Holiday marketing campaigns are a bit special for marketers because they can bring huge revenue, but they can also bring disappointment, low ROI, and wasted budget. As with almost everything in life, successful holiday marketing campaigns are all about the planning.
All the best holiday marketing has great planning in common, whether it’s for Christmas, Halloween, Black Friday, Easter, or any other seasonal advertising campaign. Great marketers plan and strategize, measure and adjust, making full use of all the tools at their disposal. They prepare early, keep an eye on trends, and identify, captivate, and nurture the right audience with emotional, personalized content.
Some brands are very successful with their holiday advertising campaigns and others not so much. If you’re planning a Facebook Christmas campaign or an Instagram Halloween campaign, then read on to learn how to plan a stellar holiday social media campaign that gets the business results you need.
You’ll notice that the one of the longest sections in this article is the first: preparation and planning. That’s not a coincidence. Successful holiday sales campaigns depend on how thorough your planning is.
Customers start thinking about holidays a long time beforehand, and this trend is increasing. Facebook themselves say that the best time to start planning your Christmas sales campaigns is in the summer.
Obviously, Christmas is one of the most popular holidays that brands target to increase their sales and it serves as an example of how far ahead of time you should be planning your campaign.
Most brands start advertising for Christmas around Black Friday, which causes a spike in Cost-per-click (for paid advertising), but you can avoid that by starting your campaign a little earlier.
Let’s just take Christmas as an example. Ideally, Christmas campaign timing should look like this:
You can see how much time it takes to plan, prepare, and activate your campaign so, as mentioned, START PLANNING EARLY. Part of planning early is understanding who you’re going to be selling to.
That’s right, it’s time to define your audience and your ideal customer (marketing persona). But there’s a couple of things you should prep right in the beginning.
It’s important that you have all technical aspects of your campaign ready. This means making sure you have the right tools to deliver and measure your campaign, and if you don’t have them yet, get them.
Check your tracking pixels, analytics, and other tools across all your channels and test their roadworthiness beforehand.
Ensure that your tech is prepared and functional before you begin or no matter how good your campaign is you won’t be able to track, measure or analyze your results.
Make sure your team all know their roles during campaigns and that intra- and inter-team processes are clear. It’s important to know who’s creating content, who’s editing content, who’s posting, who’s measuring, who’s analyzing, etc, and to share insights.
Don’t be stumbling and bumbling around like a bunch of strangers with nothing to share with each other.
So set roles and communication channels if they are not already defined. This means far less hiccups and, if there are some bumps in the road, the team is better equipped to handle them because roles, processes, and comms channels have been clearly defined.
Now that you’ve set some processes and workflows and checked your technology, it’s time to define who you’re selling to: your audience, and your ideal customer (marketing persona).
You have to know who your customers are, so the first step is naturally to define your target audience. You want to know everything you can about these people. What’s their gender, age, location, likes, online behaviors, and affinities?
All of this adds up to what’s called your marketing persona: your ideal customer. Give them a name. Focus on them, because that’s who you’re selling to. But how do you define your marketing personas?
It’s important to get them right because everything else in your campaign, including your budget (and maybe your backside), is literally riding on this.
Keep in mind that you’re doing all of this because, later, you want to personalize your campaign content so it hits home with real impact and brings solid business results.
So how do you create a marketing persona that’s going to stop you chucking endless cash at Facebook and your other favorite social media platforms without going through the tedious process of manually creating your persona?
Undertaking market research and surveys is a way to gather information but it’s very time-consuming. You’ll probably be using a marketing persona template to build a picture of your ideal customer, you can see an example of one here.
But even gathering the most basic audience insights to fill a marketing persona template is a challenge – in addition to linking up deeper behavioral traits, affinities, online behaviors, motivations, objectives and blockers.
If your audience has many segments, it makes sense that you’ll end up with more than one marketing persona too. It can all get a bit overwhelming.
Remember, we spoke about getting the right tools into your marketing stack before you start?
An AI-driven marketing solution that tracks, measures and analyzes your audience data, then creates a persona with a click allows you to bypass endless cross-departmental meeting and all of that tedious research.
You’ll create your personas faster, more precisely, and with a fuller, more rounded-out personality.
Imagine being able to connect all your social media and digital data on just one platform, then clicking a button, and a precisely built marketing persona, based on deep, personal digital audience data falls into your hands.
