6 Tips for creating effective early holiday marketing campaigns

Justine Fudali, Strategist

‘Tis the season for holiday marketing!

Yes, I know it’s August — but in the marketing world, the holidays are around the corner. As many of us know, advertisers start their campaigns earlier and earlier every year, with Black Friday arriving before Halloween and Christmas campaigns starting as early as July. ‘Tis the season to start thinking about your holiday plans and getting your marketing campaigns together. Don’t miss out — get set for peak holiday season and ensure you maximize your seasonal opportunities.

The importance of planning holiday marketing strategies

Would it surprise you to know that nearly half of total online sales are generated in Q4? The ✨golden quarter ✨, which spans Halloween, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, is the most magical (and profitable) time of the year for marketers. Consumers are actively in the market to buy, seeking out products and services, and weighing their options to bag the best deal.

The trend seen in recent years is consumers planning their holiday ahead of time, with people planning out their shopping lists as early as summer. This means that an early holiday campaign can help your brand tap into this consumer-driven demand, igniting the warm and fuzzy holiday spirit, and the emotionally-driven experiences that come with it.

It’s important when planning a holiday marketing strategy to bear in mind that the path to purchase isn’t always linear. The traditional marketing funnel of awareness > consideration > conversion won’t be applicable to all customers, who might be researching through multiple channels (mobile vs. desktop, in-store vs. online, social media vs. website, the list goes on).

The key is to embrace the messy middle. While an omnichannel strategy requires a bit more thought, you should also see it as an opportunity to reach your customers where they are, whether that’s just browsing or actively looking to buy.

Social media is the place to start

Consumers often start and end their journeys on social media. From reading reviews to watching unboxing videos, the power of social media to create user-generated content (UGC) and Instagrammable experiences makes it the paradigm of modern day shopping. Paid social media campaigns also offer great opportunities for magnifying your reach — allowing customers to stumble upon a product or service while they’re scrolling through their organic feeds.

The power of social media in holiday marketing campaigns

Social media stands apart from other channels, and must be approached in a unique way. Social media offers a more conversational, many-to-many approach to marketing, with access to current and potential customers at your fingertips. It also has a unique ability to drive traffic through viral content, competitions, or UGC.

Remember: organic and paid social media campaigns work best in sync, so plan ahead with your campaigns and use one to complement the other. For example, you could implement retargeting ads aimed at people already engaging with your organic content.

🚀 Holiday marketing tip: Build campaigns ahead of time to avoid delays — especially if you’re coordinating with different agencies. Build awareness first, then switch to conversion. Use machine learning to find the right audience at the right time for the right price. To ensure that you’re reaching new audiences and building brand awareness, a good rule of thumb is to dedicate 60 – 90% of your budget to reaching new audiences (this should vary depending on your business goals and positioning in the market).

Social media supports campaigns on other channels

It’s important to align your campaign plans with other channels for a truly 360°, omnichannel experience. One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes a lack of visibility across departments can create silos, leading to disjointed campaign plans and confusing customer experience. Here’s my advice for nipping this in the bud before the holiday season.

🚀 Holiday marketing tip: Create a master trade plan with key ecommerce dates and promos. Work with other departments to build your marketing plans and align social media with other initiatives. Highlight the most important social activations to make sure that you get cross-channel support, such as promotional emails, DTC banners, or influencer collabs. Schedule regular syncs to align and adapt plans based on insights from social sentiment, trends, and social listening insights.

Whether you’re a small business or an established brand, staying top of mind during the holiday season should be your top priority. Because if you’re not reaching your target audience, your competitors will.

Convinced? Yay! Let’s jump into strategy building.

6 holiday marketing tips for social media and beyond

These holiday marketing strategies will help you create a campaign that excites your audience.

1. Learn from previous campaigns

Start by conducting an in-depth SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your previous seasonal campaigns and use social listening for market research (more on that below) to understand current consumer trends and your positioning in the market.

Next, research the times that generate the most traffic from social media and post during those times when your audience is most active.

2. Go back to the basics

Before getting into tactics for your campaign, first, go back to clarifying channel goals, campaign objectives and defining your target audience. Ask yourself these two important questions:

What do you want to achieve and why?

Use the SMART framework to make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Furthermore, using KPIs such as engagement rate, conversion rate or percentage of site-wide traffic, will help you set realistic campaign objectives and measure your success. Start by understanding your wider business goals and how social media can help you achieve them. Using ‘strategy house’ or ‘funnel’ models can help you visualize your goals alongside the company’s mission, vision, opportunities, and challenges.

Who is your audience?

Understanding both your existing audience and your target audience is essential. Have you tested different content types that cater to a diverse audience? Now would be a good time to resurface those findings and use them to inform your peak season strategy. It may sound simple, but posting the content your customers want to see where they can see it and engage with it can make all the difference when you’re spending big money on marketing.

3. Plan, plan, plan!

Once your budget has been approved, it’s time to plan influencer and ambassador collabs, paid campaigns, and slots for reactive content based on trends. Incorporate customized gift recommendations for different audience segments and ensure cross-channel visibility.

