Christmas in July: Start Planning your Holiday Social Marketing Efforts

When July temperatures are soaring into the triple digits outside - despite this year’s summer Polar Vortex it hardly seems the time to be planning ahead to the Holiday season.

November onwards sees a time of family, parties, eating and lots of shopping – both online and off. According to ComScore, there were 10 days in 2013 where online shopping activity surpassed $1 billion, all of which came between Black Friday and Dec. 12. Social activity is driving more and more buyers to stores to do their holiday shopping.

It has long been built into the retail calendar to plan for the annual Holiday season early – known as Christmas in July. The rest of us in the social space can take a big leaf out this book and plan ahead now too as social media marketing is a large portion of connecting with consumers over the holidays, whether in retail or not.

It is now that social media marketers should be planning ahead to the colder months to ensure they can create relevant, dynamic and successful year-end campaigns:

1. Establish a relationship with customers and advocates early

During the holidays, consumers are inundated with promotions and sales. It is extremely difficult to cut through that noise, so don’t wait until November to engage with consumers or work on creating brand advocates.

Listen to your communities, use real time tools to identify advocates who are already talking about you and call on the tools in your marketing toolbox to build a relationship with them, starting NOW. A surprise and delight program to reward their loyalty, an invite to an exclusive event, a fan-only special offer or asking their opinion will go a long way now.

This is a foundation that can then be built on over the next 4 months, rather than starting from scratch on November 1.  

2.  Define your social voice to stand out from the crowd

This is the time of year when everyone is fighting for attention. Ask yourself, how are you going to stand out in that clutter, particularly when everyone is competing for the same eyeballs?

What are the unique parts of your social voice that you can build on in the months prior to the holidays? How can you use content, both in real time and scheduled, across social channels to develop that voice so that come the end of year rush, your fans clearly know who you are and what you stand for?

Use research tools to allow you to develop a better understanding of what your followers are talking about so that your content pipeline is fine tuned for relevancy over the summer and fall.

Note - this is not about amping up the self-promotion. If you’re too self promotional, there’s a big chance you’ll get lost in the holiday clutter. This is about discovering content that aligns to your brand voice and using that to build and strengthen relationships.

3. Plan early to surround the consumer where they are   

Remember that this is a time of year when your follower’s daily habits are much different. Much of the US is traveling around the Holidays and away from their daily routine. How does this change how you design a social program, to connect with your consumer in the right place, right time and in the right way? Who do you need to involve from teams across the enterprise to create this? And are there external partnerships you need to secure to power your approach?

This is something that will take planning and need time to secure the internal consensus and approvals you need. The key to creating a dynamic and successful holiday marketing campaign is to get started early, and bring partners with you from the outset rather than asking permission at the last minute.

4. Outline your paid strategy now

Paid media is vital to reach your target in social, particularly at a time as busy as year-end. Defining a paid strategy in July will allow you to clearly define the goals of your paid program, target audience and which social ad products will work best to reach that audience. It will also allow vital time for testing; running a variety of different social ads and monitoring to determine which performs best, then tweaking images, copy, and audience segments to ensure get the most value out of your investment.

This mid year check point also ensures you can plan to bid on popular keywords early, and secure any external media partnerships - before your competitors do.

5. Determine your goals for the Holidays

This is a time to establish watertight and business aligned goals and manage internal expectations for year-end social media marketing programs. What are your company’s overall goals for connecting with customers around the holidays? And how do your social programs feed into those goals?

If social media is being seen by some as a magic bullet to ensure success over the holidays, you need to know that and manage that expectation now. Similarly, establishing clear goals early on will ensure you are not jumping on the latest bright shiny object at the last minute as the Holidays approach. Having a plan in July means you can use social media to bring utility and a meaningful connection to your target that will also align to what your CEO really wants for Christmas - a successful business.

A recap, five ways to manage your Christmas in July:

  • Establish a relationship with fans and advocates
  • Use content and listening to define your social voice
  • Plan to surround the customer where they are in the Holidays
  • Outline your paid strategy   
  • Set your social goals early and align to business goals

Want to share some of the key takeaways from this post with your colleagues? We've gathered the main concepts in this helpful slideshare deck. Happy holiday planning!


What would you add to this list? 

Gemma Craven's picture

Gemma Craven

Gemma is the Executive Director of Strategic Markets at Spredfast where she leads Spredfast's North American team of Market Directors - social business practitioners and key partners to Spredfast's clients and prospects. She is also a WOMMA board member, runner, and owner of a Boston Terrier named Stella.