Too good to be true? No, not really. Things move fast in digital, and AI solutions have already become the great disruptor in areas like social and behavioral analysis, predictive modeling and social engineering across sectors like government and defence in addition to, of course, pure advertising and marketing.
AI does the mundane research and grunt work for you. AI tracks your key audience metrics, measures and analyzes them, then spits out key insights.
Maybe you already have a decent idea about who your audience is, but gathering that data, putting insights together, and joining up the dots is tough and often inaccurate. Such research activities can take months to complete.
The classic marketing persona templates have always been, and still are, a great way to find out who’s going to buy from you and why, but AI offers the bigger picture, deeper insights, and does the hard detective work of joining the dots for you.
Businesses wishing to scale up and keep up are implementing AI solutions at greater and greater rates and such solutions are expected to form the majority of solutions for the digital market.
AI marketing platforms provide almost real-time data so you’ll know instantly who’s interacting with your campaigns, and how far off they are from your ideal marketing persona. So, it’s a good idea to do some due diligence and familiarize yourself with AI social media solutions because it looks inevitable that they’ll soon be so valuable to the industry as to render non-AI tools obsolete.
Progress. You can’t stop it.
Now that you have your marketing personas, it’s time to start thinking about your content/ad creatives. Which of your content pillars should you use to target your audience based on the story you want to tell during the campaign?
Content pillars should be your brand’s core values and key differentiators. What does your audience data say about the things that catch your audience’s attention? What aspects of your product or service are absolutely key values and how can you showcase them to their fullest potential?
Let’s imagine a beer brand’s Christmas campaign. Of course they’d have a Christmassy angle to their content, but in natural conjunction with their content pillars.
Maybe their data says their audience responds to content showcasing the creamy head their beer is known for. Perhaps the audience is interested in tradition and heritage, so the brand might tell the story of how their special hops are harvested, or showcase the history of their brewery.
They’d create content to showcase one or more of their content pillars in every single piece of content they publish, track the success of the content, then tweak content and targeting based on results.
One note: to showcase content pillars properly, pay close attention to details such as color tones. These brand tones and colors should be defined too, if they haven’t been already.
Imagine that the creamy head of the beer you’re showcasing looks yellowish instead of white, or maybe the head is creamy white but so is the wall behind the beer, totally ruining the effect the image should create.
When you’re showcasing content pillars, SHOWCASE THEM, and pay attention to detail.
Now, talking about ideating and creating targeted high-value content is one thing, but the actual process can be quite hard work, arduous even. Let’s take a look at how to create engaging holiday content, and how to make your life a little easier when doing so.
Let’s recap: you’ve defined your marketing personas, and your content pillars. But how do you actually come up with creative ideas that will transfer your messaging in the most effective way?
Don’t forget to blend your content in a holistic way with your holiday theme when ideating your content for your marketing personas.
And, sure, put your brain to work and come up with all the ideas you can, but not all great social media content ideas fall out of the wide blue sky. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time, there are easier ways.
Many of the greatest content ideas come from repurposed content ideas – from your own past content or from your competitors’ best content, for example.
You can find many superb social media content examples like this, and save yourself so many headaches, not to mention a lot of time.
To help you out a bit, here are 3 free content inspiration tools:
Generally, when researching successful content, the best areas to look at are as follows:
You already know your marketing persona like a family member, so keep everything you’ve learned about them in mind when looking for inspirational content.
Stay on track – all content should be based on your campaign content pillars, marketing personas, and on your holiday theme, whether that be Black Friday, Halloween, Easter, Christmas, etc. Save any suitable content ideas you come across so that you can repurpose them to tell your own brand stories.
Obviously you’ll be posting a LOT of content. Sustainable content creation Is crucial to keeping up your campaign’s momentum and ideation can become a real drag so get yourself a good source of inspiration.
Looking at successful competitor content helps, or content that does well with your audience demographic or in your region. However you ideate content, make sure you don’t burn out on ideas and publish lazy content because that leads to campaigns that never get off the ground.
It’s time to set up your campaign timeline, so it’s structured, with each part ready to go on its predefined date. Plan your content calendar for the whole campaign so, before you even start, you know exactly which content you’re going to publish, to which channels, and when.
