While the way we do social media marketing is continually changing, one thing stays the same: It can be the factor that makes or breaks your online store’s success, especially during the busiest shopping season of the year.
To help you get ahead of the competition, we’re sharing our top 10 strategies for making sure your social media holiday ad campaigns reach the right customers and convince them to add your products to their shopping list.
Keep reading to check out the full list, or jump to any of our individual tips below:
- Use seasonal ad creative.
- Emphasize holiday sales and promotions.
- Get your first-party data in order.
- Strategize your segmentation.
- Watch your competition.
- Evaluate and set realistic targets.
- Look at historical holiday shopping data.
- Don’t forget about Pinterest.
- Stretch your budget to beat competition.
- Start advertising early — like, right now.
10 Tips for Engaging Social Media Holiday Ads in 2023
We’ve worked with dozens of eCommerce retailers over the last decade. Along the way, we’ve uncovered a few key strategies to make your holiday social media marketing stick.
So, without further ado, here’s what we recommend for your Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns — including our tips for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and more:
1. Use seasonal ad creative.
While this tip may seem like a no-brainer, it’s also the foundation for creating successful holiday ads for social media: Use holiday-themed ad copy, images, and videos to connect with your customers and motivate them to purchase.
Your seasonal touches can be outright and obvious, like advertising certain products as Christmas or Hanukkah gifts directly within your messaging. You can also go more subtle, like in this example from Atrantil.
Below, you can see we’ve incorporated seasonal fall dishes like shrimp bisque into the brand’s ad creative. While it doesn’t scream “holidays” like other images, it does connect with customers who want to enjoy their favorite holiday foods without the frustration of bloating and discomfort.
(Bonus: It also enhances our brand awareness by vibing with our year-round social strategy.)
Work with your creative team to see which existing product images and videos could be utilized for your brand’s social media holiday ads.
Don’t have any at hand? We recommend a user-generated content strategy for gathering compelling and authentic visual content from your loyal customer base
2. Emphasize holiday sales and promotions.
An easy way to add seasonality to your ad creative? Incorporating holiday sales and promotions.
If you haven’t already, speak with your brand’s promotional team to understand what kind of sales will run during the holidays. Create a content calendar for your different social media platforms around that schedule.
Potential customers are already expecting discounts and sales from you during the holiday season, so use your social ads to push them over the finish line and make that purchase they’ve been considering for months.
Because today’s shoppers are trained to look for specific discounts and promo codes, make sure to emphasize your special offers in your ad creative, ad copy, or both.
You can’t be too obvious or obnoxious here; giant, bolded “BLACK FRIDAY SALE” or “30% OFF” text is exactly what your customers are looking for — and will help your ads stand out in the crowded news feeds.
In addition to highlighting discounts, consider additional Black Friday shopping incentives, such as gift card giveaways, free gifts, and other promotions. All of these will increase your ad click-through rates and the likelihood of conversion.
3. Get your first-party data in order.
Thanks to Apple’s iOS updates, first-party data isn’t as easy to gather from Facebook users as it once was. Because this customer data is marketing gold, you need to decide how you’re going to collect and access it now, if you haven’t already.
That way, you’ll have it ready to go when the upcoming holiday shopping season hits its full stride.
Consider collecting first-party data through:
- Email list growth and acquisition
- Progressive profiling form fills
- “Save cart” prompts
- “Create account” prompts
You can also use your BFCM campaigns to gather more first-party data for 2024.
You’ll likely see an increase in your subscriber list as shoppers sign up to take advantage of your Black Friday deals, so make sure that you have a strategic plan for what data you’re asking for and how you ask it. (We recommend looping in your conversion rate optimization team to test the efficacy of your forms.)
4. Strategize your segmentation.
Once you have your first-party data, you must develop the best strategy for using it.
Who will be the best customers to target (or retarget) during your holiday sales — your VIP purchasers? Repeat customers? First-time holiday shoppers?
If you’re not sure, take a look at your historical shopping data (tip #7) and run some tests in the next few months. With enough time, you can create a supercharged target audience primed for purchase before the first frost even hits.
With this tactic, we helped our client Vitrazza scale their growth for a 4.2x ROAS. Using lookalike seed audiences, we supercharged targeting the most motivated shoppers — creating robust lists that grew with their email subscribers and time spent advertising.
The results: The brand’s first million-dollar month.
You can read more about our approach in the complete case study here.
Of course, building those segmented lists is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to consider how your ad creative and chosen platforms align with the audience lists you’ve created.
- Does your ad creative and copy speak to the segment you’re targeting?
- Is your chosen social platform the best for this audience, or would other platforms (like Reddit or TikTok) give your ads more exposure to this segmented list of shoppers?
- Does it even make sense to go granular with these audience lists, or are you better off running broader campaigns and letting the platforms do the targeting for you?
(When in doubt, consult with your social media advertising expert or an outside agency.)
