Holiday Social Media Marketing: Wonders & Blunders You Can Learn From

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… if your marketing team is prepared!

Having the right social media marketing campaign during the holiday season can mean the difference between plentiful gifts beneath the company tree or lumps of coal in the company stocking. Tensions are often high for retailers, consumers, and marketing departments alike during the busy season, as everyone works to stay on top of demand, trends, and the competition.

Given that religious holidays are the reason for the season, some consumers can be a bit sensitive to brands and businesses capitalizing on the occasion and taking advantage of employees’ family time to generate more revenue.

With the right amount of planning, careful consideration, and a dash of sugar and spice, holiday marketing campaigns on social media can generate buzz and even get your brand in front of potential customers who you may have missed otherwise.

Learn from the brave brands that have gone before us about the do’s and don’ts of holiday internet marketing with this year’s Social Media Holiday Wonders & Blunders List.


Flashback to December 2007. OfficeMax launches a user-generated viral video campaign called “Elf Yourself.” The site encouraged visitors to upload photos of themselves, friends, family or pets, whose faces were then placed on dancing elf bodies, creating videos that could be shared on social media or as ecards.

That December, became the fastest growing site of the month, reaching 39 million unique visitors in the United States, according to TechCrunch. Over the length of the campaign, the site attracted 100 million uniques worldwide. The next year, OfficeMax teamed up with JibJab Media to bring the campaign back, in a bigger and better way.

YouTube Preview Image


Leading up to Thanksgiving and the much anticipated Black Friday this year, Kmart announced that it was going to open earlier on Thanksgiving Day than it ever had in the past.

They also planned on staying open through Black Friday. Critics took to Twitter to vent on the ethics of this decision, and the clearly unprepared Kmart social media team responded rather… robotically, thus fueling the fire.

Screenshot: Kmart Twitter backlash after announcing Thanksgiving and Black Friday store hours

Kmart received Twitter backlash after announcing Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2013 store hours

Kmart’s lack of a social media crisis management strategy landed them among Business Insider’s list of 2013 worst social media marketing fails.


By far this year’s best and fastest growing holiday marketing miracle is the WestJet Christmas Miracle video. The international airline quickly put themselves on Santa’s map with a “real-time giving” project that no one can find fault with.

Best of all, the company has followed up with a blog post about the project, ensuring that it “wasn’t about branding; it was about you.”

YouTube Preview Image

No matter a consumer’s religious sensitivity, a company can’t be faulted for a bit of surprise charitable giving!

Screenshot: WestJet's Christmas Miracle Viral Video Facebook Interaction

Talk about creating eternal brand ambassadors!


Although not a traditional holiday, September 11th is recognized and remembered by Americans every year with reverence. Like religious holidays, consumers don’t always appreciate brands’ attempts to commemorate an event like 9/11. This year, AT&T tweeted an image of a smartphone capturing the Twin Tower memorial lights with the text, “Never Forget.”

Many found the tweet to be an opportunistic advertisement and blasted Twitter with their distaste.

Screenshot: AT&T 9/11 Twin Towers Tweet

Followers and customers found AT&T’s 9/11 tweet to be opportunistic and tactless, taking to Twitter with their frustrations.


Beauty and makeup giant Sephora launched their “SephoraClaus” campaign in 2009, asking customers to tweet an item from their holiday wish list (up to $150 value) using a dedicated hashtag #sephoraclaus. Each day for 30 days, Sephora granted a wish to one lucky tweeter!

With an incredibly simple form of entry (tweeting @sephora) and use of a dedicated hashtag, the campaign was widely visible, generating 50,839 tweets by the end of the month. Consumers were talking and tweeting openly about their favorite Sephora products all month long.

Screenshot of Entry to SephoraClaus Twitter Giveaway Campaign in 2009

4 Real Life Tips For Running Your Own Holiday Social Media Marketing Campaigns

Although you may not have the budget to run a campaign like Sephora or WestJet, we can certainly learn from the successes and failures of those brands that have gone before us! Check out these tips for planning and executing your own holiday social media campaign:

  1. When Using A Holiday Theme In Your Marketing, don’t have a pushy sales message unless it’s a coupon or deal. Remember consumers’ sensitivity to overt sales messages during this time of year and avoid using any religious figures unless appropriate for your company or non-profit. Be sure to consider the audience and what they might find offensive, even if your internal team may disagree.
  2. Don’t Just Set it And Forget It. Check your scheduled content frequently. Things happen and plans change. If you use scheduling tools like HootSuite, remember to check back on those previously scheduled messages to ensure they are still appropriate.
  3. Have A Crisis Plan In Place. If your campaign has potential to offend someone, be sure to involve a PR professional to avoid saying the wrong thing (cough, Kmart) in reply to your critics.
  4. If Your Audience Is Diverse: consider a charitable campaign rather than a giveaway or deal-centered campaign. No one can complain about you being a good corporate citizen, especially during the holidays!

Although this holiday season is coming to a close, start now on your holiday planning for 2014 while you’re still in the spirit!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is Partner Accounts Team Manager at Search Influence, a national online marketing firm dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses compete online. Alison’s focus is on white label online marketing products for publishers and media partners serving SMBs.

Sign Up To Get This Newsletter Via Email:  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Nick Stamoulis

    “Be sure to consider the audience and what they might find offensive, even if your internal team may disagree.”

    You always have to think of how your audience will respond. Humor can be especially tricky because not everyone finds the same thing funny. Jut be aware that a social campaign can run away with you if you aren’t careful (see McDonalds!)

  • Dev Digital

    So true…social media must be done properly..otherwise results would be disappointed. Thanks for sharing McDonalds example here..!!


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!