Your content should work in lockstep with your other marketing activities to build buying intent as part of an overall “tapestry” of marketing tactics.
Content on each channel should support and enhance campaign success on other channels, with each part of the campaign moving in lockstep with all the other parts.
Think about how it all works holistically, as one machine, each part designed to make the other parts more effective, with no part obsolete or extra. This includes your team and how they work – workflow is far smoother when everyone’s working off one centralized calendar.
Choose your content formats based on which formats work well on which channels, for example post stories on Instagram, videos and images on Facebook, and images and links on Twitter. Mix and match formats to keep audience engaged and stimulated.
If your calendar is mobile-friendly, you can easily oversee publishing on the move, and set approvals so no off-message content or unapproved versions are posted that may damage the campaign.Having a robust and flexible editorial calendar is one of the most important aspects of your campaign and a daily go-to when it comes to the publishing phase. To put it bluntly, no campaign should be without one.
Right. You’ve defined your plan of attack: workflow, content pillars, campaign timeline, content calendar, when each stage of the campaign will be initiated, and on which channels.
You’ve also already defined your marketing persona. You know them inside out, their preferred channels, their humor, their mindset, heck you can almost hear them singing badly in the shower.
So you create all this completely magnetic and utterly compelling content, laser-personalized and hyper-pinpoint stuff…but you don’t know when your audience is online. So you can’t show them all this great content you’ve spent ages busting your ass to create because you wanted it to be exactly right.
With the number of active users as huge as they are on social media, posting a few minutes early or late can mean huge swathes of your audience don’t see your content. The differences across various demographics and locations can be enormous.
There’s also hugely increased traffic – the amount of content being posted rises dramatically during holiday seasons, so standing out amongst it all isn’t easy.
On top of that, each channel has a different peak posting time. The best time to post on LinkedIn is different from Twitter is different from Facebook is different from Instagram. So, you see, things can get a bit complicated.
Data has shown that even the differences within one country can be significant.
As an example, let’s look at a “heat map” of impressions earned by posts on the East and West coasts of the USA.
On the West Coast of the United States, the best times to post on Facebook for maximum interactions are:
Mondays, 9 am -12 midday
Sundays, 10 am -12 midday
The worst time to post on Facebook for the West Coast is after 8:00 pm. Impressions don’t really start increasing again until about 5:00 a.m.
On the East Coast, the best times to post on Facebook are:
Mondays, 10 am – 2 pm
Sundays, 11 am – 1 p.m.
It’s clear that publishing just an hour too late or early can destroy your reach or engagement rate. That’s going to affect bottom line business results, so it’s clear that posting times are a vital aspect of your campaign.
The problem with posting at a generic “best time to post” hour is that the data hasn’t been gathered using your exact audience, and every audience is different.
This is where posting time solutions come to the fore. A posting time solution analyzes all your cross-channel audience data, and specifically identifies the days and times your audience is most active online. At that point you’ll know which times of day you’ll be posting which content.
It’s this level of personalization that will give you the best chance of getting the results you want from your campaigns. In this way, you can serve personalized content to your audience across channels, at precisely the right moment so your audience actually sees it.
You’ll increase brand awareness, engagement, and nurture the prospect while moving them further down the sales funnel.
None of this means anything if your content isn’t right. We’ve spoken about the need for highly thought-out and personalized content so let’s look at some holiday campaigns that were a hit with audiences.
Just look at this imagery from Lush! Totally the opposite of their usual bright offerings, and sure to make their fans stop the scroll. This post earned 3.9k interactions within two weeks of being posted. Lush used this image to open their Halloween campaign by posting it 2 weeks earlier on Friday 13th – and it brought a lot of attention to their campaign.
This is a great example of dark humor and breaking from the usual on-brand content to catch the audience’s attention.
The monster hand with nicely manicured nails, creeping up the woman’s neck, intimates what your skin could look like if you don’t use Lush products, which, if you like contrast and dark humor, is rather funny.
It’s a very clever way of linking their brand to common Halloween tropes, and they’ve done this very well – and what a striking image it is.
Socialbakers’ AI post performance prediction tool gave this organic post an A grade, meaning that it’s worth boosting with budget behind it.
Gen Z love memes. But some brands are using memes in their social media marketing strategies. This UK-based online fashion retailer earned a total of 9k interactions with this funny organic Halloween post.
