Most shops will have holiday posts and advertisements running from Thanksgiving through the holiday season. For multi-location businesses trying to convert online browsers to in-store shoppers, what messaging tactics work best? How can you entice holiday shoppers to put down their phones and come into your local store? Clever social media posts might help.
Craft your posts carefully, monitor your success and adjust accordingly.
Downplay the Hard Sell
Social posts with the words “go shopping” spike in November and December when compared to the rest of the year, writes Trust Insights cofounder Christopher S. Penn. But those posts don’t contain a brand name or URL. In other words, consumers are writing that they’re heading out to “go shopping.” What’s not clear is where they’re going and if they’re happy about the task.
Seeing a post with a hard push to spend money and grab a deal might not motivate a shopper like this. And it might not make your brand stand out from the crowd.
“Although every business is trying to increase sales during the holidays (when consumers are more likely to open their wallets), surveys show that consumers just aren’t looking to social media for information regarding holiday sales,” says marketer Michelle Krasniak.
It’s wise to share details about your best deal. But mix in content that both entertains and educates. Set yourself apart, and you’re likely to get more attention.
Dig Deep Into Your Products
If you can’t hammer your audience with posts about your amazing prices, what can you talk about? Think about your products, and look for ways to tell stories about why you have great gift options.
Liz Alton at Twitter Business suggests creating how-to videos. “If your products involve more than basic assembly or have capabilities the average user might miss, how-to videos can be an effective way to introduce them to the possibilities,” she says.
Even seemingly simple products can inspire amazing videos – and if you learn how to make shoppable video, you could create great content that convinces visitors to get on board with your product or service. You could film your chef making cupcakes. You could highlight how your coffee beans are roasted. You could showcase how wax becomes a candle. Any manufacturing process could be transformed into an effective video or detailed social post .
Express Your Brand’s Personality
Your company is more than the products you sell. You also have a culture, a talented set of employees and an interesting storefront. The characteristics that set your company apart should infuse your social posts.
Research suggests that social posts gain traction when product details and brand personality combine, say from Kartik Hosanagar et al, in their article published in Management Science. Those social posts will tell a consumer something interesting about a product. But they’ll also reveal something about you.
What sets your company apart? Is it your irreverence? Your formality? Your size? Your connection to the community? Dig deep into your brand, and look for ways to highlight those strengths in each post you create.
Spend Time on Photography
It’s easy to focus on the words you use within your holiday social posts. Don’t forget to think about the images that go along with your text. That’s true regardless of the social channel you use.
If you’re hoping for Instagram success, look for ways to loosen up and showcase your humanity. Many Instagram posts are similar due to good lighting, plenty of polish and lots of filters, writes Bridget de Maine at Canva. Standing out on this platform might mean letting some raw edges peep through. Check your work by following your top competitors. If their polished, pretty photos look just like yours, it’s time to mix things up. If you take some photos that you think look great from a personal perspective and would like to preserve and enjoy them from your home, you could print on acrylic and get some professional wall art made of them! Not all of your photos have to be shared with the world, after all!
The need for compelling imagery is apparent on all social platforms, including those you don’t think of as visual.
“When planning your holiday posts, keep in mind that Facebook is a visual platform,” advises social media consultant Mari Smith. Animation, video and text overlay could help your Facebook images really shine.
The majority of your photography might feature your products. But don’t forget to highlight one of your biggest assets: Your shop itself. John McAteer, vice president of sales, retail and technology at Google, says 61 percent of consumers would rather spend money with brands that have a brick-and-mortar presence than with those that are online only.
A welcoming image of your open front door, closeup shots of holiday decorations and photos of your smiling customers and staff could entice shoppers to come in for a visit.
Highlight What Happens Inside
In addition to photographing your shop, you could craft posts that explain the experience you offer in-person shoppers. Think about what your customers feel as they search for the perfect holiday gift. “Consumers are likely stressed and need help to get everything done while staying in the merry holiday spirit,” says Camilla Dudley at Twitter Business.
Create posts that highlight how your local store is a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Do you offer snacks? Are you playing quiet holiday tunes? Look for ways to make the fun shopping experience clear.
