Six Organic Social Media Marketing Campaigns You Can Learn From

If you've made a social media post without paying to reach people online, that's called organic social media marketing (SMM). It includes free content like posts, videos, photos, memes, reels, or stories that businesses and brands share on their social media platforms.

An excellent example of organic social media content is posting regularly without sponsorship or a boosted ad. Responding to comments and DMs from followers in real time is also a form of organic SMM. Sharing user-generated content without monetary incentives or rewards is another type.

With organic posts, only your followers, their followers, and people who use your hashtag might see your content. So, why do businesses still use organic SMM? Because posting organic social media content is the most effective way to connect with your audience on a larger scale. With unpaid posts, you can shape your brand's personality and voice. You get to show the human side of your business and build a genuine connection with your target audience.

Six Organic Social Media Marketing Campaigns You Can Learn From:

6 Successful Organic Social Marketing Campaigns

Here are six examples of brands successfully using organic social media marketing to achieve their goals, and then some more:

1. Adidas Messi World Cup 2022 (Impossible Is Nothing)

Platform:  Instagram, X, TikTok

The Campaign

Adidas Middle East and North Africa (MENA) achieved a monumental organic social media marketing feat by engineering a CGI billboard in Dubai to honor Lionel Messi's hypothetical World Cup 2022 victory. The campaign aimed to celebrate Messi's legacy with a digital activation that not only transcended physical limitations but also resonated globally. 

Despite Argentina's uncertain tournament performance, Adidas capitalized on Messi's universal appeal. The brand collaborated with VertexCGI to release a six-second grainy, unbranded video, showcasing a seemingly real 3D billboard on the Dubai Frame featuring Messi from different World Cups.

Adidas, known for its successful social media marketing strategy, once again hit the nail on the head with this "Impossible Is Nothing" campaign. The video received:

  • 100 million organic views within two days
  • 160 million total views
  • 12.5 million engagements across Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter

Reasons for Success

The brand’s strategic and innovative use of CGI played a pivotal role in the campaign's success. By embracing CGI, Adidas overcame the logistical hurdles of traditional physical activations. 

Nikita Vantorin, creative director of VertexCGI, insisted that the content look as natural as possible. It had to be vertical mobile and shot at night, so the seemingly amateur video was taken right after the World Cup final. The Dubai Frame was shot from a moving car to ensure the production looked like non-pro footage. The grainy, unbranded video felt like User-Generated Content, which creates intrigue and a sense of discovery. The short-form, vertical video was also perfect for social media platforms like Instagram and X. 

Dubai also had a vital influence on the campaign's success. As Adidas's key cultural capital, Dubai further amplified its regional impact and created a halo effect across the MENA region. It also created a buzz outside Instagram and X, like this Reddit thread:

This Lionel Messi Billboard is insane
byu/Marco280892 inDamnthatsinteresting

Lessons to Learn

The Impossible is Nothing campaign provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of agility and technological innovation. Using emerging technologies such as CGI, brands can overcome logistical hurdles and deliver engaging experiences to audiences worldwide.

Not every brand has Adidas's extensive marketing budget. However, there are alternative approaches to achieving impactful results. Using simple techniques like utilizing green-screen features during filming for post-production enhancements, leveraging smartphone capabilities like time-lapse or slow motion for added dramatic effect, or employing stop-motion animations for practical effects can be highly effective. 

Additionally, numerous video software and tools, some powered by AI, are available to create compelling video content. The key lies in meticulous planning and agility, particularly for global real-time events.

2. The Cheesecake Factory's Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake

Platform: Facebook, Instagram, X

The Campaign

In 2019, after four years of customer demand, The Cheesecake Factory relaunched its pineapple upside-down cheesecake. The brand leveraged social listening and community engagement to plan and execute its organic social media campaign.

The company created a sense of anticipation to connect with its customers emotionally. It teased the comeback by subtly including pineapples in its social media posts. They also engaged the community by recognizing 40 Pineapple Superfans who championed the cheesecake's return and giving them personalized thank-you notes.  

