When Google’s Pixel entered the smartphone market in 2016, it brought a new layer of competition to what had previously been a battle between Apple and Samsung. The three brands vied on social media to promote their products, using nearly identical strategies. Yet it quickly became clear that some were more successful than others.

Although Apple entered the Instagram game relatively late, the brand quickly overtook its competition. By transitioning the “Shot on iPhone” campaign into hashtag format, Apple was able to elicit tons of user-generated content. The brand’s #shotoniphone posts have garnered over 10 million interactions in the past year alone, according to L2’s Social Strategies report.

Samsung used an identical social media strategy with a clever twist: #shotfromthegalaxy. However, even though the brand boasted the largest Facebook community with over 40 million members and joined Instagram far earlier than Apple, this campaign received less traction. A year of product recalls and internal corporate strife, combined with Apple’s immediate rise to stardom, left Samsung trailing behind.

Meanwhile, Google promoted the hashtag #teamPixel, asking users to share photos that explain why they made the switch to the Google phone. The straightforward strategy succeeded and Google was able to go toe-to-toe with Apple with a brand new product. Within a year of launch, the hashtag garnered over five million interactions.

While all three brands promoted their products with a combination of UGC and product-specific hashtags, they saw vastly different results. This raises the question: Has Samsung been replaced with a new contender, or does the infamous Apple Effect still retain relevancy?

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