5 Black Friday Social Media Campaigns and Tactics to Learn From

A mere two weeks from now, shoppers will flock to stores to pick up the best bargains of the year. Black Friday and its online bestie Cyber Monday are a great time of year for brands to implement a social campaign to support traditional marketing efforts. There’s a variety of ways for social media to complement your marketing plans for the holiday season; here’s a snapshot of some top approaches to consider for your brand.

The Marketing-By-Not-Marketing Approach

Recently implemented by REI’s #OptOutside campaign, the Marketing-By-Not-Marketing Approach is essentially advertising how a brand isn’t participating in Black Friday so they can stand out from the crowd. Also known as the anti-campaign, this approach especially appeals to brands with more cult-like followings.

This approach has some benefits. In the case of REI, they get press for being different and good karma for giving employees the day off. Now, REI is encouraging people to go outside—it’s no coincidence that participating in the campaign requires the exact products REI sells. They aren’t telling people to spend the day Netflix and chillin’ for a reason. The social component generates user-generated content around the #OptOutside hashtag and gets their fan base mobilized spreading a branded message on their behalf.

On the other hand, REI has to close its retail stores and turn off online sales to truly deliver the message of this campaign, and that means they are getting no store traffic or website sales on one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Many brands aren’t that bold.

So how can you apply this approach to your marketing plan? Brainstorm ways that you might be able to focus on an aspect of your brand story for Black Friday that doesn’t have to do with the sales you’ll have. Generate social content that demonstrates this to your fans. Especially if you have an audience who doesn’t spark with in-store Black Friday deals, you might have a lot to win by testing subtler approaches.

The Sweepstakes Approach

While Black Friday demonstrates how much people love buying stuff, they love getting free stuff even more. Giveaways, sweepstakes, and social promotions are a great way to get your audience active during the highly competitive days around Black Friday.

Last year, Kohl’s executed a multi-faceted sweepstakes program that offered the chance to win gift cards in exchange for contest entries. A trivia component helped keep the audience engaged as the campaign progressed. Kohl’s went heavy-up the evening of Thanksgiving and into Black Friday, posting content every 15 minutes. They reported 450K engagements during the week of Black Friday (up 400% from 2013) and #KohlsSweeps trended consistently on Twitter.


If your brand has the opportunity to launch a sweepstakes or giveaway during Black Friday, you can bet you’ll see more engagement than just posting about your deals.

The Gift Guide Approach

Providing value to your social media followings outside of deals & discounts is a tricky subject for many brands. A great way to add a little value is to help your audience with their daily lives; many brands are posting life hacks and listicle style content to do just that. During the holiday season, this often takes the form of gift guides. Brands from Sephora to Office Depot to the Disney Store employ this tactic; creating guides full of helpful gift suggestions for everyone on your list.

Take a look at your brand’s product offerings and see if any of the products could be categorized into a helpful gift guide. The brand community will thank you for taking care of some of the leg work!

The Multi-Channel Approach

This is likely the most expensive and hardest to execute of this entire list. The Multi-Channel Approach refers to an all-out assault on all channels, pushing deals and content. The king of this approach is Target. During last year’s holiday season, Target had Snapchat filters, Facebook Canvas ads, Instagram ads, gift suggestions called “Wonderpacks” and much more. If you have the budget, it means you can throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. In the case of Target, they generated so much digital traffic that their website went down on Cyber Monday. I’d call that success!


Since not everyone is working with Target’s budget, a way to utilize this approach is to ensure that your brand is participating in all the right channels with consistent messaging, and with messaging that works for each individual channel. For competitive weeks like the one surrounding Black Friday, your content must be formatted for objective and engaging to contend with the noise.

The Always On Approach

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are really only 48 short hours out of a holiday shopping season that now spans seven weeks from Halloween to Christmas Eve. Some retailers, like Amazon, choose to celebrate Black Friday all season long. Amazon launched their Black Friday site November 1, just in case any of you felt ahead of the game by starting to plan your Black Friday content today. You’re already late!

Back in 2014, email marketing provider YesMail reported that Black Friday emails were most likely to be opened on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Black Friday. For Black Friday-themed Facebook posts, engagement was highest the Sunday before Black Friday. If you are waiting to post your Black Friday content until the day of, you may want to re-think that. A consistent cadence of holiday messaging starting a full week before the big day is worth considering. For some brands, even earlier might make sense.


That’s my rundown of top approaches for Black Friday social media campaigns. Need help planning your social media content during the holidays? Drop us a line here.

Ignite Social Media