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This post was originally published on Social Citizens and has been updated to reflect only items or promotions still available.
The holidays are in the air again - but they're also online.
From Yeshiva University's the Maccabeats and their viral YouTube sensation, Candlelight - which has nearly 2.5 million hits - to the holiday favorite "Elf Yourself," getting into the holiday spirit at your laptop, on your iPad or on your phone has never been easier. And with social media, the smart, fun and charitable ways to enjoy the season are getting better every year.
These are some of our favorite ways to do the holidays like a social citizen:
1. Cash in when you check in.
Retailers are going way beyond Sunday circulars and email ads. This holiday season stores are using geolocation platforms to reward customers and perhaps attract a younger, more techie clientele. Radio Shack has created a Holiday Hero badge on Foursquare, which allows users to earn a 20% discount by unlocking the badge through the end of the year. On Facebook, Sears has adapted a Groupon model and is posting daily deals on its Facebook page, which will go live once it receives enough likes (but you have to like Sears first to see the deals). Other stores like American Eagle and Zales give foursquare users a discount just for checking in.
2. Give a gift that gives back.
Holiday gifts that delight the people on your list but also benefit a cause have been around for a few years, but the variety, quality and convenience of gifts that give back is greater than ever before. Philosophy bath products have a "shop for a cause" line this season, which includes varieties like "shower for a cure" which benefits the Women's Cancer Research Fund and "sweet to the core" which benefits educational programming on PBS. Or give the gift of fashionable rain gear with Kenneth Cole's Electric Rain Boot, which benefits The Awareness Fund and supports HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. For more ideas, check out lists from Change.org, Philanthropy 411, Forbes and Daily Candy.
3. Download a helpful holiday app.
My Jewish friends were able to light the menorah no matter where they were with the iMenorah (or any one of about 50 Hanukkah-themed available apps). Bargain shoppers can also use apps like Shop Savvy to compare prices without all the legwork, and MobiQpons gives you access to local coupons on your phone, which you can search and show to your cashier when you're ready to check out. The new app Shopkick allows shoppers to earn points which are redeemable for merchandise by checking in at stores, walking around and scanning item barcodes. The holidays have never been so convenient.
4. Go on a holiday social media scavenger hunt.
With their Gifts on the Go, Gowalla is giving away a number of prizes every day through Christmas to users who check in at secret locations - the more you check in, the greater your odds of winning a gift. Their adorable advent calendar lets you peak at the gifts coming down the pipe, but December 25 is still a big secret! As a closet baker and holiday treat aficionado, I can't resist listing a holiday promotion by New York cupcakery Baked by Melissa. The mini-cupcake shop has hidden 31 gift certificates throughout New York City and is posting clues on their facebook page every day to help fans hunt down the golden tickets. They're also encouraging winners to post photos and videos of their delicious discoveries.
5. Simply give up the gifts.
With many nonprofits still struggling to through tighter economic times, the holiday giving tradition makes a big difference for these organizations and the causes and people they serve. Social media standout charity:water is encouraging people to give up the gifts we don't really need and ask people to contribute to drinking water instead. Whether you're passionate about clean water or something else, consider trading your gifts under the tree for support of your cause.
6. Give a little and get a little.
Gap's Want campaign presents a win-win for social media users who want to shop and do good at the same time. Their videos feature celebrities like model Lauren Bush and actor Ryan Kwanten dressed in Gap favorites and talking about giving in the holiday season. For each "like" their videos receives on Facebook, they'll donate $1 to nonprofits like Women for Women and the FEED Foundation. When you "like" their campaign, you also receive a code phrase that will get you 30% off one item.
How else are you doing the holidays like a social citizen?
Guest blogger Kristin Ivie regularly blogs for Social Citizens.