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The holiday season seems to sneak up on us even if we had every intention to plan ahead. But life has this funny way of getting in the way and, before you know it, we're putting those turkeys in the oven, rushing out to get our holiday shopping done, and hearing those sleigh bells ring.

Why do the holidays create so much stress for marketers? Is it because holiday decorations now go up before Halloween? Or is it because people no longer wait for “Black Friday” to do all of their shopping? Whatever the case may be, if we haven't firmed up our holiday campaign plans in the summer – when we were probably lounging poolside – we're already woefully behind.

6 of 7 consumers do their research online before they set foot in-store and, as of 2015, social commerce revenues peaked at $14 billion in the U.S.

There's never enough time to think about what success really looks like when the holidays roll around. But you're probably putting too much pressure on yourself anyways. So, take on a new approach: less thinking, more doing. Even if you're just getting started now – tisk, tisk! – making the most of your social media efforts over the holidays should be easy and a little fun, too!

Don't to know where to start?

Follow these simple steps.

  1. Set (Realistic) Goals
  2. Determine Your Target Audiences
  3. Organize Your Content and Promotions
  4. Get the Creative Juices Flowing
  5. Schedule Posts
  6. Engage and Respond
  7. Measure, Measure, Measure

Step 1: Set Realistic Goals

Sure, we'd all like to move a mountain, but that's not likely to happen—especially if you're just getting work underway now. Think in terms of baby steps. What can you feasibly accomplish between now and the end of the season? Do you want to drive sales? Do you want to grow your following? Do you want customers to participate in a contest? Think about the top two to three things you'd (realistically) like to accomplish in the coming weeks. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering. It just needs to take you one step further. Brainstorm what you want to accomplish, write it down, commit it to memory, and then move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Determine Your Target Audiences

You've figured out what you want to accomplish! The only way you're going to do this is if you engage the right people. The voice in your head may say, “my brand is relevant to everyone, so why can't I just reach out to...everyone?” Well, that's just not a very effective strategy. It's pretty hard to create content that everyone will love. So, you need to be thoughtful about who your audience is as well as what content and communications will pique their interests. That's how you'll make a dent in your goal. Just know your target audiences could vary significantly. Are you trying to get millennial men to buy your new product? Do you want suburban housewives to share your most recent post? Either way, you need to clearly identify 1) who you're speaking to and 2) what you're telling them. Until you've got that sorted out, do not pass “go,” do not collect 200 dollars, and do not, under any circumstances, move onto Step 3. (This is important – take it seriously!)

A UPS consumer report found that 34% say social media influences their purchases

Step 3: Organize Your Content and Promotions

By now you should have a working list of all the content, communications, and promotions you want to share with your target audiences. Now it's time to organize them so you've got all your ducks in a row – and maintain some sort of sanity. If you're a visual learner, a simple calendar is the best way to organize the who, what, and when of your holiday social media strategy. Avoid getting into the weeds; you can always tweak later. Just lay everything out to make sure the cadence of your communications makes sense and is spread out evenly to make a sustained impact all season long. Once you see all the pieces in place, you'll have a clearer picture for how to get all that work done. (Hint, start with the stuff that needs to go out the door first.) Now take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, and move onto Step 4. This is where the fun really begins.

Step 4: Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Whether you're a one-man (ahem, or one-woman) show or have a full creative team at your disposal, there's no time to waste – you've got to get cracking. Here's a little secret: don't over-think it. You are already behind the eight-ball, so it's important to get out of the “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” mindset and just get the work done. If you're reading this, you likely don't have the luxury of time to ponder the perfect, life-changing, never-seen-before holiday campaign of your dreams. So, work with what you've got – aka, brand guidelines – and brief your creative team on everything you needed to get done, yesterday. If you properly followed Steps 1 through 3, you've done most of the heavy lifting. Trust that your creative team can get you over the finish line – and avoid non-stop nitpicking. If the creative is on-message, on-brand, and delivered to you on-time, run with it. You may have just experienced a holiday miracle. But your job isn't done, yet. Time for Step 5.

Step 5: Schedule Posts

Remember that beautiful calendar you created back in Step 3? It's about to come in handy. But first, thank the creative team for burning the midnight oil (you did, didn't you?), and then get that content locked, loaded, and ready to post. If you are fortunate enough to use Lithium Social Media Management, this part can actually be a lot of fun. When scheduling your posts, you can choose day parts, specific audiences, and a bunch of other features to make sure you reach (no pun intended) the right audience with the right message at the right time. And, even better, you can do it all in advance. So, why wait? Get it out of the way as soon as possible so you can shift your attention towards more important things, like Step 6.

Step 6: Engage and Respond

You really thought you were off the hook after Step 5, didn't you? As nice as it would be to simply post content and go back to sipping eggnog by the fire, that's not how this works. The minute your content goes live, you'll have hundreds or even thousands of people liking, commenting, criticizing, and questioning all that holiday joy you poured your heart and soul into. Social media is a two-way street. If people took the time to engage with your post, it's your responsibility to keep the conversation going. Answer questions, thank brand advocates for words of praise, and do whatever you can to move a disgruntled customer from the “naughty” to the “nice” list. (Just don't beat yourself up if you can't make Scrooge turn his frown upside down!) Being active in social media is more than just posting content and praying that it will help you achieve your goals. You need to be engaged in your audience just as much as they are engaged in your brand. So, get to it – in the time that you've read this, about a dozen more comments have just popped up. Once you've got that under control, feel free to move onto Step 7.

Twitter found that customers are willing to spend up to 20% more with a brand if that brand responds to them.

Step 7: Measure, Measure, Measure

The great thing about social media is that we can know almost instantly whether a post is working well or failing miserably. Everything can be measured in real-time. Everything can be tweaked, fine-tuned, and refined in real-time. The keyword here is: “real-time.” You've got the tools at your disposal (hint, hint: Lithium Social Media Management) to ensure that all the hard work you put into your holiday campaign actually pays off. There will be some successes along with some massive fails. Just be glad that you can fail fast. Life is full of trial and error. Not everything will be an instant win with your audience. Keep tabs on your metrics, celebrate your wins, learn from your fails, and never lose sight of your goals. You've got to prove your strategy worked. Data will soon become your best friend.

But wait, there's more! Even though the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over, be sure to take a few minutes to review what parts of your holiday strategy worked as well as what could have been better. Doing this now may save you tons of work when the holidays roll around next year. The goal here is to simplify. Learn from your successes as well as your mistakes. When you do, it'll be that much easier to surpass the goals you set for yourself this year.

Recommended Resources

  1. #12DaysofSocialCheer:
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