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Posted at 10:53 AM ET, 11/21/2012

Black Friday and the tale of the holiday hashtags


(Natalie Matthews)

When it comes to turning shoppers out for Black Friday deals, the 30-second TV spot, the advertising circular and the e-mail blast are so passé. Today’s savvy retailers realize that the only way to cut through the clutter and outsmart consumers armed with price comparison shopping apps is to find new ways to connect with those consumers wherever and whenever they happen to be online over the next 72 hours. Because, admit it, you may be on the way to grandmother’s house, but you’re still checking Facebook or Twitter en route.

Even days before Black Friday, major retailers have activated their social media promotions. In fact, there are pages on Facebook dedicated solely to Black Friday deals. Or, if Facebook isn’t your scene, check out the Twitter feeds of any of the national retailers that want you in their stores. Their furiously tweeting out the #BlackFriday hashtag, not to mention anything consumers might be searching for is fair game when it comes to a holiday hashtag. Even Starbucks has decided that the holidays are the best time to #rekindle the #coffeepassion.

But why stop with #BlackFriday? Why not append a hashtag to Saturday too? Enter, American Express, which is capitalizing on the phenomenal success of its “Small Business Saturday” promotion (all the more relevant this year along the East Coast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy). The company is using #SmallBizSat as a promoted tweet. So, check out what’s trending on Twitter and you’ll likely see American Express and Small Business Saturday leading the feed.

Why stop with the hashtag-plus-day equation? Why not own an entire emotion or mood for the holiday season? Welcome, Ben & Jerry's #CaptureEuphoria promotion, which is running during the holidays on Instagram and encouraging fans to capture a picture of themselves experiencing “euphoria” of the ice cream-related variety) during the holidays. The winning Instagram photos will appear on future Ben & Jerry’s advertising in local markets, enabling just about anyone to attain a measure of Warholian fame. And who doesn’t want that?

Nevermind, don’t answer that.

The use of holiday hashtags are part of a growing realization by brands that it’s more difficult to “go viral” than it is to inject yourself into the psyche of the consumer. Anyone still remember the good old days of Elf Yourself? In many ways, a strategy of “going viral” in today’s deal-packed social media environment has about the same odds as winning the lottery — at least one brand seems to strike the jackpot every year, but most just end up squandering their money. Last holiday season, Kohl’s thought it had struck gold when it chose to re-mix Rebecca Black's viral "Friday" song into a "Black Friday" song, but ended up with egg(nog) on its face.

In a holiday shopping season where retailers are uncertain about the fiscal cliff, retail workers are feeling the fatigue of Black Friday Creep, and consumers are inundated with deals, it’s fascinating to watch how everyone seems to be trying to re-brand Thanksgiving. Big box retailers want you to shop on Friday, small businesses want you to shop on Saturday, and the big online players want your business on Cyber Monday. And that’s not all — the workers at Wal-Mart want you to know that Black Friday is a day to demand better pay and more respect. Realizing that Friday, Saturday and Monday have already been taken, the tech folks at Mashable are promoting #GivingTuesday as a way to encourage Internet users to make Thanksgiving a time to give back to the local community. These new interpretations of Thanksgiving may not be exactly what the original pilgrims had in mind, but it sure beats lining up at 3 a.m. in front of a crowded mall, hitting the refresh button on your smart phone while still digesting last night’s turkey dinner.

Dominic Basulto is a digital thinker at Bond Strategy and Influence (formerly called Electric Artists) in New York. Prior to Bond Strategy and Influence, he was the editor of Fortune’s Business Innovation Insider and a founding member of Corante.com, one of the Web's first blog media companies. He also shares his thoughts on innovation on the Big Think Endless Innovation blog and is working on a new book on innovation called "Endless Innovation, Most Beautifuland Most Wonderful."

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By  |  10:53 AM ET, 11/21/2012

 
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