Social media is a powerful tool for both communication and community building. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have given brands a relatively simple platform for connecting with fans, which can help drive new business for companies who know how to engage them.

But how exactly do you do that? The beauty of these evolving channels is that brands are mostly free to innovate and experiment to see what works for their customers. However, one could also argue that’s what makes it more challenging.

Let’s look to our peers for help. Having a reference for what has worked in the past is a good way to get your creative juices flowing. So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite creative social media campaigns. We’ll continue to add to this list as we come across more great examples. And we hope you’ll chime in – what are some of your favorite social media success stories?

944% social media growth in one day

The hair product company Clairol managed to grow their Facebook following by an astounding 944% in just one day. To support the launch of their Nice ‘n Easy Color Blend Foam, the company hosted a simple campaign where they gave away 100,000 new bottles over four days. Thanks to a combination of a well-conceived giveaway and aggressive blogger outreach, new fans flocked to the page in droves – 255,000 to be exact. However, retaining fans is just as important as gaining them, so Clairol created a series of how-to videos, featured product reviews and ratings by users, and linked to tips from their own hair color experts.

One tweet leads to $250,000 sale

I like this example for its simplicity. A few months ago, someone tweeted “shoretel or avaya? Time for a new phone system very soon.” Avaya, the communications company mentioned in the tweet, picked up on the conversation using the social media monitoring tool Radian6, and they replied within 15 minutes. (The company makes it a point to emphasize that none of their tweets are automated.) As a result, Avaya eventually sealed a $250,000 sale. This particular example is all about how you can focus on deriving bottom line results for a business on social media, not just marketing. Long story short, it pays to listen.

A crowdsourced lottery on Facebook

Rewarding your fans goes a long way toward community building. It shows your brand cares about its customers, enough to thank them with something of real-world value. The hamburger chain Jack In The Box took it one step further. Throughout the month of October 2010, the company added a nickel to an imaginary jar for every new fan they got. At the end of the month, one randomly selected (and extremely lucky) fan got the whole stash. The campaign raised $11,533, which translated to more than 230,000 new fans, a 361% growth.

30-day giveaway yields sweet results

This one’s from our own Digital Park team. In support of the launch of Mrs. Butterworth’s new spring syrup bottles, we created a giveaway to drive awareness and Facebook fan growth. The contest was called 30 Days of Sweetness, in which fans would be eligible to win a “breakfast fun kit” every day for a month just by signing up on a dedicated landing page. We supported this with frequent messaging, a Facebook ad buy and posting to third-party contest websites. As a result, Mrs. Butterworth’s Facebook page grew 268% in just 30 days and word of Mrs. Butterworth’s new spring bottles reached more than 4.5 million people.

Multimedia and social media enhance nonprofit’s fundraising

Charity: Water, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean water to developing nations around the world, has embraced social media and generated astounding results. Using Facebook and Twitter, they share compelling multimedia content to invigorate their growing fan base, including this poignant YouTube video that raised $10,000 in one day. The organization also maintains a frequently updated blog that reinforces their mission. But a major reason for their success is their ability to take the online experience offline. Last year, for example, they partnered with Twestival, an online fundraising initiative that’s used to organize offline events around the world through Twitter. The result? They managed to raise $250,000 to provide clean water for three nations.

Taking the online experience offline

The idea was simple: Become a fan of Einstein Bros. and get a coupon for a free bagel and schmear at a nearby location. As a result, not only did the fan page grow 1,000% in one week, but following the campaign Einstein Bros.’ stores enjoyed their best sales week of the entire year. The effectiveness of this campaign was twofold. First, there was that there was a low barrier of entry for a free reward, and it was one you could only get by being a Facebook fan. Second, this campaign took the experience offline, strengthening the connection with Facebook fans in real life.

Keep it simple: Set a world record!

The premise was so simple that participating was almost irresistible. Oreo attempted to set a Guinness World Record for the most number of Facebook “likes” to a post in 24 hours. They succeeded with 114,619 “likes” before being crushed by Lil Wayne shortly thereafter, who gained 588,243 “likes.” All in all, it was a fun engagement tactic, but it begged the question: What’s the point? First, it generated lots of positive press for the brand. (Many social media news channels, for example, picked up the story and followed it throughout the 24-hour period.) Second, in addition to an increase in brand recognition, it showed that the brands involved (both Oreo and Lil Wayne) were social media savvy and knew how to capture their audience’s attention. Third, the more “likes” and comments a brand page’s content receives, the more likely it is to appear on their fan’s Top News Feeds, according to Facebook’s algorithm. In other words, the World Record strategy succeeded in making the brands more visible on social media.