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How Retail Can Embrace Social Media For The Holiday Season

By Chris Zilles

"Making Spirits Bright Increase Holiday Results With Retail Shopping Research"

If early signs are any indication, the 2017 holiday season will look a lot different than previous holiday seasons for retailers. That has huge implications for the types of marketing campaigns they will run.

What Happened to Black Friday?

First of all, you’re a lot more likely to hear that “Black Friday is dead” this year. At the end of September, the Washington Post ran a story on a new PWC survey showing that shoppers just aren’t into Black Friday as much as they used to be. Only 35% of shoppers plan to search out bargains on Black Friday this year, down from 51% last year and 59% the year before.

Why are so many shoppers opting out of traditional holiday shopping habits? One reason is because of the increasing competition in alternative shopping options. This summer’s Amazon Prime Day in mid-July was widely heralded as the new Black Friday. Another reason is because of the increasing preference to shop online via retail sites or on social media rather than in stores. It’s not only customers that are forgoing the traditional Black Friday activities, but also many retailers who have been dying left and right because of the online shopping giant, Amazon. Toys’R’Us might be among them as they unfortunately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September. If you’re looking to run a holiday social media marketing campaign around Black Friday, learn from the increasing disinterest in Black Friday — take a step back and re-evaluate your options.

An alternative option to Black Friday campaigns is to encourage people to go outside and enjoy nature on Black Friday instead of shopping, as REI did in its #optoutside campaign. The retailer closed its doors on Black Friday, and “forced” all of its employees to stay home and enjoy nature instead. They encouraged the same for their customers.The brilliance of this campaign, of course, is that #optoutside is really just a clever way to get people to buy lots of outdoorsy equipment, like a new snowboard, well before Black Friday.

Social Media Campaigns Calling for “Unity”

We’re going to see more types of social media campaigns this holiday season focused around “unity.” The latest National Anthem controversy has galvanized the nation, so it’s a safe bet that many retailers will take the high road and show how they are trying to bring people together rather than dividing them. The NFL, for example, is now running a “Unity” ad showing huge ball players hugging each other and helping each other up from the ground after a big hit.

If that’s a bit too political for you, opt for something safe, along the lines of traditional Coca-Cola “peace on earth” ad imagery. Or you could take the approach that British retailer John Lewis took in 2015. The brand created a holiday campaign around “lonely senior citizens” and encouraged shoppers to show their love to older members of their family (or even complete strangers) who might be alone during the holidays.

Social Media Holiday Classics

Whether you prefer joining the unity campaign trend or have a different vision in mind, there are plenty of social media holiday classics that can be rolled out around the holidays:

  • Ask fans and shoppers to share holiday-themed photos on Instagram with a brand-centric hashtag
  • Promote holiday gift guides across social media
  • Post holiday giveaway contests on social channels

And, of course, humor is always a big hit around the holidays. If you’re a hospitality or travel brand, think about ways that you can tap into the funny little things that happen when you visit the in-laws during the holidays. If you’re a fashion brand, tap into all the jokes about “ugly sweaters.” If you’re a food or healthy lifestyle brand, tap into the humor around silly holiday foods that everybody eats, but that everybody hates (yes, fruitcake, I’m talking about you).

The important thing to keep in mind, of course, is that it’s best to start putting together your holiday social media campaign as soon as possible. In order to have plenty of momentum throughout November, check out this holiday retail shopping research.

This article originally appeared on SocialMedia HQ.

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