This is Awkward: 5 Social Media Promotions Inspired by Uncomfortable Holiday Moments

  •    Rob is a creative content strategist from Detroit. When he’s not developing integrated marketing campaigns, he’s probably watching Netflix.

It's the holiday season: a time of love, joy, and togetherness. Right? Well...not always. Despite what Hallmark would have us believe, the reality is that holidays are a minefield of uncomfortable conversations, passive-aggressiveness and unplanned embarrassments.

​Fortunately for marketers, this means people will be spending a lot of time on their smartphones trying to avoid family members, which makes the holidays a great time to try some outside-of-the-box social media campaigns.

Below are five thought starters to help you take advantage of the inherent awkwardness of the holidays and connect with your customers in an unexpected way.

1) Awkward Conversation Bingo

It wouldn't be a true holiday meal without someone making an inappropriate joke, someone else making a passive-aggressive comment about the food, and someone else fighting over something that happened at last year's get-together. These conversations are so predictable that you might as well turn them into a game.

Develop your very own Awkward Conversation Bingo scorecard and encourage your customers to play along. When they get a bingo, ask them to snap a photo and upload it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with a designated hashtag to receive a special one-time discount.

2) The Questionable Casserole

One of the best things about the holidays is stuffing yourself silly, but there's always that one dish that people avoid. Is it chicken or ham? Either way, there's definitely something green in it that doesn't belong. In spite of our disgust, most people will still take a small bite of this concoction just to be polite, and that's where this promotion comes in.

You probably have one piece of merchandise that doesn't sell as well as everything else, despite your best efforts. In honor of the questionable casserole, you could run a pricing promotion where customers get a discount on any item they choose if they also buy the less popular product. Ask customers to share what they were forced to eat in exchange for the coupon code.

3) Brawling for Leftovers

While the previous promotion was focused on food you hate, this one is focused on the food you love (and would be willing to fight over). To celebrate those tense moments when fists fly over the last bite of grandma's famous stuffing or auntie's apple pie, you could run a unique limited-time offer promotion.

Similar to how Amazon and other mega retailers run special "flash" promotions for products, this idea is all about speed. Tell your customers that you're giving out "leftovers" at a discounted rate during a certain time period and the first 20 people (or whatever number makes sense for you) who respond get the deal.

With this promotion some people will inevitably end up disappointed, so you have to be careful. Unlike your family, where you can taunt the loser mercilessly, you don't want your customers feeling cheated. Consider providing a smaller discount to the people who didn't respond in time.

4) Surprise Gifts

For the most part, giving and receiving gifts is fun. But we've all received that one present that just doesn't make any sense. You want to be grateful, but it can feel like the person doesn't know you at all, which is especially awkward when it's your family.

To help the recipients of these misguided gifts, try a promotion that twists the surprise in their favor. Create a low, medium and high-priced mystery package for your customers and sell it at a discounted price. This way, they can get a surprise that they're excited to open, instead of another piece of clothing from your aunt who thinks you're either 20 years younger or 20 years older than you actually are.

5) Office Party Survival Guide

​The holidays aren't just awkward in the home, but also at work thanks to the dreaded office holiday party. Whether you're attending your own office shindig, or tagging along with your friend or partner to theirs, you know that there's going to be a lot of awkward small talk. Factor in the gossipy, political nature of the modern workplace and it's like walking through a minefield.

To help your customers get through these parties in one piece, consider developing a clever content "Survival Guide." It could include things like icebreakers, rules of decorum, exit strategies, and more. Within the content, find natural ways your product or brand can fit. For instance, if you're a fashion retailer, consider how you might change the description on a pair of shoes to focus on how they help you "make a quick getaway from that weirdo in accounting."

Remember, these ideas are just thought starters. Depending on your business and brand, they may or may not be appropriate. Regardless, it's important to consider how clever storytelling and creative promotions, inspired by these kinds of shared cultural moments, can help you engage your customers and make a strong impression for your brand.