Social Standouts of 2015: Top Posts of the Year

Published on Dec 31st, 2015

by Jack Weinstein

With 2015 coming to a close, we wanted to share this year’s top social posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We examined the most-engaged branded content on social media in 2015 (through Dec. 29) from five of the fastest-growing industries with some of the most recognizable brands: automotive, consumer goods, professional sports, publishing and retail.

Comparing engagement from 2014 with 2015, the industries saw the following year-over-year growth:

  • Professional sports: 56%

  • Automotive: 55%

  • Retail: 51%

  • Publishing: 50%

  • Consumer goods: 47%

Each of these posts generated the most actions (likes, comments, shares and retweets) in their respective categories. Only posts from celebrities, athletes, world leaders and politicians were excluded.

Professional Sports


The NBA produced the most-engaged Facebook post of the year among sports brands. Its top post featured the opposing stars of the 2015 NBA Finals, Lebron James and Stephen Curry. Curry’s Golden State Warriors would go on to beat James' Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.

In 2015, the NBA increased its video output throughout the year to a high of 53% of total content in December, a 36% increase compared with the same month in 2014. And in December 2015, that video content generated 61% of total Facebook actions for the NBA.


The NFL’s Detroit Lions posted the most-engaged sports tweet. It referred to a play that occurred the same day during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant appeared to make a catch that would have set his team up for a touchdown to win the game, but it was ruled incomplete and the Cowboys lost. The Lions lost a game to the Chicago Bears in 2010 when a touchdown catch by wide receiver Calvin Johnson, which put his team ahead with less than 30 seconds to play, was also ruled incomplete.

Connecting itself with the much more engaged team—the Cowboys generated 4.2 million Twitter actions in 2015 compared with the Lions total of 727,000—helped the Lions generate its most engagement of the year.


The NBA also had the most-engaged Instagram post of the year, the only brand among our top posts that bested the competition in its category on more than one platform. It was the most-engaged professional sports league on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the U.S. in 2015, generating more than 805 million social actions. Of those, 82% were generated on Instagram.

Stephen Curry might be the best basketball player in the world , but this post got an engagement assist from his daughter Riley, and it wasn't the first time. Curry is featured in six of the top 10 NBA Instagram posts, including the top three, illustrating that he’s become the face of the league. But Riley is also in three of those posts. Maybe it’s time to anoint her NBA’s first daughter.



Acura generated the most engagement from a single post among automotive brands by reintroducing a model discontinued 10 years before. While the NSX was first reintroduced as a concept car in 2012 , the version that would eventually be sold to the public never appeared, until January 2015.

Sports cars are exciting. Excitement generates engagement , according to our study about what makes content shareable . And few do excitement better than automotive brands.

As it turns out, audiences were pining for the NSX. Facebook posts about the sports car model accounted for only 16% of all Acura content, but produced 64% of its total actions for the year.


Like Acura, Nissan generated the most Twitter engagement in the automotive category with a sports car. But it used a different strategy. Nissan made a pop culture reference to the popular dating app Tinder with its instructions to swipe up.

Eight of Nissan’s top 10 tweets featured the GTR, helping to prove that the brand knows what its audience wants. Tweets featuring the GTR accounted for 42% of all Nissan content this year, but generated 65% of all actions.


BMW used the same formula in all of its most-engaged Instagram posts, which accounted for nine of the top 10 by automotive brands. BMW borrowed one of Audi's best practices , posting user-generated content from its audience.

All top nine posts and 28% of the brand’s Instagram content included #BMWrepost. Posts with the hashtag generated 31% of total actions. While many posts include photos of the outside of cars, BMW also generates engagement through sensorial experiences .



DC Shoes had the most engaged retail Facebook post by using excitement to create an emotional connection with its audience . Doing so made the video, which features motocross rider Robbie Maddison, very shareable. Nearly 65% of its almost 1.1 million Facebook actions are shares.


Calvin Klein generated the most engagement with its tweet featuring Justin Bieber and model Lara Stone as part of its #mycalvins campaign. The campaign accounted for just 18% of Calvin Klein’s tweets this year, but generated 77% of the brand’s total Twitter engagement this year.

Partnering with celebrities generates engagement and Bieber was a good choice. He was the most-engaged celebrity on social media in 2015 .


Nike has long used motivation and encouragement in its advertising. “Just Do It” sound familiar? It did the same to claim the most-engaged Instagram post among retail brands this year.

Nike posted just 51 times on Instagram this year, but generated more than 383,000 likes and comments per post, the most of any retail brand in the apparel and accessories category. To compare, Victoria’s Secret, the most-engaged brand in the category, generated 252,000 actions per post.



The category that includes newspapers, magazines and online media produced the most-engaged social post of the year in any category on any platform.

Tip Hero’s baked apples recipe video edged a Vin Diesel cover photo to take the top spot on Facebook with nearly 7.9 million total actions. Video recipes were some of the most engaged content on Facebook this year.

These videos work so well because they’re optimized for Facebook, which autoplays video in the newsfeed without sound. The best-performing video recipes are often about a minute long and include brief on-screen instructions, which allows viewers to watch without clicking.


Current and former members of One Direction rule Twitter, so it’s no surprise that this year’s top publishing tweet would feature one of them, Liam Payne. We’ve already mentioned one example of a brand using celebrity partnerships and how that generates engagement for brands.

Payne was the third-most engaged musician on Twitter after Justin Bieber and bandmate Niall Horan, who took the top spot on the platform.


On Instagram, the most-engaged publishing brand has no equal. National Geographic generated the most engagement of any brand through Q3 2015 . We expect that to remain unchanged when we release the 2015 top brands on social media next month.

National Geographic has generated more than 1.57 billion social actions this year through Dec. 29 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Of that, 94% of its engagement was generated on Instagram, where National Geographic’s photographers post to the platform from around the world.

Consumer Goods


Candle maker Prize Candle generated nearly 3 million Facebook actions by posting a video that went viral. About two-thirds of those actions were shares, helping prove that audiences amplify posts that tell a story , especially heartwarming stories. According to our study , storytelling was a factor for 52% of participants.

The video highlighting the work by Welcome Home: A Tiny House, Huge Purpose generated 10 times more engagement than Prize Candle’s next most-engaged post.


Like Calvin Klein, Kit Kat leveraged the power of celebrity to generate the most engagement on a tweet from a consumer goods brand this year.

Kit Kat generated more than 238,000 actions from the tweet that mentioned the band members of One Direction, significantly more than its average of 482 actions per tweet. In fact, that one tweet generated more than 85% of Kit Kat’s Twitter engagement for the entire year.


Starbucks far outpaced the quick-serve restaurant competition of the consumer goods category on Instagram. It generated more than 57 million actions, 64% of the total actions produced by the quick-serve restaurant consumer goods category in 2015. It generated 10 times more engagement this year than the next most-engaged brand, Krispy Kreme.

For some brands, overwhelming popularity on social leads to engagement.

Whether it’s using shareable content drivers like emotions, social currency or storytelling; tapping your users for content; or leveraging the popularity of celebrities, there is more than one way to generate engagement on social.

But these brands seem to share the same characteristic: they all know what type of content resonates most with their audiences. Judging by campaigns that include similar elements, like the NBA featuring Stephen Curry in most of its top posts, brands are getting more savvy with the content they produce.

We’re looking forward to seeing which content trends emerge in 2016 and whether they drive the type of engagement brands expect from their audiences.

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