The biggest social media successes of 2017

Anna Roberts

Nov 2017 ⋅ 5 min read

Cartoon of a smiling man surrounded by hearts and social media icons

We all notice when a company's attempt at social media goes horribly, horribly wrong.

But it's not often that social media successes are celebrated. And if you're trying to get to grips with social media at your business, these positive stories will provide plenty of inspiration for your future campaigns.

From Salt Bae to Southern Rail, these are our top social media wins from 2017...

Salt Bae

Ottoman steak 🔪

A post shared by Nusr_et#Saltbae (@nusr_et) on Jan 7, 2017 at 2:44am PST

One of the year's first and most memorable memes came courtesy of chef Nusret Gökçe, who owns a chain of steakhouses.

The Instagram video which shot him to fame shows him chopping and preparing steak — but what the internet loved the most was the flamboyant way he sprinkled salt down his forearm and onto the meat.

The company's Instagram account, which had just short of a million followers when the video was posted in January. Today it has nearly 10 million, with the video itself having been viewed more than 15 million times.

'Salt Bae' is a classic example of a viral video, but Gökçe seems to have managed to transform this short term buzz into a long term boost for his business - the chain is expanding further, and its social media posts continue to generate incredible engagement.

Lessons learnt: You don't need a big budget to produce video content and 'go viral' . Unusual or impressive content has the potential to do well regardless of the number of followers you have.


Worldwide Breast Cancer have been running their 'Know Your Lemons' campaign for several years, but it was in January, when they published the above image, that the campaign went truly viral.

The simplicity of the image, combined with its educational value and immediacy, encouraged people to engage with it and share it. After all, sharing it could save someone's life.

The charity has continued to share the image and variations of it throughout 2017, potentially helping thousands of people identify symptoms and obtain an early diagnosis.

Lessons learnt: Educational content can perform well on social media, especially when coupled with a striking image or video.


Amongst the dozens of Super Bowl ads, Airbnb's 'We Accept' spot arguably made the biggest impact, thanks to its powerful, timely message that was executed with perfect simplicity.

Here's the ad:

Airbnb also published a webpage dedicated to the campaign, where they pledged to back up their words with generous donations to charities to help displaced people.

With President's Trump inauguration only a matter of weeks prior to the Super Bowl, plus the recent implementation of the travel ban, #WeAccept struck a chord with millions of people in the US and around the world.

According to Airbnb, #weaccept was the most used advertiser hashtag during the Super Bowl, with over 33,000 tweets during the first half of the game. Airbnb's internal study found that 85% of viewers had a positive reaction to the campaign.

The ad was also notable for the traction it gained on Facebook, where it received 20 million views and over 100,000 shares.

Lessons learnt: If you tie your brand to a cause, back up your words with actions if you want your campaign to receive a positive response.

Eddie the Intern

Southern Rail are almost universally loathed by commuters who have no choice but to use their services, which makes their recent social media win all the more unlikely.

If you check their Twitter replies on a typical day, you'll see hundreds of apologies and responses to annoyed travellers - with their social media team having to deal with a torrent of abuse every day.

One weekday in July, however, that all changed when Eddie, a young man on work experience, made his entrance:

Many replies showed immediate concern for Eddie's welfare and warned him about the complaints that would be heading his way.

But then the internet masses did something wonderful, and set aside their usual dislike of Southern Rail to give Eddie a slightly easier ride.

Twitter was rather taken by Eddie's performance, and Southern Rail enjoyed a rare spell of positive press coverage off the back of it.

Lessons learnt: Social media customer service is tricky - particularly when you're dealing with complaints. But by showing that there's a human on the other side of the screen, you can defuse much of the anger and annoyance directed at your social media team.

September - Yorkshire pudding wrap

A little closer to home, RotaCloud's home city of York was the centre of social media phenomenon - York Roast Company's Yorkshire pudding wrap, filled with all the elements of a roast dinner - also known as the YorkyPud.

It all started with the above video published on BBC Radio York's Twitter account. 2,500 retweets later, and there were queues around the block as word spread and everyone wanted to try this new Yorkshire delicacy. National press coverage and yet more social media buzz followed, and the wrap remains in high demand - along with a new festive version.

The York Roast Co. weren't the first eatery to sell Yorkshire pudding wraps, but they did manage to grab the crucial social media coverage that brought them endless free press.

Lessons learnt: Reaching out to local press is a fantastic way to kickstart your marketing campaigns and get national attention, as social media sharing can quickly extend local stories beyond your region - even reaching an international audience.

Samsung's 'Growing Up' advert

Directly mocking your competitors is always a risky move, and we're not entirely sure if Samsung pulled it off. Nonetheless, the 'Growing Up' advert took social media by storm - if not entirely for the reasons that Samsung intended.

In the ad, we follow Erik on his journey as a smartphone user. From queuing up for the first iPhone in 2007, to ultimately ditching Apple in favour of Samsung in 2017. It's a beautifully shot ad with plenty of 'coming of age' moments, plus a number of cheeky digs at Apple.

Twitter was split on whether or not the advert had achieved its goal of converting long-term iPhone users to Samsung, but there's no doubt the ad caused plenty of discussion on social media - which must have been, at least partly, the goal.

Check out this round-up for the best Tweets on Samsung's ad.

What's your verdict: is the video a compelling ad for Samsung, or more free publicity for Apple?

Final thoughts

Trying to make a campaign go viral on social media isn't easy - but you can give yours the best shot at success by doing your research, knowing your brand, and figuring out the messaging that your target market finds most appealing. You'll still need to get the timing right, and luck will need to be on your side!

You may not have the marketing resources of most of the brands we've mentioned in this article, but you can still make an impact on social media. Take the York Roast Co.'s recent success - all it took was the right local press coverage, and social media did the rest.