When the restaurant chain announced the return of the pineapple upside-down cake, it was a testament to their genuine appreciation for fan loyalty. It effectively responded to four years of fan comments, DMs, and posts. 

The impact was significant. 

  • The announcement post received 4.7 million organic impressions in a single day with zero media budget. 
  • The pineapple upside-down cheesecake became the top-selling cheesecake on National Cheesecake Day. 
  • Overall, the campaign received 97% positive sentiment.
  • The campaign became a Shorty Awards Finalist for organic promotion, ultimately winning in the customer service category.

Reasons for Success

The campaign succeeded due to the genuine interaction with the fan community and skillful emotional connection. By listening to its audience and recognizing its part in the product's comeback, The Cheesecake Factory nurtured a sense of ownership and loyalty among fans. 

The clever use of hidden pineapple clues added a playful, interactive aspect, rewarding dedicated fans for their attention. The gradual reveal of clues and personalized gestures towards "Pineapple Superfans" heightened excitement and exclusivity. By singling out and appreciating their most vocal supporters, the brand made them feel valued and strengthened their loyalty. This fueled anticipation and word-of-mouth buzz. 

Lessons to Learn

Listen to what your audience is saying. Social listening enables brands to deeply understand their target market and tailor campaigns around these conversations. Listening to what they say makes them feel valued and appreciated, fostering a stronger relationship with your brand. This ultimately translates into tangible business success. 

Furthermore, use interactive content that matches the tone and personality of your brand. You can use interactive infographics with clickable sections, polls and quizzes, and handy tools like calculators to make your audience feel included. Here are some impactful interactive content types that you can use for your next campaign:

3. Merriam-Webster

Platform: X, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube

The Campaign

When it comes to Merriam-Webster, it's not a single social media campaign that needs highlighting but its masterful social media strategy. Merriam-Webster has transformed its social media presence organically, particularly on X with a million followers, from a stuffy authority figure to a smart, witty, and relatable "friend.".

Led by Social Director John Sabine (JS), Merriam-Webster embraced a strategy centered on celebrating the English language and cultivating genuine connections with its audience in real time. It injected humor into its content, using wordplay, witty replies, and self-deprecating jokes that resonated with its audience.

In an interview, JS noted that brands should have vitality and be more than just notice boards:

He also noted that approval for organic posts was required at his previous job but not for the replies, so he adopted the practice. A practical application was when Padma Lakshmi tweeted about her decision to leave the Top Chef. As a Merriam-Webster social director and a fan, JS replied how he thought a dictionary would reply:

Leveraging real-time data tools, Merriam-Webster identified trending words and topics, ensuring their content remained timely and resonant. Its authentic and organic voice, characterized by insight, charm, and occasional snark, mirrored real conversations within the office, fostering a sense of intimacy and relatability.

To date, Merriam-Webster social platforms collectively have over 2.3 million followers:

Aside from millions of followers, Merriam-Webster's social media presence is recognized by Shorty Awards and Webby Awards

Reasons for Success

Smart humor and personality are critical factors in the success of Merriam-Webster's social media presence. The strategy is so organic that it transcends the boundaries of traditional dictionary marketing. The MS team uses a conversational tone and responds to users with wit and warmth. At times, the brand simply asks a question, like this thread that has nearly 10 million views and over 3.6k replies:

As JS further noted, the brand respects the intelligence of its followers without taking themselves too seriously:

Despite being entertaining, Merriam-Webster still managed to educate its audience about language and word origins.

Lessons to Learn

Authenticity and brand personality engage the audience. As JS advised, create content that resonates with you, trusting your instincts and tastes to guide your social media strategy. Don't hesitate to show your human side. Most of the time, it's what makes you click with your audience. 

Embrace humor and wit where appropriate, but ensure it aligns with your brand identity and values. Always read the room and base your tone on current events and real-time happenings. Pay attention to the audience's response. Use social media metrics to gauge which tone works best. 

4. UN Women Australia's #EmpowerMoves

Platform: TikTok

The Campaign

UN Women Australia (UNWA) launched the #EmpowerMoves campaign on TikTok. UNWA worked with a self-defense expert, Rita Matty from SheFightsBack, and a choreographer, Karla Mura, who created a dance routine incorporating four simple self-defense moves. UNWA launched the campaign without mentioning the UN, letting the dance trend take off naturally, then revealed the educational purpose later. 