Schedule most of your content and plan your live streaming schedule ahead of time. Make sure you have the right assets to promote your live streams on all social media platforms and even on other marketing channels, e.g., email, DTC, or in-store via QR codes.

You should also consider getting extra eyes on DMs and comments during the holiday season to make sure your community is well looked after.

4. Create a sense of urgency

People often feel a strong sense of urgency to buy the right gift at the right time during the holidays, and it’s up to you as a social media marketer to leverage that urgency. One great way to do this is to use time-related trigger words, captions, and CTAs in your marketing assets. These terms provide that urgency (and sometimes even FOMO — fear of missing out), which can lead to stronger conversion. Terms like now, hurry, limited-time offer; today only, don’t miss out, and others are highly effective ways to convert more social media users.

5. Optimize for search

Nearly half of Gen Z uses TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google. This means you have a great opportunity to optimize social media channels for search the same way you do for search engines. Update content, bios, and descriptions with relevant short and long-tail keywords and dedicated hashtags to maximize reach. Leverage channels like Pinterest and YouTube, too. When you’re writing descriptions or updating tags, ask yourself: “if I were a customer looking for this product/service, what would I type in the search bar?”

Above all, it’s essential to research what other phrases are generated underneath the search bar for items related to your niche. For example, here’s what gets generated under the search term “Christmas nails:”

This research will help you understand what your audience is looking for and better align your content with their needs. Use these other search terms in your descriptions and tags to stay on trend with what people are searching for; this improves the chances of your target audience seeing your content.

6. Track and measure

Use tracked links (UTM tracking) for all your posts to quantify the percentage of traffic and sales coming from organic vs. paid social media. Set up dashboards and monitor performance daily. Stay agile and adapt your campaign depending on the results.

Examples: Holiday marketing ideas that worked really well

Look Fantastic

This British health and beauty retailer knows how to build campaign buzz. Look Fantastic started to promote its 2021 advent calendar on social media in mid-August using sneak peeks and good old-fashioned FOMO-inducing copy. Look Fantastic didn’t just build buzz but leveraged it to collect customer data through a waitlist. They also took the opportunity to promote their “Beauty Box” subscription, offering some excited customers early access to purchase their popular advent calendar — maximizing profits from subscriptions and product sales.

First advent calendar teaser encouraging to sign up for a waitlist via link in bio

Second sneak peek

Early access for ‘Beauty Box’ subscribers

💡 Key takeaways for your business

  1. Collect that data. Using social media to collect customer data can be a huge win for your business, because you can use this data to enrich internal databases and retarget customers during the holiday season and beyond.

  2. Make it feel special. Enabling exclusive access and limiting stock are great tactics for building premium positioning, as opposed to mass positioning. It’s a win-win: customers feel like they’re getting special treatment and you get to hit or even exceed your bottom line targets.

  3. Build the buzz early. Building buzz early can help you gain market share and stay top of mind. Sharing sneak peeks and teasers is a great way to get your audience hooked and ensure active participation throughout the campaign. Ensuring activations for all campaign stages — tease> launch> sustain — will help you maximize traffic and sales.

Pretty Little Thing

Pretty Little Thing, a global fashion brand, launched a $10,000 #PinkFridaywithPLT giveaway on TikTok to raise awareness of their ‘Pink Friday’ campaign, famous for $0 (yes, you read that right) deals. The brand collaborated with a number of influencers to promote the campaign, encouraging viewers to share UGC to enter the competition.

Campaign hashtag that garnered over 28m views

@prettylittlething This Thursday at midnight... 👀🤭 #PinkFridayWithPLT ♬ origineel geluid - Charlotte Arts

Campaign video with the use of trending sound

@prettylittlething New items added every hour 🤫 PLUS some BIG drops throughout the day… keep an eye to see when these are 🤭🎉 #PinkFridayWithPLT #PLT ♬ I am a Socialist - Brandons.Sounds

Campaign video with PLT mascot

💡 Key takeaways for your business

  1. Get to influencing. Working with TikTok influencers during peak season can help you break through the noise and elevate your brand salience by broadening the scope of your audience and creating a sense of community through relatable user-generated content, ultimately increasing your reputation and recognition.

  2. Create a competition. Competitions are also a great way to engage your audience, while at the same time building brand awareness and creating a positive association with your brand. Restricting entry to user-generated content only will limit the number of entries but ensure high quality content from an engaged audience. So, if quality over quantity is your mantra, this could be one you should try next!

Know your audience. Knowing your audience is also key. Gen Z dominates TikTok, which is exactly why Pretty Little Thing targeted them on that platform. You should reach your customers on channels where their presence is prevalent. When choosing influencers for collaboration make sure they’re a good fit for your brand, exude authenticity and align with your brand values.

Using Khoros to elevate your performance

We’ve covered some important holiday marketing tips for planning your social media strategy this year and looked at two brands who crushed it. But how can you put this plan into action?

First, it’s vital to have great social media management and social listening solutions. This technology is designed to help you build beautiful, rich campaigns and track industry trends and conversation themes over time.

And if you still need some guidance, we’re here to help. Khoros Strategic Services is a best-in-class team of social media experts who can help with every part of your campaign, from planning all the way to measuring success.

If you’re interested in creating a winning holiday strategy, schedule a demo today!

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