Halloween is one of the best holidays for memes, but also carries a risk that you’re way behind the cool kids with your meme style, and that’s not a good look if you’re trying to bring a young audience in. Memes have to be ON POINT.
Johnson & Johnson came up with a great way for their audience to spread the Christmas love around with their friends and families, and help less fortunate people (or animals!) too. They invited fans to post a picture of someone they care about, and for every picture posted J & J donated a dollar to the fan’s charity of choice.
User generated content nearly always performs well, and the campaign in entirely in keeping with the sentiments of Christmas. Not only have they making a statement but they also helped their audience to feel like they made a difference (without having to make too much effort).
Paid social media, AKA paying for advertising on social media, is standard during most campaigns. Organic reach has been dropping steadily and so there’s a need to bolster your ads by putting some of your budget behind them.
But paid advertising is a tricky thing. The rewards can be massive but it’s got to be done right.
Cost-per-click has been rising steadily for quite some time, and what’s even more tricky is that Click-through rates have been falling steadily too.
Another thing to keep in mind is that CPC rises sharply as the Christmas season gears up and continues rising well into December, so you should really focus on getting your campaign timing right. Remember, well targeted, engaging posts have way lower CPC than poorly-performing posts.
There are massive opportunities for brands that understand how to navigate the world of paid social media advertising.
Paid advertising done well:
Ads are seen on mobile 95.1% of the time compared with 4.9% on desktop. That is one heck of a difference.
It’s been shown that while mobile captures way more impressions, it also comes with a much lower cost-per-click, so if your campaign isn’t optimized for mobile you’re missing out on the vast majority of the impressions you could be getting. And likely blowing your ad budget too.
If you’re offering a range of products or services, further segmentation of your audience is key. As mentioned earlier, you may have more than one marketing persona, and you’ll need to personalize your content to each one and give yourself the best chance of increasing sales across your offerings.
Analyze previous customer behavior and boost the popular, best-selling products. The best-selling products are the stars of the show, so why not use their popularity to attract customers with well-placed ads on social media? If you can pull potential customers into your sales funnel then leverage your website UX and customer service/experience, you can cross-sell and up-sell to increase revenue.
Pause underperforming ads and boost successful ones. This is clear. Don’t waste budget on ads that aren’t performing. Shut them off and boost the ads that are proving effective. Get your campaign lean and mean with no fat on it.
A classic. Holidays give people something to think about, to look forward to – they are landmarks that stand out in the otherwise bleak landscape of working days and rainy weekends. So play on that with themed ads and special offers that capture the spirit of the holiday – it’s been proven to work time and time again.
It’s important to understand which organic posts are worth putting some budget behind and boosting. It’s possible to skyrocket engagement in this way and save loads of budget. But you have to choose the right content.
See the statistics below to understand the advantages of carefully boosting selected content instead of randomly boosting or intuitively boosting content. In short, it helps if you know beforehand which of your posts will perform.
It’s recommended to use an AI solution for to predict content performance as there are too many factors involved to try and guess which content will be successful when boosted. Here’s where an AI post performance prediction tool can be useful.
For example, Socialbakers’ own performance prediction solution is an example. AI grades your organic posts from A+ to D, with A+, A and B graded posts predicted to earn maximum engagement when boosted with a little budget behind them.
This takes the guesswork out of which posts to boost, saving a lot of time, increasing engagement rate and decreasing your spend too.
But, hey! When your prospects click on your carefully crafted ads, where are you taking them? What’s your landing page like? Have you followed best practices? Are they going to convert?
So you’ve managed to get a stream of potential customers clicking on your ads and they arrive at your landing page.
They are moving further down the funnel but it’s not over yet. You still have to move them through various conversions on their way to the “SHOP NOW” button.
So make sure your landing page is optimized. The layout should be intuitive, attractive, and very easy to use. The less “friction” a prospect encounters, the further they will go down the funnel, so whatever your desired conversion, make it as easy as possible for your prospect to achieve it.
If you’re selling a product, think about each step the potential buyer must make before they can make a purchase. Each step is a conversion and you have to make conversions as smooth and painless for your prospect as possible.
Get the most important information about your product front and center. Display attractive product imagery, and information-rich text about the product so prospects can examine the product and learn how it can solve their pain. Information and visuals build trust.