“Brick-and-mortar stores also provide emotional benefits that are hard to reproduce online: 42 percent of US holiday shoppers said they shopped in-store for the holiday ambiance, and 27 percent of US holiday shoppers said they shopped in-store to spend time with family,” according to Facebook’s Holiday Marketing Guide.
Interview some of your best customers about their experience, and use those in your posts. Or, go live and film the fun and community connections that happen in your shop.
Finally, look for ways to highlight the shopping perks that set you apart from your online competitors. Holly Bullock, senior account manager at Microsoft, suggests highlighting in-store pickup options in the week prior to Christmas. Harried shoppers may not be able to get their online purchases in time for gifting, but your shop can meet that need with ease.
Mix Up the Approach
You’ve got plenty of ideas you can use to fill your channels with content that catches the eye of consumers. How can you make the most of these opportunities? When it comes to social media, variety is helpful.
Sprinkle your best ideas throughout the weeks leading up to New Year’s. Create a social media calendar with your best ideas, suggests Lilach Bullock at Forbes Small Business. Use different types of content for each day of the week, and track your success.
If you find a piece of content isn’t working for you, mix things up. Your calendar isn’t written in stone. But with a defined strategy, you’re more likely to share different types of content and wow your fans with variety.
Prepare to Pay
You can share your content on social without spending a dime. But if you want to reach a large group in a short time period, putting money behind your best ideas may be a wise move. Remember that everyone else is also spending money, and that means advertising can get expensive.
“The price you pay for Facebook ads is largely determined by competition,” says Facebook marketing strategist Jon Loomer. The more people that want to run an ad, the more you can expect to pay. Set your budget early, and stick with it. Adding your proposed spending amounts into your social post calendar might be a smart way to keep track.
Monitor Your Success
After you launch your campaign, watch for reactions. How many people “like” your post? How many people click from the post to your website? How many people mention your posts when they visit your shop? That data means more than anything a consultant might tell you.
Marketing blogger Louise Myers puts it this way: “As far as ‘when’ to post to Facebook, I keep seeing studies that tout early afternoon. That’s never worked for me. It may be that more people are online and sharing then, but I think that just means I’m lost in the crowd.” If you’re consistently seeing good reactions on posts that go live at 3 p.m., stick with that, even if bloggers say you should post at 1 p.m.
That advice also applies to what day of the week you post. In his article in Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, Carsten D. Schultz says his research finds no correlation between weekend or weekday posts and consumer engagement. Any day of the week seems similar. Still, if you find that weekends really ignite your shoppers, reserve those days for your biggest ads.
And if you have one viral success with a Facebook ad, consider copying your work when you start your next ad. “One way to scale Facebook campaigns is to choose an existing ad set that’s performing well (e.g., low cost per conversion) and then duplicate it, making a small change to the targeting, creative, or ad copy,” says MOOP cofounder Martin Ochwat.
If you’re not sure how to do that, a consultant can help. Or you can keep it simple and look for ways to match the words you used and the image you selected when you’re crafting your next post.
Be Realistic About Results
Approximately 74 percent of Facebook users visit the site every day, with about half visiting it multiple times per day, according to Andrew Perrin and Monica Andersen at Pew Research. In a perfect world, every one of those people will see your content and head to your shop. But it’s not likely.
Research from Adobe suggests that consumers often visit websites from social media posts. But those visits don’t always end with money changing hands. “Social visits don’t translate into purchases as easily as visits coming from other channels like email and search.”
If you don’t see viral success from your social posts, think about the conflicting messages your consumers hear as they read up on staying sane during the holidays.
You’ll need to counter advice like this from psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter: “Pace yourself. Better yet, shop online. Not only can you shop any time during the day or night (in comfy PJs if you like), you will circumvent the stress of crowds, lines, and parking problems. Plus, with free shipping alive and well during the holidays, it can sometimes cost less to shop online than in stores.”
Remind these cozy, home-bound customers that your shop is a fun place to spend time this holiday season. Nurture your relationship with them by rewarding them for their likes and comments; entice them to come in with add-ons and discounts.
And remember that social media success comes from a jog, not a sprint. The content you share about your products, your shop and your brand could help you build up loyal fans that may visit you again and again. The work you do now could translate into happy holiday seasons for many years to come.
Images by: antonioguillem/ 123RF.com, rh2010/ 123RF.com, halfpoint/ 123RF.com