No matter the season, the best social media campaign will echo your audience’s values, offer a fresh take on a familiar product, service or industry and create a memorable brand experience.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re serving up some of the best Thanksgiving social media posts of recent years. And we’re sharing advice on how to (pumpkin) spice up your content calendar while still keeping your marketing messages appropriate in the context of COVID-19.
Consider this guide your recipe for social media success.
Taking a tactful approach to Thanksgiving 2020
As we don our stretchy pandemic pants and gear up for Thanksgiving dinner, things will look and feel a little different this year.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is going virtual. Out-of-towners who typically travel to visit loved ones might opt for quiet celebrations at home instead. Friendsgiving hosts may favor an intimate BYO dinner over a rowdy shareable potluck. Black Friday doorbusters may only be available via curbside pickup.
It’ll be weird. And brands looking to celebrate with Thanksgiving social media posts will need to do so tactfully.
When cooking up your Thanksgiving marketing campaign, be sensitive to the way COVID-19 is shaping the holiday season and celebrations this year.
- Brush up on the do’s and don’ts of content marketing in a crisis.
- Remember that pandemic responses and effects will vary widely for social media followers scattered across the country.
- Use imagery that supports social distancing guidance and other precautionary measures.
- Keep your messaging relevant and avoid highlighting Thanksgiving traditions that won’t be happening this year.
- Take the opportunity to thank the customers and clients who have stuck with you throughout the year.
If you’re a B2B brand:
- Craft content that is educational and empathetic rather than opportunistic.
- Be sensitive to the fact that your clients — especially in industries like hospitality and entertainment — may be struggling to stay afloat or pivoting to new business models.
If you’re a B2C brand:
- Be mindful that holiday loneliness and anxiety will likely hit an all-time high, and explore social media campaign ideas that are warm, comforting and positive.
- Support your followers as they consider new ways to celebrate.
- Explain how customers can engage with your brand online and in-person this Thanksgiving.
Top 7 Thanksgiving social media posts and campaigns
With all that in mind, these are our favorite Thanksgiving social media posts from the past several seasons:
- GoPro feasts its eyes on Thanksgiving dinner.
- Gearing up for dessert with Hot Wheels.
- #VisitDontStay by Hotel Tonight.
- Catching Up, a Publix Thanksgiving story.
- #OptOutside by REI.
- Drinkable place cards by Coca-Cola.
- Thanksgiving goals from The Everygirl.
“We make the world’s most versatile cameras,” GoPro’s Instagram bio claims. Well, this Thanksgiving post pretty much proves it.
At first, it looks like your typical Turkey Day fare captured through a fisheye lens. And then you realize, oh, you’re staring at a plate of stuffing and sweet potato casserole from inside some guy’s mouth.
Why it works
GoPro’s cameras and thrill-seeking brand advocates churn out plenty of user-generated content, which the brand shares liberally across social media. But this Instagram post in particular really fits the bill for a high-performing Thanksgiving post.
The way that huge plate of food looks like a real gastronomic quest is certainly humorous — and honestly, pretty relatable. But it’s also a tongue-in-cheek nod to the adventurous lifestyle GoPro stands for.
This clever social media post managed to demonstrate the brand’s unique value proposition at a glance, with just a simple “Happy Thanksgiving” Instagram caption — and it likely got viewers thinking ahead to their Cyber Monday wish list.
Here we’ve got a Mustang Hot Wheels car burning rubber on the pumpkin pie, leaving behind a trail of whipped cream smoke. Kids of all ages can agree: This is a pretty cool way to play with your food.
Why it works
This is another example of user-generated holiday content at its best. It’s a lighthearted, playful Thanksgiving post that manages to relate the Hot Wheels brand to one of the day’s most beloved desserts.
Plus, it appeals to audiences of all ages — from children and children-at-heart who simply love playing with Hot Wheels to parents who might be inspired to serve up their own pumpkin pie à la Mustang to delight the kids.
The next year, Hot Wheels put their own spin on this idea by giving it the full Mattel marketing treatment. Complete with engine rumbling and tire-screech sound effects, this animation saw an even higher level of engagement.
With a choice between staying with an overbearing aunt or crashing with obnoxious cousins, some people face Thanksgiving Day planning with dread.
Hotel Tonight capitalized on these uncomfortable possibilities with a Thanksgiving marketing campaign advising viewers, “Visit. Don’t Stay.”
The last-minute hotel booking service’s message appeared through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts and short YouTube videos — and even garnered some attention from AdWeek.
Why it works
During the season famous for picture-perfect family bonding moments, this sardonic social media content certainly stands out.
Hotel Tonight’s series of #VisitDontStay Thanksgiving social media posts offered a practical solution to travelers looking for a bit of quiet time over the long holiday weekend and beyond.
The brand also took advantage of the relatable nature of its campaign by encouraging Instagram and Facebook engagement through a contest-style giveaway. On Facebook and Instagram, followers were invited to chime in with their kookiest holiday stories for a chance to win a $500 Hotel Tonight voucher.
