3 businesses share their secrets to a budget-friendly holiday social media marketing strategy.

Oct 27 2020 | PayPal Editorial Staff

Ask any marketing expert for holiday-related social media marketing tips, and you'll likely get a ton of suggestions from giveaways to Pinterest pins and Facebook ads. But there are now so many social channels and campaign types to choose from it can make your head spin. And many of them are cost-prohibitive if you're on a tight budget.

Still, some retailers and online sellers find a way through the clutter to create free or low-cost holiday-related social media campaigns that actually work. Here, three businesses share their success stories.

Cat in the Box: Encouraging customers to post their photos on Instagram.

Cat is in the Box Gingerbread House
You don't have to be a cat person to appreciate the whimsical cardboard playhouses Cat in the Box created. In 2019, just weeks before Christmas, company founder Dawn LaFontaine introduced the Gingerloaf House, a Hansel and Gretel–style cardboard playhouse for cats. The playhouse comes with preprinted "candy" stickers that customers can use to decorate their cat's abode. Last year, some customers went further, embellishing their cats' playhouses with twinkling Christmas lights, craft foam, and glitter.

To promote the product, LaFontaine used 
Instagram exclusively to encourage her customers to share photos of their creative decorating. The photos provided "social proof" of the cat-love and free content, which LaFontaine repurposed on Pinterest.

"Cat-owning Instagram users really enjoy having their cat, and in this case, their artistry as well, featured on other Instagram accounts," LaFontaine says. "Owners of other cat accounts commented freely on the creative work of their friends and followers."

Best of all, the promotion was free for the company.

"This approach ended up feeling very
 organic and sincere. People who enjoyed decorating my product wanted to show off their work, and my account was just there to celebrate with them and provide some fun additional exposure," LaFontaine says. "Even without paid advertising, I sold out my entire first run of this product in a few weeks."

The takeaway: Don't feel like you need to be the sole content producer for your social feeds. Tap into your customers' creativities and empower them to share their usage of your product on social. This can help you reach the communities they belong to and target new customers with similar interests.

Moriarty's Gem Art: Geo-targeting brings locals into retail store.

Photo of Steve Moriarty cutting. Steve Moriarty is the owner of Moriarty's Gem Art.

Moriarty's Gem Art, a custom jeweler in Crown Point, Indiana, used social media to offer current and potential customers free jewelry cleaning for their holiday parties in 2019. "It helped get people who were very close to our shop into our store and got them to browse our store while they were waiting for their jewelry to be cleaned," says marketing manager Jeff Moriarty.

To promote the offer, the company used a variety of 
social and marketing channels:
- Facebook
- Google Display Advertising
- Google AdWords
- Email
- SMS text
- Postcards

Ads were geo-targeted to 25-to-65-year-old women within one mile of the store's Main Street location. The campaign started the day after Thanksgiving and ended Christmas Eve with a maximum spend of $10 per day. The total cost was about $275. Facebook outperformed the other channels in driving engagement and traffic.

"It helped introduce our store and get them looking at jewelry gifts right before the holidays. Due to the specific demographic and small geographic area we targeted, it was pretty inexpensive and did a great job at getting people into our store," Moriarty says.

The takeaway: Holiday parties may be fewer in number this year, but there are still annual customs and habits customers will want to keep, even if for different reasons. If your business relies on the in-person experience to close a deal like Moriarty's Gem Art or luxury art dealer
 Jak W, focus on reaching a specific customer base by targeting your social media holiday campaign to a smaller geographic footprint.

Hayden Girls: Price discounts, gentle reminders reinforce brand image.

Headshot of Hosea Chang, COO of Hayden Los Angeles
As a kids fashion brand, Hayden Girls uses Facebook and Instagram as its primary drivers for free social media. "A lot of companies try to distinguish themselves with new methods, approaches, and promotions," Hayden COO Hosea Chang says. "We find that going back to the basics and just meeting those fundamental needs is what works best for us, given our brand and what we represent, especially during the holiday season."

So what are those "basics" for an online kids clothing retailer?

1. Staying on-brand.

Customers recognize Hayden Girls as an inclusive brand, so you won't ever find Christmas trees on their social channels. They make sure their social messaging and imagery can connect with people from all different backgrounds, regardless of the holiday their customers may be celebrating (or not celebrating).

2. Generating awareness of holiday promotions.

Hayden makes sure to use social media to draw attention to site-wide discounts on holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. "Customers expect to get great deals for themselves and others as they look for gifts for their loved ones," notes Chang.

3. Focusing ad budget on winning ads.

Hayden runs a variety of paid ads on Facebook and Instagram so they can test to see what works. The ads are initially A/B tested using different images.

"We allocate a small portion of our budget to see which ad got more clicks/engagement," says Chang. "From there, we'll allocate our remaining budgeted ad spend on the image that wins. Specifically, internally, we narrowed down to 4 SKUs, created ads based on those SKUs and went from there. In other instances, we have adjusted copy to see if our target (and narrow sample) audience has a preference and go from there."

The takeaway: Make sure your social media strategy reflects your overall brand message and values. Combine your consistent year-round brand message with subtle holiday nudges at times when people are open to spending money to get a good deal.

Head into the holidays with a tight social media strategy.

The strategies of these three small businesses all have one thing in common: smart, well-targeted social media that drives customer engagement and sales both for the holidays and the rest of the year. And they're proof that you can do it all on a nimble budget.

The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

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