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December 2, 2008

Black Friday: Social Media Waiting to Happen?

Brenda Haines | Social MediaBlack Friday virgin.

That’s probably what most Black Friday die-hards would call me. Not because I’ve never shopped on Black Friday, but because I’ve never ‘done’ Black Friday the way die-hards do. Getting out of bed long before dawn. Shivering in the pre-dawn cold while waiting for stores to open. Running, Pamplona-style, in search of a good bargain.

Oh, what I’ve been missing.

This year, my husband, brother-in-law and I decided to break with our tradition of sleeping in. (My brother-in-law was in the market for a flat-screen TV.) The deals were great (and our mission successful), but it was the people-watching that made me believe Black Friday is an ideal opportunity for retailers to use social media to their advantage.

We arrived at Target in Eau Claire at 6:50 a.m. A long, long line of Black Friday die-hards had already gathered. Hundreds of people stood in the freezing temperatures, waiting for the doors to open.

We stood back with some other late arrivers, watching the excitement build. As a Target employee appeared inside the doors to open them, people in the front of the line began jumping up and down with excitement. When the doors waved open, the crowd began running inside the store. Some late arrivers began merging with those in line, frustrating with those who had spent the wee hours of the morning waiting. People in line began making comments. One highly-frustrated woman loudly admonished the line-jumpers, yelling “You’re going to burn in hell!”

Black Friday Deal HuntersOver the course of the morning, we also saw tag-team combinations of mothers and daughters, sisters, husbands and wives and friends – taking a divide and conquer approach. Some had walkie-talkies and were speaking with code words. Others were decked out in self-made ‘deal-hunter’ blaze orange outfits.

As I ‘tweeted’ our success via Twitter, I began to wonder whether Black Friday might be a perfect opportunity for companies to use social media to their advantage. I could envision Black Friday die-hards salivating over pre-opening tweets, monitoring tweets about in-store specials or submitting pics or camera phone videos to contests for the best Black Friday shopping stories.

Since I’m new to the Black Friday culture… did you see any examples of that this year?

The other people-watching I enjoyed was seeing store staff, as they responded to the hustle and bustle. I was particularly impressed with a terrific Target staff member at the electronics counter. As people passed him, they yelled the name of the product they were looking for… he responded with the appropriate aisle or end cap number. Job well done!

Of course, you know what this means. My days of sleeping in on the Friday after Thanksgiving are gone. I’d hate to miss all that action…