December is here, which means the holiday season and shopping for it are in full swing. Consumers are looking to buy the perfect gifts for friends and family. It’s no secret that retail purchases spike this time of year and 2018 will certainly be no exception.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales to increase by 4.5% this year, totaling up to $720 billion. That’s an impressive number compared to the 3.9% annual increase of the last five years.
Of those sales, traffic from social media is expected to be at an all-time high with Instagram in particular, showing a consistent 51% increase each year.
Instagram is going to be one of the most powerful social channels marketers can use this season. So how can marketers sleigh their holiday strategy on this network?
In this article, I’ll share some tips and best practices to drive Instagram traffic, boost engagement and ultimately grow sales. Whether you’re looking to warm up your current approach or you’re just starting to construct a holiday roadmap (don’t worry, it’s still not too late!) cozy up with a cup of cocoa and let’s get planning!
1. Show a story
Shoppers are using Instagram to discover products that will inform purchases. With the right strategy, those Instagram impressions will likely convert into sales. However, the more overt you are about getting purchases, the less likely it is your audience will respond.
It’s no longer enough to advertise a product. Consumers want to feel connected—they want to know why you’re advertising to them.
Leave a lasting impression through meaningful content that connects with audiences. The holidays are ripe for emotional expenditure and conveying a story with your content is something that will keep viewers returning throughout the season.
Remember to show, not tell. After all, Instagram is a visual platform.
To boost effectiveness, center your content around a theme and keep your message targeted. While you don’t want to preach, vague language can often lead to a dead end, and inconsistent content style can confuse viewers.
In fact, 60% of the best-performing brands use the same filter for each and every post.
Being a pro storyteller means telling your own story. Your strategy will come down to your unique brand and objectives. For inspiration, check out what leading brands such as Starbucks, TD Bank, Macy’s and Target have already been up to this season.
Also see: 5 Tips to Run Unstoppable Instagram Advertising Campaigns.
2. Understand your audience
One of the best ways to predict future success is to look at past performance. There are a variety of social media management tools to help you dive into those past reports to better understand your audience and how to strategize outreach.
Understand how past holiday campaigns performed and why. Consider which formats widened your reach and who made up the key demographics that responded to your content.
Instagram’s algorithm makes it critical that you understand your audience and schedule your posts to match their behavior. To gain some understanding of who your followers are and when they’re the most active, you can tap into the Insights feature of your Instagram Business Account.
Use this information to schedule posts in advance. This will free up time to focus on real-time engagement during critical periods.
If you’re looking to hone and organize your strategy a little further, you may want to check out Falcon’s Publish content calendar. The Campaign Planner helps you juggle your product launches, holiday content, and contests along with your regular business goals. Think of it as your logistical Christmas angel.
Also see: 5 New Instagram Stories Features and How Marketers Can Use Them. Plus, have you tried using Instagram Shoppable Tags yet? You can see how to use them here.
3. Expand your insights
You may be on top of what users are saying to you, but do you know what they’re saying about you? Do you know what your brand sentiment looks like outside your comments and direct mentions? If not, there may be some blind spots in your strategy.
So how do you easily find conversations happening outside your own mentions and branded hashtags? No, it’s not a holiday miracle. It’s social listening and it’s available all year round!
Social listening goes beyond monitoring conversations happening within your immediate channels. It’s a powerful resource you can use to monitor social media and the web for anything from breaking news, brand mentions, hashtags, keywords and trends that can be influential in building your brand strategy.
It’s a great way to understand existing audiences, identify new ones and target what really matters the most to them.
The average consumer is bombarded with advertisements and this couldn’t ring any more true during the holiday season. If you post without properly understanding your audience you risk being forgotten. Or worse, you may create a negative impression through intrusive messaging.
Social listening gives you the edge to understand where your brand stands and how to tailor holiday social media campaigns, promotions, and product releases appropriately.
4. Have a conversation
One of the best ways to get users to connect with a message is to have them actively participate in it! That’s one of the many reasons why UGC performs 50% better than professionally-staged images.
Remember that social media is a conversation, not an advertisement. From asking engaging questions, running promotions or chiming in on trending topics to hosting contests and so much more, the possibilities are endless for starting a dialogue with users.
For example, L.L. Bean’s #12daysofpuppies Instagram holiday campaign invites viewers to submit their dog photos in exchange for a chance to win a $50 gift card.
Also see: Lonely Planet’s Head of Social Media’s advice for using user-generated content.
5. Format is key
Consider how your content is presented and which format best resonates with your audience.
While photos are known as the platform’s tried and true format, video is the hot trailblazer that can make a brand go viral overnight. Instagram recognizes this and offers an array of options to choose from.
Use the different formats to feature complimentary content. Post a picture of your newest sweater line while also directing viewers to check out your Story for exclusive sales.
Or, offer a live view of the official product launch in real time. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creatively boosting your Instagram engagement.
6. The season of giving
The holidays are about more than exclusive discounts and new product launches. Use your Instagram holiday campaign to showcase a good cause you’ve been working on or put a spotlight on an organization you wish to support.
According to recent studies, 73% of millennials and 72% of Gen Zers (people born between 1995 and 2015) say they will pay extra for products from companies that champion environmental and social causes—so this isn’t only an exercise in Christmas goodwill.
Every holiday season since 2007, Macy’s has teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation through the Believe Campaign. For each letter to Santa that Macy’s received, they would donate $1 to Make-A-Wish.
In 2016, the partnership went digital and launched #TheSantaProject. The message resonated so favorably with audiences that it went viral nationwide.
The trending hashtag received over 2.5 million interactions in the form of text, photo, and video engagement. Visits to the Macy’s website and YouTube views accounted for another 4.8 million views.
You can see Macy’s Make-A-Wish campaign in action here:
“Through The Santa Project by Macy’s, customers across the country flooded the Internet with 7.3 million expressions of belief, spreading the spirit of hope and joy during the holiday season”
7. Posting past December
Now that the calendar shows a new year, don’t lose the momentum you’ve worked all holiday season to obtain!
The holidays may take our attention in December, but customer loyalty is a year-round pursuit. The customer journey doesn’t end on January 2nd and neither should your engagement efforts.
In January, many customers are still in full swing looking for post-holiday deals. Nearly 60% of customers report shopping during the two weeks following Christmas day. And approximately 70% of consumers are still on the lookout year-round for potential holiday finds.
So how do you keep up the momentum?
Find creative ways to keep the demand generation opportunities flowing. Consider new products lines, special offers, and incorporating brand loyalty programs into your year-round strategy.
Use Instagram ads to find and retarget new audiences with relevant content. Measure your campaigns’ performance to inform future strategy and set up dynamic ads to work for you.
Target specific demographics and advertise products that have been shown to perform well among those groups. You can even reconnect with past shoppers and make product recommendations or remind them of items they viewed but didn’t buy by using Custom Audiences.
There you have it, seven tips to get the most out of your Instagram campaigns this holiday season. While the channel and its tactics are constantly evolving, keep these basic practices in mind and your campaigns are sure to snowball into success.