A/B test your CTAs. Not just their copy but the size, shape, and positioning of your CTA buttons. Make sure every element of the design makes it easier or more attractive for more prospects to smoothly move towards a purchase.
A/B testing is fundamental to dialing in on what works and what doesn’t, which means tracking your metrics.
Data is your compass – it guides you on your path. But constantly switching between various data sources and visualizations can cloud your insights. Just a tiny analytical error may navigate your strategy, and budget, in the wrong direction.
Tracking the efficiency of your paid social activities and their impact on digital goals like website traffic and conversions by integrating Google Analytics is key. Monitor the effectiveness of your campaign performance with additional web metrics for the complete picture of all your activities.
Being data-driven means turning data into actionable insights. When you map the relationship between your social KPIs and your Google Analytics data, you can see where your strategy or messaging could be improved.
There’s lots of moving parts during the holiday season and tracking them is going to be difficult. However, overviewing everything in one place gives you a much clearer idea of what’s going on, and can save you from wasting your entire holiday budget on campaigns that aren’t working.
Understanding the efficiency of your campaign against your objectives on digital will allow you to spot your weaknesses, but also to reinvest in campaigns that bring the results you want.
Speaking of getting results, sometimes brands need some extra support to reach their goals, and that’s where influencer marketing comes into play.
Influencer marketing is huge but many brands are unsure how to best leverage what influencer marketing can bring. 22% of 18-34-year-olds have made a large purchase based on an influencer endorsement
While YouTube is extremely popular with influencers, the top platform is Instagram, with 93% of influencers using the platform. If you’re targeting an audience on Instagram, you should seriously consider collaborating with an influencer.
Adding the right influencers to your marketing mix is very worthwhile. Businesses who understand influencer marketing gain impressive returns, up to $18 in earned media value for every dollar they spend on influencer marketing. That’s an ROI of 18x.
Think about this: influencer marketing will become a $10 billion industry by 2020. That’s not the kind of money you want to leave on the table during the holiday period.
An influencer can increase your Reach as advertising costs rise during the holiday season. Influencer marketing can get around challenges like ad blockers and offer a way to reach niche audiences who will convert at a high rate when advised by a trusted influencer.
But first you need to do some preparation. Analyze your current audience to make sure you’re going after the right influencer. Your ideal influencer will be an authority on your brand topic and should be sparking conversations and engagement around that topic.
Again, like everything else, brands need to do their homework beforehand to get the big returns that influencer marketing can bring.
Here are the key steps to adding influencer marketing to your holiday campaign:
If you’re going to run an influencer campaign then it’s best to have the right tools or risk blowing budget on bad decisions, and having your campaign end in disappointment.
Influencer marketing platforms make finding your perfect influencer fast, accurate, and easy. You can search their databases of influencers and track their metrics like reach, topic category, engagement rate, social platforms they’re most active on, and more.
What influencer platforms do is take away the painstaking research you have to do across all your channels, and replace it with precise and rapid influencer identification. They’ll even grade influencer according to suitability for your brand and spot fake influencers before you lose your budget to influencer fraud.
An influencer marketing platform also let you perform hashtag and mention searches and identify an influencer that sparks conversations and high engagement around your key topics.
And, if you choose to focus on a specific theme this holiday season, it’s really easy to identify which influencers resonate with that in seconds.
What influencer platforms do is take away the painstaking research you have to do across all your channels, and replace it with precise and rapid influencer identification and data analysis which you can overview all in one place.
They’ll even grade influencers in order of suitability for your brand, and spot fake influencers before you lose your budget to influencer fraud. Influencer fraud! Let’s talk about it.
Don’t be tricked. Influencer fraud is on the rise. Influencer fraud is when someone promotes themselves as an influencer, artificially inflates their number of followers, steals other people’s content and generally attempts to get fees from brands for objectives they’ll never hit.
Have a look at this blog to see all the ways to weed out fake influencers. But look, even if your influencer is genuine, you still need to set expectations before you collaborate or risk a failed campaign.
Before you collaborate with an influencer, really think about your objectives. You need to have a data-driven approach in which your goals and KPIs are measurable, so that you can keep your influencer campaign on track and with a successful outcome.
Influencers are useful and effective at every stage of the customer journey, so the goals you set vary depending on which stage of the funnel your customer is at.
