstein-esque menu mashups. The hashtag #mcdonaldshacks currently has 9.5 billion views on TikTok!

In 2022, Mickey D’s finally sat up and took notice, leveraging the existing trend for one of the year’s most popular viral social media campaigns. It joined forces with four self-professed “menu hack masters” to share a selection of hacks, such as the “Crunchy Double” from TikToker Greg Simms, AKA @grubwithgreg.

@grubwithgreg Have you tried this one? #mcdonalds #menuhack ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Not only did these efforts result in millions of likes, views, and shares, but they also generated a ton of search interest, as demonstrated by a massive spike in Google activity for the term “McDonald’s hacks” at the time of the campaign:

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2. Corona Showcases Eco Credentials On World Oceans Day

It’s safe to assume the past couple of years have been difficult to promote a brand called “Corona.” Undeterred, the brewer launched a campaign on World Oceans Day (June 8th) to highlight its efforts to reverse the effects of global plastic pollution.

As part of the initiative, Corona unveiled a letter from ocean-bound plastic collected from global beach cleanups carried out by the brand and its partners, spelling out the words: “Imagine a World Free of Plastic.” Social media users shared the accompanying video widely across various social platforms.

The campaign highlighted Corona’s commitment to sustainability, having already become the first global beverage brand to achieve a net-zero plastic footprint.

First and foremost, this is excellent news for the planet. But it’s also a brilliant marketing play. According to Mastercard, social media has increased awareness around environmental and climate change-related issues by 30% since the start of the pandemic, with 62% of consumers believing it’s more important than ever for companies to behave in a sustainable, eco-friendly way.

So it’s no surprise that the timing of the campaign coincided with Corona’s highest peak in search traffic of 2022 to date:

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3. General Motors Beats the Super Bowl Rush

It’s no secret that advertising during the Super Bowl is expensive. The average cost of a 30-second TV spot during football’s marquee fixture has climbed steadily over the past two decades, reaching an eye-watering $6.5 million in 2022.

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To that end, many brands attempt to get more bang for their Super Bowl buck by teasing their ads before the main event.

General Motors was one advertiser to jump on this growing trend, promoting its ad — in which Mike Myers reprised his role as Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers franchise — with a now-deleted tweet that read: “Pinkies up people. Sunday, February 13, evil is back for good.” GM shared the tweet with the hashtag #everybodyin, used to promote the company’s electric vehicle range.

Evidence suggests the teaser campaign worked, with the 23-second video going on to notch more than 3.3 million views on YouTube.

4. Breitling Drives Awareness & Purchase Consideration With AR Ads

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The most successful viral campaigns on social media don’t come about by chance; marketers base them on data.

High-end watchmaker Breitling demonstrates the value of informed decision-making in the next of our viral marketing examples. It carried out research with Meta that suggested interactive ads typically result in a higher recall, so it created its first-ever augmented reality ad to promote the launch of its Navitimer watch.

The ad told the story of the Navitimer by allowing audiences to navigate various details that make the watch distinctive using nothing more than a gentle head tilt. The interface replicated the Navitimer’s dial, ensuring the product remained front and center in the campaign.

It worked, with figures from Meta revealing that between April 21st and May 13th, the campaign achieved 31% greater reach than non-interactive campaigns. It also delivered a 2.75x higher lift in purchase consideration for the watch.

5. HubSpot Boosts Awareness With TikTok Marketing

@hubspot Thoughtful leadership and Good Boss Energy start with giving your employees realistic deadlines. #hubspot #goodbossenergy #corporatetok ♬ original sound – HubSpot

Most viral campaigns are B2C-focused. That’s not because B2B marketing is bad, but it typically lacks the mass-market appeal and shareability of consumer-centric campaigns.

HubSpot bucked the trend in 2022, launching a TikTok campaign that prompted users to share their views and experiences of what good leadership looks like to them.

The campaign was about sharing tips to help people become more compassionate leaders. But it had a more practical purpose for HubSpot: it encouraged audiences on social media to give their examples using the campaign hashtag #goodbossenergy, thereby boosting awareness of HubSpot as a brand.

To generate maximum exposure, HubSpot enlisted a bunch of business-related TikTok influencers, such as @thatcorporatelawyer (57,800 followers) and @workhap (606,000 followers). At the time of writing, #goodbossenergy has clocked up 33.6 million views on TikTok, most of which are related to HubSpot’s campaign.

6. Chipotle Taps Into Viral “It’s Corn” Trend


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A post shared by Chipotle (@chipotle)

You’re likely familiar with one of 2022’s viral stars, “Corn Kid.” If you missed all the buzz, it all began when YouTube account Recess Therapy posted an interview with a kid who said his favorite food is – you guessed it – corn. The original video has been watched more than 10 million times because sometimes, the internet doesn’t make much sense.

It wasn’t long before marketers jumped on the hype train. Chipotle was one of the first brands to capitalize, launching its viral campaign involving Corn Kid himself.

This strategy demonstrates the benefit of tapping into existing conversations as long as they’re relevant to your brand. As a Mexican food restaurant chain, Chipotle was well-placed to join in the corn-related fun — and it paid off.

According to AdAge, the fast food brand’s related Instagram post generated more than two million likes and 11,000+ comments, making it one of Chipotle’s highest-performing posts of all time and helping the company reach out to new audiences.

7. Upwork Celebrates the New World of Work

@upwork ICYMI: #ThisisHowWeWorkNow ?‍♂️ #WorkLife #CorporateLife #WorkHumor #Upwork ♬ original sound – Upwork

Many viral marketing campaigns on social media rely on a time-related hook to make them more relevant and shareable.

Upwork leveraged this approach in its “This is How We Work Now” campaign, which aimed to demonstrate that relying on full-time, office-based employees is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

In Upwork’s own words, the campaign “reinforces our belief that work should free human potential instead of limit it.” That’s a compelling evergreen message that would have worked at any time of year, but it doesn’t exactly sound like a viral smash hit.

That’s why the freelancing platform decided to launch the campaign ahead of Halloween and build it around an old, back-from-the-dead boss lecturing his leadership team about the importance of abandoning old ideas about how we should work.

The campaign’s timing and zombie-themed content helped it reach a broader audience, with the resulting video amassing 27,000 views on YouTube and 44,300 on TikTok.

Upwork broadened its reach by partnering with several influencers to create their own relevant messaging, helping the hashtag #thisishowweworknow reach more than 13.4 million views on TikTok at the time of writing.

8. Coors Becomes a Netflix Shows Unofficial “Official” Beer

Brands are tripping over themselves to partner with Netflix’s various hit shows, as demonstrated by the swathe of collaborations around Stranger Things. But those campaigns are expensive. What’s more, brewer Molson Coors proved they’re not always necessary.

If you’ve watched the Netflix martial arts comedy Cobra Kai, you’ll know that Coors Banquet is several characters’ favorite beer. Molson Coors didn’t pay for any product placement — it happened without their involvement.

However, they decided to get involved ahead of the launch of season four. One small catch: Molson Coors isn’t an official partner of Cobra Kai, so it couldn’t legally mention the show’s name.

Instead, it launched a contest with a similar tone and aesthetic to the show, prompting viewers to guess or count the number of times Coors Banquet would appear in the show. The brand rewarded the winner with a “dojo-load of beer.”

This bold, unofficial approach to brand collaborations helped the brewer generate 110.5 million social media impressions, a 100% penetration rate on its key message, and 100% positive sentiment.

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