@unwomenaust #EmpowerMoves is the dance that’s also self-defence. Join the movement today #UNWomenAust ♬ Good Things (R3HAB Remix) - Wafia

In Australia, by age 15, one in five girls has experienced stalking. To mark International Day, UNWA collaborated with an Australian marketing agency, The Monkeys, to launch a fresh campaign tailored to girls. Since awareness of UNWA among this age group was minimal, the agency had to create an engaging campaign to introduce UNWA and women's empowerment. It chose TikTok as the platform because it aligns with users' natural behavior.

The campaign started with a TikTok dance trend, encouraging users to join in and learn the moves and create their own videos before the dance's details were revealed. The aim was to engage girls positively and empoweringly rather than instilling fear. The campaign's tone, personality, energy, and the selection of influencers were crucial to its success in spreading the message authentically.

A hashtag challenge was launched as part of the strategy, featuring breakdown videos explaining each dance move and how to perform them effectively. This organic approach was later combined with paid media to increase the campaign's reach.

This unique strategy resulted in:

  • 130 million video views.
  • 500 million views of the Hashtag Challenge page.
  • 62.5 million people reached worldwide.

Reasons for Success

The #EmpowerMoves campaign succeeded by seamlessly integrating with TikTok's culture and format. In Australia, 22.26% of TikTok users are girls aged 13-17. The use of the Gen Z platform resonates well with its target audience. 

The campaign also captured users' attention and engagement with the right mix of education and entertainment. Collaboration with experts ensured authenticity while trending formats ensured relevancy.

Lessons to Learn

Meet your audience where they are and engage with them authentically. Each social platform caters to a specific demographic. You can use TikTok to appeal to younger audiences with a dance trend. From that content, create visually appealing images or short-form snippets you can post on Instagram to attract a different audience. Do long-form content with the same topic for other platforms like Facebook and YouTube that use this type of content. 

Don't hesitate to partner with others, especially if the campaign is for a good cause or is socially relevant. Influencer marketing can further expand the campaign. Ensure your collaborators have the same social value and mission as your brand.  

5. Chipotle It's Corn

Platform: X, Facebook, Instagram

The Campaign

When a viral video featuring 7-year-old Tariq professing his love for corn caught the internet's attention, Chipotle seized the opportunity for a unique connection with its audience. Recognizing the alignment with its famous Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa, Chipotle promptly reached out to Tariq, confirming his status as a Chipotle fan within 17 hours. 

Candice Beck, Chipotle's director of social media, influencers, and Web3, noted that many users on social media were tagging Chipotle and suggesting that the brand collaborate with the Corn Kid:

Candice Beck, Chipotle's director


Chipotle leveraged authentic integration. The brand didn't just jump on the meme bandwagon; it created content that integrated Tariq's love for corn into the Chipotle ordering experience. It produced a fully edited video highlighting the ordering experience focused solely on corn.

The fan-centric approach received over 125 million organic views:

  • 13.2 million views and over 800k shares on Instagram.
  • 21.4 million views and 3.8 million likes on TikTok.
  • 1.2 billion impressions
  • 19 million total engagements

It is by far Chipotle's highest-performing Instagram post and top organic TikTok video. It also earned recognition from The Shorty Awards (Gold Honor), The Webby Awards, and the Cannes Lions Shortlist.

Reasons for Success

Chipotle's approach exemplifies good organic social media marketing by swiftly capitalizing on a viral moment while maintaining authenticity. Chipotle established a genuine partnership with a true fan of the brand. 

As such, the campaign didn't feel forced or disconnected. By involving Tariq in the creation process and showcasing his authentic love for corn, Chipotle created content that everyone can relate to and find enjoyable. 

Chipotle also leveraged the existing audience of Recess Therapy, where Tariq first appeared. This helped them achieve massive organic reach without paid promotion.

Lessons to Learn

Be alert for viral opportunities that match your products and brand values. Trending topics don't always require your involvement. If it feels forced, your audience will notice. Prioritize genuine connections and be prepared to act swiftly.

