This time of year, retailers are extremely busy, both in-store and online. But for other businesses, the end of the year and the holiday season are different.
For example, we work mostly with technology companies, businesses that offer hi-tech products, technical services, and professional services in support of technology companies. For many of our clients, as employees take time off, and customers shift to holiday activities, there's often a downturn in web traffic and other digital activity and engagement.
This time of year, our clients ask how they should use their digital channels over the end of year holidays. So, with less traffic, and fewer people to engage, what should you do?
In this post, I’m going to talk about some options for changing your engagement strategies around the holidays to help B2B businesses manage their digital marketing efforts and get better results with less stress.
As noted, many industries see diminished activity this time of year - customers are generally focused on closing out year-end projects, not starting new ones.
Resources are also often strained at this time of year - employees are helping close out their projects or heading out for vacation. That means less time to create content or perform other social media and community engagement tasks.
So the questions that inevitably come up are:
- If there seems to be a downturn in content being published in my industry, should I continue to curate content?
- Should we change when we publish content? Is there a “holiday publication schedule” we should adopt?
- Is it worth engaging with the community at the same level?
- Should we run campaigns during the holidays?
- Essentially, what should remain consistent?
Tip 1: Continue to Curate Content over the Holidays
If you’re doing things right, you’re interested in the field that you work in, and content curation is simply an extra step tacked on to the end of your content consumption. Keep doing it.
There may be a downturn in activity, especially as the holidays approach, but after being away for a few days, people will come back to consume content.
For many people - myself included - catching up on content I’ve been meaning read is one of the things I look forward to the most over the holidays. So continue to curate content. Your community members might not get to it right away, but many will sooner or later.
Tip 2: Posting Less Frequently is Fine
It's okay to post less frequently over the holidays.
There usually isn't as much fresh content available, and your audience will be distracted holiday activities.
At my company, CarverTC, we reduce the amount of curated content by about 1/3 during the two weeks at the end of the year. We also take this opportunity to reshare some of the most popular content we've curated.
Tip 3: Continue to Publish Original Content
For all the reasons mentioned above, you should continue to publish original content.
Each organization is different. It's fine to reduce the amount of original content published over the holidays. This year, we're publishing half as much original content between December 18, and January 8.
Hopefully, you create your content well ahead of schedule so you have content ready to publish, if not, here are some ideas:
- Consider updating and re-releasing previous articles.
- Do a 'year in review' article to highlight your successes or those of your clients.
- Republish one piece of content each day over the holidays as a retrospective of issues, successes, tie the articles to some other theme in your industry. This strategy can help you grow followers and get some amazing traction.
As always, while you can create content in advance, and automate when it's published, you must have someone monitoring your social media channels to respond to comments.
Over the holidays, consider doubling your standard response policy (for example, extending a one business day response time requirement to 2 business days). Just make sure someone is tasked with monitoring and responding to comments. Social media is about being social after all.
Tip 4: Adjust Your Publication Schedules
If, for any of the reasons we've noted, you’re doing less content posting, adjust the times during the day when you publish content.
We're a B2B business, and during the holiday season we see more engagement early in the day, and less late. People are coming in early, working, then checking out a little early, so we move our publication times to early in the morning, through early in the afternoon, leaving evenings free. We publish our original content in the morning to catch people during work hours.
What should you do? Look at your analytics. Analyze engagement trends to see when your community is online and engaging. Also look at content consumption and engagement stats for the Thanksgiving holiday. Those stats can provide you some insights for optimizing your end of year content schedules.
Tip 5: Maintain Community Engagement at the Same Levels as Non-Holidays
If you’re social media resource constrained and have to cut some things down, reduce content before reducing customer engagement.
Social media is about relationships, and connections and engagement are key. And no single social media approach does more to raise sentiment than being responsive.
Thank people. Respond to comments. Address customer service issues promptly.
Even with all the year-end craziness, your community managers need to support their communities. Set up a fair and flexible schedule for your community managers so your team can remain engaged, responsive and positive.
Tip 6: Awareness Campaigns Can be Successful but Understand Your Calendar
If you're in an industry that sees a slowdown time of year, we've had success with end of the year campaigns for ourselves and our clients.
The most important thing is to understand is the impact the holidays have on campaign engagement - for example, we put our Inbound Growth Plan on sale between November 1, and January 31st. It's a great planning service we offer, and the end of the year and the start of the year are times when people are doing planning which is why we put the service on sale.
But we treat the campaign as if it has three phases mapping to the customer engagement cycle we see this time of year:
- Phase 1: End of the year engagement. Between November 1st and December 15th, we actively try to get companies to spend leftover budget on planning for next year. We cross-promote on our digital channels frequently and pay for search engine and social advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Phase 2: Awareness campaign for the start of the year engagement. Between December 15th, and about January 10th, we don't expect there will be much direct engagement. However, we keep promoting on our digital channels and will even run low cost, finely targeted Facebook campaigns to get and keep the word out and build awareness for mid to late January when people are willing to buy again.
- Phase 3: Start of the year engagement. From January 10th to January 31st we actively pursue new Q1 budget for planning. As with end of year engagement, we cross promote on our digital channels frequently and pay for search engine and social advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Tip 7: Instagram Over the Holidays
The Holidays are a great time to celebrate your businesses people, clients, and community, and Instagram is a great way to showcase this.
We encourage all of our clients to use Instagram to present the human side of their company by showing behind the scenes images, highlighting key people, and interacting with the community. The holidays and holiday festivities make for a particularly great time to share these types of images.