You can never be too prepared for the holiday season and one of the great benefits about social media is that it allows consumers as well as brands to react in real time to changes. Therefore, with the holiday season fast approaching, here are 11 ways marketers can be better prepared for the 2011 holiday season and leverage the power of social media to amplify their existing marketing programs.
Timing is everything. One of the most effective tactics a brand can implement is strategically planning the roll-out of critical communications during the holiday season. To do this, take the time to analyze critical response patterns including what day/time of day your consumers are most likely to engage with your social media posts and build your social posts accordingly.
Integrate and coordinate. Support promotional efforts across multiple channels - and coordinate your social posts with direct mail drops, email communications, and banner activities - to maximize sales. Test the effectiveness of sequencing these efforts to better optimize overall conversion and response rates.
Tag and track. Add tracking codes to all social media efforts. Measure your social media's impact to lift overall response rates as well as each channel's conversion contribution and impact on sales. Tag marketing programs with social addresses in order to engage consumers further.
Listen, respond, and remind. Monitor conversations and sentiment to identify and understand who might be talking about your brand, promotions, products, or services and what they are saying. Staff up and respond in real time. Go beyond offering holiday gift suggestions and be prepared to answer a range of inquires via social media you may not normally be accustomed to; such as questions around product availability, return policies, pricing, complaints, and more. Take the time to prepare and train all front-line personnel to properly address consumer questions. Remind users of critical deadlines and dates such as the last day to order online to receive by Christmas and offer last-minute ideas such as e-certificates.
Localize and alert. Use social media to update consumers about local events, extended store hours, price changes, and even product deliveries at local locations - particularly as it relates to hot products. Using the geo-targeted posts on platforms like Facebook can help optimize sales both online and in-store at the local level.
Promote unique events. Develop unique programs such as gift registries, holiday countdowns, pricing alerts, and store events and use social media to help spread the word and add opt-in and registration opportunities via your social networks: i.e., Facebook tabs. These are not only valued programs that drive engagement, but they also allow you to grow the database and continue the conversation across channels after the holidays.
Reward participation and loyalty. Create exclusive offers and events for loyalty and social community members. Reward consumers for their help in spreading the word and engagement. Be conscious of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines governing social media endorsements.
F-commerce. Extend the ability to purchase directly from your Facebook page. F-commerce is expected to increase six fold and reach $30 billion worldwide by 2015. Add the ability for consumers to purchase directly from your Facebook page and experiment with creating social events around big commerce events - i.e., "Chat with the designer."
Socialize key touch points. Socialize key touch points like your brand's website and email communications. Implement Facebook Connect to give users the ability to "like" and share products and holiday wish lists on your website. Incorporate share-to-social capabilities within email promotions and alerts.
Experiment and partner. Test new ideas and consider developing joint programs with retail partners. Foursquare check-in specials with custom badges can be shared across linked social networks to help increase visibility. Develop joint brand promotions with partners and cross-promote via @mentions and posts to increase awareness of your promotional efforts. And remember to inform front-line personnel of any promotions (see "Check In Before Users Check Out").
Unleash the power of the crowd and solicit feedback. Use collaborative filtering and data to highlight popular items by category, geographic region, or user segment and share it across your various communities. Solicit feedback by asking visitors to submit holiday and promotional ideas they'd like to see from your brand.
While the economic conditions have left many marketers struggling to do more with less, social media is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only does social media help marketers amplify their marketing efforts and increase marketing success, but if leveraged properly, it can be a true differentiator - enabling better planning, increased visibility/reach, greater selling efficiency, and improved customer satisfaction through real-time interactions.
Michael Della Penna is senior vice president of emerging channels at Responsys. His responsibilities include spearheading the overall strategic direction, partnerships, and solution offering across emerging channels including social and mobile for the company. Michael is a seasoned marketing professional with a long, proven track record of launching successful marketing, branding, and sales strategies for leading public and private companies. Most recently, Michael founded SuiteDialog, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helps brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social web. Prior to SuiteDialog, Michael founded Conversa Marketing, a social CRM company that was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as chief marketing officer for Epsilon, a leading provider of multichannel, data-driven marketing services. Michael's other key marketing leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, VP of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and VP of marketing at ZDNet. Michael received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Hofstra University.