Read here, to learn about five great ways to measure your influencer campaign.
Hopefully you have access to your campaign metrics from your last campaign so that you can benchmark against it – that will help you set your objectives and KPIs for this year’s campaign.
As mentioned above in the planning section, you’ll have set your goals and the KPIs that indicate whether you’re getting closer or further away from your goal.
It’s time to talk about how to track, measure and analyze your campaign efficiency.
We’ve looked at analytics with regards to several aspects of holiday campaigns but how do you get 360 degree insights from the web, all your social media channels, your influencer campaign, and then join the dots up. Not easy. Or not easy manually.
You probably have various tools in your marketing stack, which is great, because it’s really quite tough to get a holistic view of your data without some marketing tools to help you.
Let’s dive into what you need to do in order that you can get the full picture of your campaign efficiency from your audience data.
Managing analysis of ads across multiple channels, manually, can be a tiring and error-filled process. Some brands have hundreds of ad accounts over multiple channels, and it’s tough to stay on top of them all.
So it’s crucial to have a system that allows you to overview accounts together so you can connect the dots and see the full picture before campaign budget is unnecessarily wasted.
Businesses are missing out on so many insights that could make a huge difference to their campaign strategy, spending and ROI.
So connecting your web and social channels in one place, including all your paid ad accounts, is essential if you want to run your campaign the right way. Makes sense, right?
You should be tracking and measuring your campaign as it’s running so that you’re able to tweak your campaign quickly as soon as you realize that you’re slightly off-track.
This allows you to have strategy conversations based on data truths -not based on what Jimmy, Babs or John feel.
Data sets do not exist and function in solitude, they are part of a holistic whole – an ecological system where each part affects the other parts, so it makes sense to connect all your data sets to access full-picture insights.
For holiday campaigns on social media specifically, you’ll want to connect all your owned paid ad accounts together in one place. If you can see all your multi-channel ad data side-by-side, you can start accessing really deep insights.
This is where you can start to understand which content your audience loves. Tweak content and ad strategy based on your findings. This will lead to:
Let’s break these four metrics down.
Measure your engagement rate to find out whether your audience finds your content engaging or if it fails to attract them.
Logically, if your ad is well-created, well-targeted, and engaging then you should find more people clicking on your ad. This lowers the cost-per-click as the ad is considered relevant to the audience it’s being served to. So keep an eye on your click-through rate.
Cost-per-click is strongly affected by how relevant your paid content is to your targeted audience. It’s important to consider when trying to make the best use of your budget.
If your engagement rate is rising, your click through rate is rising then your cost-per-click is falling, and that’s good news for your budget and ROI.
You should be measuring sentiment around you campaign. Keep an eye on how your audience feels about your content and brand. You’ll want to catch negative sentiment before it affects your campaign. We’ve all see the disasters that can befall brands when they enter the hell that is a social media crisis.
If you have a marketing solution that can measure sentiment, that will save so much time. You can automate the sentiment analysis so that each audience post, comment or direct message is analyzed for sentiment and labeled.
With a system like that, you’ll be able to jump into the conversation quickly and start soothing and guiding the conversation towards more positive sentiment before it’s too late.
Clearly ROI is important as a solid financial metric. Measuring your ROI is key to understanding the financial implications of your campaign spend and how much revenue you made.
Looking at every Dollar/Pound/Euro/Dinar you earned for every Dollar/Pound/Euro/Dinar you spent will give you your ROI. The higher the better.
Take a quick look at this:
Engagement rate depends on your content quality and targeting.
Click-through rate depends on your content quality, targeting and Engagement rate.
Cost-per-Click depends on your content quality, targeting, Engagement rate and Click-through rate.
ROI depends on all of the above.
Let’s do a quick recap on everything we’ve talked about, so that it’s absolutely clear.
Ensuring that your holiday campaign brings successful results takes planning. It’s crucial that brands prepare all the elements of their campaign beforehand or risk running a rudderless campaign with no measurable outcome.
For clarity, let’s list the steps to success right here.
Take a structured approach and you’ll find things flow naturally. There will always be a few hiccups but with your plan in place, you’ll overcome any issues without too much disruption.
Halloween’s approaching fast, and if you haven’t started planning yet, you better get moving. Good luck, and happy ROI hunting!