It's October and my company already has a couple months of planning for the holiday season under our belt. Sounds a bit zealous, right? Well, as it turns out, not really. For big corporate companies like Walmart and BestBuy, planning six or more months in advance for the holidays is normal. Why isn't the case the same for small businesses?
While it's true big brands need more time to prep for the holidays because they're operating at a large scale, there are still lots of reasons small businesses should start preparing for the season early, too. It's like warming up before a big game. If you don't do it, you won't be able to play at your best. What business doesn't want to be at playing at their best when Christmas rolls around?
If you haven't started strategizing for the holiday season yet, time is still on your side! Here are five Facebook strategies you can start implementing now:
1. Promote Shopping Holidays Your Fans Already Love
Believe it not, in the United States, there are nine other holidays recognized by brands and consumers other than Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. My team described them all last year in a blog post titled, "9 Shopping Days Businesses Must Know About This Holiday Season."
One of the most popular shopping holidays for brands and consumers to celebrate is Free Shipping Day (FSD). It lands on December 15th this year and, as you might have already guessed, it's a day when businesses offer free shipping with the guarantee that all orders made on that day will be delivered by Christmas Eve.
For last-minute holiday shoppers perusing their news feeds, an update from your business with a free-shipping offer could be the perfect incentive to help them decide to purchase from you, rather than another brand.
If your brand has never participated in FSD, here are some things to consider:
• Don't let high shipping costs jeopardize your holiday sales: Forty four percent of online shoppers abandon their carts because of high shipping costs, according to a Forrester Study.
• Offering free shipping is Amazon's most successful recruiting incentive - it could be yours, too: So far, in 2014, 63 percent of Amazon customers have joined the service because of free shipping.
There are two really simple ways to start gathering valuable insight from your Facebook fans today.
1. Make attention-grabbing visuals for insight-seeking status updates: Last year, the company Everpurse received valuable product feedback from their fans when they shared this status update:
If you're wondering which product to feature in your upcoming holiday promotions, you can use these types of Facebook posts to quickly gather sentiment data.
2. Reward fans with extra giveaway points when they share their insight: If you're not a product company, you can still benefit from gathering insight from your fans before the holiday season gets underway.
My company, for example, started collecting information about our fans' expected holiday behavior this month. When a user visited our September"Facebook Monthly Giveaway" app, they were given the chance to double their chances of winning our prize by responding to our holiday-themed question.
The results of this question will help us decide the direction of our blog and Facebook post content as we go into the holiday season.
3. Host Facebook Giveaways to Quickly Build Your Email List
Did you know that 55 percent of brands use email as their number one holiday marketing channel (Accenture) and a massive 74 percent of holiday retailers use email to get customers to cash in on deals (Shop.org)?
There's no doubt email marketing is powerful during the holiday season, but what if the size of your list doesn't support your ambitious holiday email marketing plans? Hosting an action-gated giveaway is one surefire way to quickly grow your list before December.
What's an action-gated giveaway? Action-gated giveaways are hosted on your Facebook page via a third-party app instead of as a stand-alone update. These campaigns aren't for collecting general comments under a status update; they're for collecting specific demographic or contact information, like email addresses.
Here's an example of a simple action-gated giveaway hosted by the clothing retailer Lulu's. For the chance to win a $50 gift card to their online store, Lulu's Facebook fans must first share their email address.
4. Collect User Generated Content to Stretch Holiday Marketing Bucks
If your marketing budget is already a little tight, consider collecting user generated content as a means for stretching your holiday dollars.
Last year, Yosemite's Scenic Wonders, a vacation rental company, hosted a photo contest on Facebook and received 247 photo submissions. Those 247 pieces of user generated content (UGC), as they see it, is $741 dollars worth of unique photos from their fans. They came to this conclusion by assigning a value of $3 per photo if they would have had to download the photo from somewhere else.
Making an effort to collect user generated content early not only helps supply your brand with key marketing content, it helps drive healthy engagement with your fans before the holiday madness begins.
5. Allocate Money for Facebook Ads
If leading into October the reach of your Facebook posts is low, you need to find a solution for the issue pronto. There's nothing that can kill the success of your holiday Facebook marketing efforts faster than consistently low post organic reach.
If you aren't able to find a solution for your low post reach by November, start investing in Facebook advertising to boost your most important marketing messages. Although I wish it weren't so, ads are the only guaranteed way to ensure your fans are exposed to your brand this holiday season.
Through promoting popular shopping holidays, collecting insights from fans, building lists with giveaways, gathering user generated content and, finally, investing in advertising, businesses can prepare themselves for success this holiday season.
Readers, how does your business plan to use Facebook this holiday season? Have you already started preparing your strategies? Let me know in the comments below!