Five Ways Brands Can Prepare For a Successful Holiday Shopping Season Through Social Media

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If you have done any shopping during the months of November and December, then you’re all too familiar with the chaos that has come to define the holiday season in retail. And if you’re one of the many businesses trying to capitalize on the likely high sales volume, it’s vital to have a comprehensive strategy in place before the rush begins. When preparing for the influx of customer service demands, sales, complaints and campaigns, it’s important for retailers to leverage social media to provide customers with the smoothest holiday shopping experience possible.

After working in the technology and social space for more than ten years, I’ve seen that effective social media isn’t just measured by the number of tweets or posts issued – it’s about how many customers the business can actually attract and retain through engagement and relationship building. During the holidays, companies need to find a way to place their brand at the forefront of the social media buzz, and be prepared to properly and quickly address any type of issue or question their customers may have.

As the holidays approach, I recommend that businesses follow these five essential tips to tackle the holiday season on social and stay ahead of the curve to ultimately come out ahead of competitors:

  1. Prepare (way!) sooner than you think you need to: Seems simple, right? However, many companies aren’t adequately prepared to address the holiday rush simply because they started their holiday planning too late. It’s important to make sure you have a well-defined strategy in place before the holidays have even crossed your customers’ minds. Think back to last year – if you had a high volume of customer service messages between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, plan ahead with ready-made (customize where appropriate) responses to ensure customers are directed accordingly and aren’t ignored.
  2. Plan a holistic campaign: It’s no longer enough to only offer email promotions or social giveaways. To get the most traction, develop a campaign with a strong name (give it a name people will remember) and takeaway that can layer social into a broader marketing campaign. Sephora saw great success with its Sephora Claus holiday campaign, where the cosmetics brand created a holiday microsite and encouraged fans to connect their Twitter accounts to “wish” for a beauty product. One wish was granted each day for 30 days, and the wishes were able to boost social engagement with nearly 50,000 Tweets overall.
  3. Add an offline component to your online campaign: Hashtag campaigns and social offers are effective, but getting customers physically in front of the brand is just as important to create a total customer experience during the holiday season. Macy’s annual Believe campaign does this well by getting customers into retail stores to drop off their letters to Santa, while looping the visit back into social by encouraging customers to share pictures with #MacysBelieve.
  4. Reshape customer complaints into a positive: There will undoubtedly be recurring issues and common complaints on your social feed during the holidays. Find a creative way to address these issues and put a strategy in place. For example, if there are multiple Tweets about how cold it is waiting in line for a retail store to open, act quickly and have employees bring hot chocolate to people outside. This not only addresses the problem but demonstrates the company’s care for their customers.
  5. Take complex customer inquiries off social: Many times, it’s not enough to Tweet back a 140-character reply to a customer service inquiry. Respond as early and neutrally as you can, but take it out of the public forum by redirecting customers to private messages, emails or “please call this number” responses to avoid filling your social feeds with strings of customer-related comments/questions

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