5. Watch your competition.
Keeping an eye on your competitors’ ads and strategies is always a good idea, but it’s crucial during the holiday shopping season. Watch what kind of creative they’re putting out, as well as how early they’re starting to run their holiday campaigns.
The last thing you want is to be caught on your heels while your competitors swoop in on your early-bird customers (see tip #10).
If you don’t already have one, consider creating a competitor analysis dashboard. Pick your top competitors, and use a spreadsheet to keep track of:
- Frequency of organic and paid social media posts
- CTAs and ad copy used
- Timing of their Black Friday promotions
- Special offers and discounts
You can view your competitors’ ads at any time using the Facebook Ad Library.
6. Evaluate and set realistic targets.
How the 2023 shopping season goes is anyone’s guess. After the rollercoaster years of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lingering effects of economic inflation, it’s near impossible to predict how shoppers will behave this fall and winter. Keep that in mind when setting your Black Friday marketing campaign KPIs.
In addition to metrics like revenue and ROAS, we recommend looking at micro conversions and micro-KPIs, like:
- Link click-through rate
- Link cost per click
- Add-to-cart ratio
These can be just as informative metrics as purchases and give you an even deeper understanding of your customers’ behavior. (Bonus: You can use these data points to create customer models and predict conversion paths in Google Analytics 4!)
The video below is hosted on YouTube. If you need assistance with viewing the video, please contact [email protected].
Start tracking these early on, and they will help you optimize your holiday Facebook ads strategy throughout the season.
Note: This year is the first in which many companies will rely solely on GA4 for their holiday shopping data. If you haven’t configured all of your custom events (including your Black Friday promotions), reach out to our team ASAP — or risk missing crucial data when the shopping season comes to an end.
7. Look at historical holiday shopping data.
All that said, there may still be some similarities between this year’s online shopping trends and those before. Start by taking a look at your CRM data on previous Black Friday/Cyber Monday shoppers.
Remember, a prospective buyer looks different during the holidays than the rest of the year. Use the demographic data from previous buyers to build a seed audience and remarket to them for repeat purchases. You can also create a lookalike audience from the same data for new customer acquisition during this period.
As you’re comparing your Universal Analytics data (revenue, purchases, etc.) from last year, remember that it won’t line up one-to-one with your new Google Analytics 4 metrics. You can download our free Google Analytics Comparison Dashboard to aid in your planning.
8. Don’t forget about Pinterest.
Pinterest is often overlooked — but, as the darling of women looking for gift ideas, it’s a great opportunity for your eCommerce brand to get your holiday advertising in front of interested customers.
Remember that customers on Pinterest are looking for gift-giving inspiration, so tailor your creative with that in mind. Run different ad campaigns utilizing interests and keywords during the holidays, and watch their performance closely to further optimize them in the months to come.
As one example, we used Pinterest advertising to help our client Cardboard Cutout Standees streamline their purchase funnel — leading to a 4.82x ROAS and a 250% increase in online sales.
Find out how we made it happen by reading our complete case study.
9. Stretch your budget to beat the competition.
The holiday season is a competitive one. If you want your ads to be shown in increasingly crowded ad auctions, you’ll need to up your budget — especially with social media channels demanding larger investments than ever to deliver similar results.
Take another look at your historical data on Facebook, Instagram, and other target platforms before setting your budget. How much were your ad costs in the past? What were your results like from that spend? Were you leaving money (or impressions) on the table?
Based on this data, work with your digital marketing team to identify the best budget for this holiday season. Don’t forget to include some room to adjust your spend depending on your Black Friday social media campaign performance.
10. Start advertising early — like, right now.
Finally, we recommend building and running your Instagram and Facebook ad campaigns as early as you can swing it.
The holiday shopping season starts earlier each year. In fact, more than half of all shoppers began their 2022 holiday shopping by early November — which means, if your eCommerce business isn’t out there promoting its sales by the time Halloween rolls around, you’re missing out on some crucial opportunities for your brand.
Just as there will always be the customer who waits until the last minute to buy their gifts, there will also be the early-bird shopper who crosses everything off their list before Halloween. Get in front of them ASAP with segmented targeting and specific offers, such as “Early Access” or “Sneak Peek” promotions.
Bottom line: Split the difference between these two groups of customers with your social media advertising, and stretch your calendar (and budget) as long as you can during the holiday season.
Start Prepping Your Social Media Ads Holiday Strategy Now
The holiday shopping season is the most crucial period of the year for eCommerce businesses — which means it’s certainly not the time to slack on your social media advertising efforts.
Fortunately, with a little forethought and the tips above, you can set your brand up for success with months of planning to spare.
If you’re not sure which kind of holiday social media strategy is best for your business — or you just want an experienced social media marketer running your campaigns — our team is always here to help. Request a free proposal from our strategists today to get started.
Want more holiday marketing tips?
Download our free Black Friday & Cyber Monday Digital Marketing Checklist today, or read through our additional guides below: