The impact of social media on Christmas marketing campaigns


Christmas time is a hugely busy period for lots of businesses, especially those in the business of retail. The holiday season has become big business, with marketers facing increasing competition from other brands looking to grab as big a slice of the yuletide log as possible, and consumers spending even more time online than before (27% yoy increase).

In the past few years, the role of social media in supporting brands’ Christmas campaigns has become more and more important, with online chatter increasing as people fuss over where they will be going on holiday, what they will be buying, where they will be socialising, and more. With Christmas campaigns getting bigger and bigger each year, social media has helped to support and share these amongst consumers.

But how important is social to Christmas campaigns? Let’s take a look at the basics to start with; which is that social media marketing is great at raising awareness of brands and their campaigns. This is backed up by statistics from a Lithium survey; 26% of consumers report social media as one of the top 3 ways they become aware of new brands and products, and 52% said they use social media to connect with brands.

So if that’s how consumers interact with brands outside of Christmas, then you could probably predict that this interaction only increases during the holidays, as more campaigns hit the market and consumers think more about what to buy for their loved ones.

Brands are spending huge amounts on their Christmas campaigns, and marketers are therefore under pressure to demonstrate the ROI of this expenditure. One of the biggest spenders, UK retailer John Lewis, is a perfect example of this. Spending £6m on their snowman advert in 2012, £7m on the rabbit/hare in 2013, and another £7m this year on its penguin, this is an extraordinary investment in this seasonal consumer peak.

And with this expenditure naturally comes the pressure to return investment from this intensive period in consumer interest. And social media is just one tool that enables marketers to demonstrate how consumers are reacting to and interacting with a brand. And it is needed too; 42% of marketers say that they are very concerned about demonstrating the value of social media to executive management, with 35% adding that improving measurement via social media is a top priority. Stick £7m worth of campaign on top of that and you can see why marketers will be using every tool they have to demonstrate the impact of their campaign.

So how exactly is social media enabling marketers to get the most out of their Christmas investment, to help them make it a success rather than a Christmas turkey?

Well to start with, Christmas campaigns are increasingly being teased online, prior to the main advert or event, which means brands can generate momentum and interest in their campaign before it has even launched. UK retailer Marks & Spencer has gone one step further this year, and has heavily incorporated social media into its traditional ad campaign, with a Twitter account @thetwofairies to complement its TV advert, giving out random gifts around the country to unsuspecting followers of the account.

This has generated a huge amount of online buzz across all of the M&S social media channels, and demonstrates how the two styles of campaign activity can complement and work well together.

Social media can also be quantified, with hashtags and traffic directed to a brand’s website via social proof that a marketing campaign is working. Marks & Spencer’s ‘follow the fairies’ idea has, at time of writing, amassed over 28,000 followers on Twitter, with the hashtag being used thousands of times in the run up to Christmas already.

Marketers need to use this pressure to show ROI as an advantage, as social media has given the industry a whole new set of metrics to be able to demonstrate and prove the worth of marketing. Fans, likes, followers, mentions, sentiment and share of voice are just some of the new tools that can really highlight the impact of a campaign, especially valuable when large amounts are being spent.

But most importantly, using social media to support a campaign is about creating a community around the audience you are trying to reach. People like to interact, so if you’ve managed to get them interested in your campaign, it’s then time to get them engaged  with each other and amplifying that effect. Online communities are vibrant customer networks where marketers motivate consumers to do things that are great for each other and great for the brand. Christmas makes for the perfect environment in which this happens, and marketers should be doing everything they can to stimulate this.

By Fabrice Etienne, Marketing Director for Lithium