Do Holiday Specials via Social Media Work? New Research
Wondering if social media efforts during holiday seasons impact sales?
In this article, you’ll discover new research that shows why small businesses should maintain a consistent social presence all year long, and why small- and medium-sized businesses should participate in larger, holistic holiday campaigns.
#1: Small Business Saturday Hashtags Increase Visibility for SMBs
You’ve probably at least heard of Small Business Saturday, but do you know about its roots? American Express created the event in 2010 to drive shoppers to local small businesses the day after Black Friday. Over the years, Small Business Saturday has grown into a kind of social movement where communities support their friends and neighbors who own local shops.
Both awareness of and participation in Small Business Saturday are growing. In November 2016, American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business conducted the fifth-annual Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey. The survey of 1,653 people showed that:
- 58% of respondents are aware of Small Business Saturday (up from 55% the previous year).
- 76% of Internet users plan to shop at a local small business.
- 33% plan to do all of their holiday shopping at local retailers.
- 67% of Small Business Saturday participants plan to spend $100 or more.
Social media helped drive the increased awareness. Two days after Small Business Saturday, American Express published a press release with data about social media’s role: 135 million social media engagements (likes, comments, shares, video views, etc.) supported Small Business Saturday. The number of engagements increased 63% from 2015, which had 85 million engagements.
Hashtags were a large part of the overall social media strategy. From November 1 through the day of the event (November 26), nearly 250,000 social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter used the hashtags #ShopSmall, #SmallBizSat, and #DineSmall.
Of those posts, more than 150,000 were posted on Small Business Saturday itself. Other popular hashtags used were #SmallBusinessSaturday, #ShopSmallForAll, #ShowSmallSaturday, and #ShopSmallBusinessSaturday.
These social media posts came from a variety of people and covered a range of topics. Business owners talked about promotions and activities. Celebrities encouraged their followers to shop small. Customers showed their support by touting the benefits of small businesses.
Small Business Saturday has become a social campaign of sorts. When small businesses participate, they’re pretty much guaranteed an audience of consumers on social media.
To participate, small businesses need to help drive awareness. They need to not only reach out to consumers in their immediate community, but also join forces with American Express and the larger community of small businesses on social media. To drive awareness, key tools include posting regularly about Small Business Saturday in November and using popular hashtags related to the event.
However, social media strategies (even those specific to the holiday season) work best when they’re part of a larger end game. The boost from a publicly promoted event such as Small Business Saturday is helpful, but small businesses should have a social media presence in place long before the seasons change.
#2: 35% of Internet Users Find Holiday Specials via Social Media
A business with limited resources has to do more with less. Employees of small businesses often wear multiple hats and don’t have the time to manage numerous social media accounts and run various campaigns with different objectives.
When you consider recent surveys of how small business owners use social media along with surveys of what customers find most useful during the holiday season, you can gain insights into which social media efforts are most effective.
Like most small business owners, you likely know that having a social media presence is important. The BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor (Wave 20/Q3 2016) survey of 1,000 small business owners discovered that 77.6% of the respondents use social media for brand awareness and general promotion. That percentage has increased from 73.2% last year.
The CEO Confidence Index: Q3 2016 released by Vistage Worldwide in early October offers deeper insight into the primary reason small business owners use social media. The 1,342 small business owners surveyed said that their primary reasons for using social media are:
- Increased awareness (34%)
- New business development (20%)
- Recruiting (19%)
If you had to pick only one reason to use social media, increasing brand awareness would get you more bang for your buck. Having more people know about you can organically lead to an increase in sales.
On the other hand, consumers generally don’t like being sold to. They’re more likely to tune you out as another advertiser vying for their attention. If increased sales or “business development” is your primary reason for a social presence, your business might benefit from refocusing your efforts on brand awareness.
As you decide how to focus your efforts for the holidays, consider a survey of 1,602 people conducted by RTi Research on behalf of Synchrony Financial titled, Pre-Holiday Shopping Research 2016. According to this survey, only 35% of consumers found information about holiday specials on social media.
Traditional media such as newspaper inserts, fliers, and ads, as well as TV and radio, take the top slots. Social media trails behind in seventh place. With this data, you may wonder whether ramping up your social media activity during the holiday season is worth the extra effort.
Because small businesses have smaller audiences than, say, a credit card giant like American Express, putting extra resources toward increasing social media activity during the holidays may not make a huge difference in sales. American Express gets the attention because it has 6.6 million fans on Facebook and an additional 3.5 million fans on its Small Business Saturday page.
Although being more active on social media in November and December certainly won’t hurt, small businesses are probably better off catering to the customers who physically walk through their doors, as opposed to the ones behind the computer screen.
#3: Consumers Value a Social Presence Regardless of Season
According to Vistaprint’s May 2016 report, Digital Impact Report: Online Identity, more than 62% of consumers say that a small business having a social media presence is either very important (24.3%) or somewhat important (38.1%).
As the age of the respondents goes down, the importance of social media rises. The study found that 29.1% of respondents age 25-34 and 28.1% of respondents age 18-24 felt that a business having a social media presence is important. This response is no surprise because these groups have spent most of their lives with Internet access.
Facebook is among the most popular social media platforms. The BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor (Wave 20/Q3 2016) survey discovered that nearly half of the 1,000 people surveyed (45%) have Facebook pages and one-quarter (25%) utilize Facebook ads.
Interestingly, in the CEO Confidence Index: Q3 2016 study, 43% of the 1,342 respondents said that LinkedIn is their most important social media platform, whereas 32% said that Facebook is.
Because LinkedIn is a social platform mainly used for business purposes (such as networking, job/applicant search, etc.), as indicated by the two studies, a percentage of small business owners appear to be on Facebook despite not finding the platform to be entirely useful.
Are businesses starting to see that Facebook may not be the best social strategy for their purposes? According to an October 2016 survey from social media software reviews compnay, GetApp, that may be the case. In GetApp’s survey of 500 small business owners, Facebook seems to disappoint:
- More than 25% of small- and medium-sized business owners say that Facebook is “not effective” at driving organic traffic to their website.
- Only 2.4% of respondents said Facebook was “extremely effective.”
- 6.8% answered that Facebook is “very effective.”
- Combined, that’s less than 10% of respondents saying that Facebook plays a significant role in getting traffic to their website.
There’s no arguing that Facebook plays an extremely important role in social media marketing for businesses of all sizes. However, Facebook isn’t the right venue for all businesses. If you find that your time is better spent on other social platforms, you should pursue those. Putting all of your efforts into fully nurturing one engaged social media account is better than haphazardly maintaining numerous less productive ones.
Given the proliferation of social media in today’s online world, small business owners may think that social media is the ideal place to advertise and market themselves and their wares during the holidays. As evidenced, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Although every business is trying to increase sales during the holidays (when consumers are more likely to open their wallets), surveys show that consumers just aren’t looking to social media for information regarding holiday sales. Consumers have so many other options, and right now they seem to prefer more traditional means of advertising.
What do you think? Have you participated in Small Business Saturday? Do the survey findings reflect your social media marketing efforts? Please share your experience in the comments.