Thanksgiving is approaching and for many people it’s a time to unite and enjoy time with the family. But there are a lot of people looking forward to the day AFTER Thanksgiving. The day famously called Black Friday. It’s a day that many stores create sales and promotions to incite people to buy gifts for Christmas. It has become a war for stores and e-commerce sites in an effort to grab the attention of customers. Companies like Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Amazon, try to beat out the competition by flooding the internet with advertising and by making printed ads of featured deals. But there’s one major US company that did something different. They decided to invest heavily in social media marketing. A week and a half before retail’s biggest day of the year, Target bought the Twitter hashtag #BlackFriday.

The retail giant is using the promoted trend as a way to publicize a daily gift card sweepstakes between now and Saturday, November 27. This giveaway has users tweeting about the sweepstakes — tweets that, of course, include the #BlackFriday hashtag. Target’s link from Twitter sends users to a promotional page focused on its two-day Black Friday sale. Target is also giving web shoppers special daily deals from this page. However, while the hashtag carries its share of spam, a large number of real users are weighing in on Black Friday shopping plans. Target’s ad is an appropriate entry into the ongoing conversation; at the same time, it amplifies the conversation as users see the trending topic and discuss Black Friday and their holiday wish lists. Talk about innovative social media marketing!

Target is no stranger to adding the creative use of social media into its marketing and sales mix. Some days ago, Target announced a partnership with location startup Shopkick to offer rewards for user checkins; at the end of the summer, the retailer worked with Gilt Groupe, a private-sale network, to promote its designer lines. And earlier this fall, the retailer began selling Facebook credits in stores. There’s no question that social media marketing has become an advertising phenomenon.