As a leading name in the grocery store business, Publix has a pretty clear role in the Thanksgiving experience.
But moving beyond the turkey and stuffing, Publix released a poignant YouTube video that emphasized the aspect of the holiday people really want to savor — time shared with loved ones.
Why it works
In just 60 seconds, this clip leaves the viewer with all the feels and a renewed sense of gratitude for family and friends. Centering on a mother’s love and that tough transition when the kids go off to college, it’s a case study in storytelling.
Publix products are certainly present, with a homemade pie as the pièce de résistance, but they aren’t really the focus. Instead, the video serves as a reminder of what the holiday season is really all about.
Dozens of YouTube commenters have expressed how touched they were, how they were reminded of their own families and, importantly, how they look forward to Publix’s ads each year.
As a retailer of outdoor apparel and gear, REI could easily capitalize on the Black Friday hype with unbeatable deals and discounts. Instead, over the past few years, the brand has chosen to close its stores and encourage customers to #OptOutside instead.
This message immediately took off in 2015, earning REI a stunning 7,000% boost in social media impressions in just the first 24 hours, and 1.2 billion impressions in that first year.
This Thanksgiving campaign has quickly become a holiday tradition for the company and its customers alike. And each year brings something a little different to social media.
For instance, in 2017, REI produced a video showcasing user-generated content to celebrate its followers’ embrace of the #OptOutside message and hashtag.
Why it works
REI’s #OptOutside campaign isn’t just a holiday gimmick. For many adventure-seeking followers, it’s a mindset, a way of life and an important reminder.
Instead of capitalizing on frenzied consumerism, the brand demonstrates its values — and those of its customers — in a tangible way. It has even encouraged other organizations to follow suit. Thanks to REI, numerous companies have closed on Black Friday and donated money to charitable organizations while national and state parks have opened up for free.
The “Share a Coke” campaign has resulted in a lot of creative content marketing ever since it launched in 2014. Adapting this message to Thanksgiving social media posts, followers were urged to save a spot at the table for the Coca-Cola — but not just any old spot.
Instead, the beverage brand positioned its bottles as drinkable place cards with a short animation shared to Facebook and Twitter. With ambient dinner table conversation sounds playing in the background, the bottle rotated to show guest names — from Grammy and Crazy Uncle Joe to Dad’s Boss and What’s-His-Name.
Why it works
Coke demonstrated how it’s possible to tie in Thanksgiving social media posts with ongoing marketing campaigns. The brand put the perfect holiday spin on its message of connection and togetherness, to amplify an already successful message.
The posts came just several weeks after the company’s move to include a Coke bottle “cheers” emoji anytime a user included the hashtag #shareacoke in a tweet. Coca-Cola was actually the first company to include a custom emoji as part of an ad campaign — and its Thanksgiving content encouraged additional shareability and brand resonance.
Magazine-style site The Everygirl employed a pretty varied Thanksgiving post strategy last year. Of course, its Instagram grid was dotted with gorgeous lifestyle imagery that would surely appeal to Pinterest users — but these weren’t the most popular posts.
Beautifully styled, steaming mugs of spiked apple cider saw about 6,600 likes, a Turkey Day tear-and-share bread received 6,000 likes, a pristine kitchen garnered only 3,300 likes and a cute pumpkin pic earned just 2,400 likes.
The account’s most popular posts were actually a lot simpler. Earning 11,800 and 18,900 likes, two text-only posts really seemed to resonate with followers around the stressful holiday season. One was a meme capturing the doom-and-gloom November vibe, and another was a screenshot of a tweet giving viewers a little pep talk.
View this post on Instagram
While we are certainly entering the most wonderful time of the year, we’re also entering one of the most stressful. November and December tend to equate to lots of work deadlines — and of course, it’s not easy to sit at Thanksgiving dinner while dodging questions about your relationship status, how much your rent is, and why your jeans are ripped (“It’s a LEWK, Grandpa, jeez!”). And of course, on top of ALL THAT, it’s getting darker faster and the temperatures are freezing. Seasonal depression is a VERY real thing, and there’s no shame in admitting you have it. In fact, getting help can be the key to embracing this winter and thriving through it. Today on The Everygirl, how to cope with seasonal depression and seasonal affective disorder. Link in bio! || meme by @mytherapistsays
A post shared by The Everygirl (@theeverygirl) on Nov 17, 2019 at 10:32am PST
Why it works
At Thanksgiving time, The Everygirl’s audience is bombarded with impossibly ambitious recipes, cute outfit ideas and kitchen cleaning “fun facts” that are anything but.
By striking a balance between expectations vs. reality, the brand provided some much-needed relief and realness to overwhelmed viewers through these two Thanksgiving social media posts. The overall message here was that there may be endless ways to make the holiday season special, but it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect.
Each post is also highly shareable and exactly the type of content followers might share via Instagram stories or send to their equally frazzled friends.
How will your brand say “Happy Thanksgiving” this season?
In developing your Thanksgiving post strategy, think about what messages your audience members really want and need to hear during this complicated time of year.
With that as your guide, you’ll be able to create posts your followers will gobble up.