Furthermore, instead of merely reacting to trends, look for opportunities to authentically engage with your audience by teaming up with the right brand advocates – don't just pick anyone or the wrong ones. Let their personalities and humor shine through.

6. Duolingo

Platform: TikTok, X, Instagram, Facebook

The Campaign

Duolingo's success mirrors Merriam-Webster's. It's not just one social media campaign; instead, it's an organic strategy. Duolingo's rapid growth, from 16.2 million downloads in January 2024 to becoming a unicorn in the language learning sector, is attributed mainly to its inventive SMM approach.

Beyond offering free language learning services, Duolingo differentiated itself by embracing a quirky brand voice, seizing timely trends, and prioritizing entertainment over direct sales pitches. The brand targeted a youthful demographic, mainly Gen Z and millennials aged 16 to 34, who sought language learning opportunities but couldn't afford traditional courses. Duolingo's approach involved personalizing and gamifying the learning experience while fostering a playful digital presence across social media platforms. 

Led by Zaria Parvez, Duolingo's senior global social media manager who joined the company when she was 23, the brand transformed its green owl mascot, Duo, into a social media sensation. As of writing, Duo has over 11 million followers on TikTok.

Parvez's initiative revitalized Duolingo's TikTok account, leveraging Duo's persona to create offbeat, meme-worthy, and irreverent content that resonated with users. This strategy tapped into cultural trends, showcased Duolingo's brand personality, and positioned Duo as an influencer, driving significant engagement and growth for the platform.

@duolingo Replying to @I❤️⚽️ ♬ original sound - Duolingo

Parvez also didn't create new content right off the bat:

To date, Duo has over 20 million social media followers:

Reasons for Success

Parvez was a junior talent when she was given creative control over the TikTok account. Since the old content didn't work, she took a risk and used the "test and learn" approach. In an interview, Parvez said that she proposed the owl mascot to be the creator:

At that time, Parvez also acknowledged her youth. She mentioned that being a junior talent had advantages, as she wasn't fully aware of the potential challenges. Unlike more experienced individuals who might consider legal reviews or the perceptions of other teams, her naivety allowed her to take risks without realizing they were risks at the time.

Duolingo connected authentically with a younger audience by embracing TikTok's culture and trends. Their shift to a social-first marketing approach, with a playful tone, appealed to users looking for entertainment over traditional ads. Featuring Duo as the creator also helped build a community among the audience, fostering brand loyalty and advocacy.

Lessons to Learn

Empower young talents in your company. Give them a chance to contribute their fresh ideas and social media savvy. Let them experiment and test what works and what needs improvement. Give them parameters and goals, and then let them do their thing. 

Adapting your content strategies to align with social platform dynamics will also help organically grow your social media strategy. You don't necessarily have to pay for third-party tools or software to boost your brand visibility. Most social platforms have built-in features and tools to help you with your goals.

Final Thoughts

Organic social media marketing has pros and cons, much like paid social media ads. No rule forbids you from using both to optimize your marketing campaign fully. But, organic social media marketing works best for regular content or real-time viral reactions. 

Many platforms and agencies can help you create viral-worthy organic content. You can also self-study tips and approaches to maximize your social media strategies. Arm yourself with knowledge on organic SMM and study the examples above for your next social media campaign.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is organic marketing?

Organic marketing is promoting a product or service through non-paid channels.

What is paid marketing?

Paid marketing involves paying for an ad placement to reach a target audience.

Which marketing type is better: organic or paid marketing?

Neither is inherently better. Both have pros and cons. Both answer specific business goals and use particular resources. 

About the Author
Geri Mileva, an experienced IP network engineer and distinguished writer at Influencer Marketing Hub, specializes in the realms of the Creator Economy, AI, blockchain, and the Metaverse. Her articles, featured in The Huffington Post, Ravishly, and various other respected newspapers and magazines, offer in-depth analysis and insights into these cutting-edge technology domains. Geri's technological background enriches her writing, providing a unique perspective that bridges complex technical concepts with accessible, engaging content for diverse audiences.