OK, I realize it's early to start using the C-word, but it's almost too late to be planning your festive social strategy.
A new study by lead generation firm LinkShare has found that almost half of all marketers will be using social platforms this winter, with a further 37 percent intending to use online vouchers and special offers.
That means some businesses will be venturing into social marketing for the first time, and at one of the busiest times of year for many consumer-facing companies. If you're one of them, what do you need to know?
Pick Your Platform
How much of a budget are you planning to dedicate to your Christmas social marketing? If it's a small, experimental budget, then you'll need to be reasonable about how much you can expect to achieve.
Perhaps you should begin with a Twitter campaign, or a Facebook campaign, or a blog, or a forum. Don't try and do all of them only to fail for lack of budget.
Add Value to Christmas Shoppers
Successful social media marketing is about offering value to people. This can be about posting discounts and vouchers, especially at Christmas, when everyone's budgets are stretched.
However, it's not just discounts; to be truly social online you need to do more than talk about your products.
So, this is where intelligent and useful blog posts come in; thoughtful and succinct tweets; clever Facebook applications; content that's worth sharing.
Don't Spend Hours on Individuals
While it's lovely to occasionally use your corporate power to make one person very happy, especially at Christmas, don't waste your social media time.
It's easy to lose perspective in a social platform and spend hours reconciling one lone customer, or giving far more credence to a complaint just because it was made on Twitter, when actually the complainer has fewer than five followers.
Having said that, targeting individuals can be a good idea. You just need to pick your individual.
So, for example, if you're a cuddly toy retailer and someone tweets you that their neighbor's house burned down, presents and all, donating something to the kids can win you some really great publicity.
Just don't waste hours agonizing over random people online. Resolve their complaints as you would any other customer -- quickly and fairly, but not as a particular priority.
Interact With Your Customers
You wouldn't walk around a Christmas party simply handing out vouchers for your shop and you can't behave that way online.
Interact with people, start conversations, respond to feedback, engage in debate, promote discussions. This is how you become a personable brand and a social media success.
The clue is in the word "social"!
Can You Attract Viral Attention?
I groan inside when enthusiastic but old school marketers proudly tell me they've "gone viral" because they've uploaded a video onto YouTube, or launched a competition via Twitter.
This isn't viral marketing; it's a promotion you desperately hope will get some attention.
But Christmas is a good time to try your luck at achieving viral marketing, because people are much more relaxed, especially at work.
That means they're happier to share e-mail funnies or spend time on Twitter and Facebook. So it's a good time to publish your viral attempt.
Viral marketing is very hit and miss, but you'll almost certainly need to invest considerable cash. Look at previous successful festive campaigns: Elf Yourself, Pimp My Sleigh, and the many successful Christmas-themed mini-games.
All of these were slick and well designed, but they also had a huge amount of paid-for publicity and also a fair bit of luck. If you want to go viral, it's an investment gamble but you need to do it well if it's to have any hope of success.
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