Social Commerce

How to Plan the Perfect Holiday Marketing Campaign (+ Free Checklist!)

By Nikki Canning

Published August 25, 2020

16 minute read

The holiday marketing season is just around the corner, so if you haven’t started to plan your campaign yet, now is the time to get started!

The holiday marketing season is just around the corner, so if you haven’t started to plan your campaign yet, now is the time to get started!

The winter holidays are the busiest (and most important!) time of the whole year, especially if you work in retail or e-commerce.

And with COVID-19 potentially impacting in-store footfall, it’s a good idea to think about revising your social strategy to make those seasonal sales.

To help you stay organized this year, we created a holiday marketing campaign checklist (and a free downloadable worksheet!) to guide you through every step of your holiday campaign:

Holiday Marketing Campaign Step #1: Decide On Your Creative Concept

The first step to running a successful social media campaign over the holidays is coming up with a rock-solid idea or concept!

Not sure where to start? Take a moment and answer these questions:

  • What is the idea or concept behind your holiday marketing campaign this year?

  • What is the focus of your holiday marketing efforts? What products or services will you be focused on marketing primarily?

  • Will you be working with influencers on your campaign? If so, which ones?

And holiday campaigns don’t have to just revolve around “selling” — brands are getting really creative with how they position themselves during this competitive sales time.

Take for example Lululemon. The athleisure giant has an annual seasonal campaign that goes beyond showcasing their products — instead, they focus on their ethos and mission to bring communities together.

Previous seasonal campaigns included a message of “giving presence” (rather than presents!) and last year’s #feelgoodgiving drive:

The idea here is to come up with the broad strokes vision of your holiday campaign, including its overall look and feel, so if you ever feel lost or unsure, you can come back to these questions to get back on track!

Ready to kick off your planning? Download out our free campaign checklist to help you plan your timeline and tick off everything you’ve achieved!

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Holiday Marketing Campaign Step #2: Get Set Up With Instagram Shopping

Every month, 130 million people tap on an Instagram shopping post to learn more about products.

For businesses, Instagram shopping posts are a great way to showcase your products and drive more sales.

Especially now, thanks to Instagram’s rollout of the checkout feature to businesses and creators in the US!

Instagram Checkout lets you buy products *directly* on Instagram without ever leaving the app! It’s a match made in holiday shopping heaven!

So with this in mind, it’s time to make sure your brand is using Instagram shopping posts as effectively as possible — we’re talking beautiful imagery, great captions, and sales pitches timed to perfection.

Here’s a rundown of Instagram shopping features and how your brand can get involved:

#1. Instagram Shopping Feed Posts

First up, Instagram feed posts where you can tag up to 5 products!

Once you’re set up with Instagram Shopping, you can tag your products in the photos to your store catalog. So every time you post to your feed, you can create a shopping experience for your followers and start showcasing your product line!

While it’s the simplest way to make your feed shoppable, it’s a really effective way to elevate your feed.

Check out how both mega-brands like Sézane and startups like FinerRings have used shoppable posts in their feeds:

#2. Instagram Shopping Carousel Posts

Another great way to make your feed shoppable is by tagging your products in a carousel post.

With carousel posts, you can tag up to 20 products in your images, which makes it a quick and easy way to show off a full product range or create a lookbook for your brand.

Check out how British fashion brand Whistles cleverly uses a combination of carousel posts and tagged products to showcase new collections:

Every time you tag a post (either a single image or a carousel post) on Instagram with your products, that post will appear in its own dedicated shopping feed on your profile!

When your viewers tap the shopping bag icon on your profile, they’ll be directed to all of your tagged products, making it even easier for them to shop your feed.

#3. Instagram Stories with Tagged Products

Brands and consumers have already been using Instagram Stories to drive sales, but now online stores aren’t limited to trying to get their followers to “swipe up to shop.”

When watching your story, followers can now tap on a product sticker to learn more about the product and, ultimately, make a purchase.

Tagging products in Instagram Stories can be a more organic way to promote shopping on stories, and allows you to share your product details in a more subtle way.

And the best part about using shopping stickers for Instagram Stories is that small businesses with under 10,000 followers can now drive traffic to their products!

Check out how startup clothing brand Alas de Rayas uses Instagram Stories to showcase their seasonal collection while encouraging their viewers to shop their products:

#4. New Instagram AR Filters with Tagged Products

Just when you think Instagram can’t come up with anything else — they release a brand new augmented reality shopping feature!

This groundbreaking new feature allows consumers to “try on” products digitally before buying them — opening up a world of opportunities for retailers.

Similar to how they initially rolled out custom augmented reality filters, Instagram is currently beta testing an AR shopping feature with select brands like Warby Parker, MAC Cosmetics, Ray-Ban, and NARS Cosmetics.

These brands will allow Instagram users to “try on” products before they checkout on Instagram.

While this might not be a feature you can jump on right away, it shows just how advanced shopping experiences on Instagram will be in the future. It’s one to watch!

#5. Instagram Live with Tagged Products

Instagram’s latest release allows businesses to share direct links to shoppable products during their Instagram Live broadcasts!

Product links will be shown at the bottom of the video stream, so people can easily tap to learn more or “Add to Bag.”

Tina Craig (@bagsnob) was one of the first to use the new Live feature promoting her latest product launches from her brand @ubeauty.

Instagram just announced it will be rolling out the feature this month in the US so it could be a real asset for brands looking to set themselves apart from the competition!

Being able to transform your feed into a shoppable experience for your viewers is a sure-fire way to boost your engagement and make sales.

So if you want to kick start your holiday season campaign, now’s the time to get your profile prepped and set up with shoppable posts.

We jump into the details of how to do it in our Ultimate Guide to Instagram Shopping.

Another important step to take when preparing your profile for the holiday marketing season? Setting up your Instagram bio.

You only get one link in your Instagram bio, so it’s important to be strategic with how you use it.

Make your entire feed clickable and start driving more website traffic with with Later.

Using makes it extremely easy to redirect visitors to the specific products or pages that you reference in your individual posts, without ever having to update the URL in your Instagram bio!

And, it’s FREE!

Ready to level up with with Later? Sign up today, for free!

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Holiday Marketing Campaign Step #3: Create Your Photo and Video Assets

User-generated content (UGC) can be a powerful tool for engaging with customers and marketing your business, but when it comes to holiday marketing campaigns, it’s a good idea to invest in creating original content.

To start, create a Pinterest board that represents the aesthetic of your holiday marketing campaign. You can use this board to brief your team, photographers, and influencers about the aesthetic and visual qualities that you’re going for.

You may also want to hire a photographer and/or videographer to assist with content creation for your holiday campaign.

You also need to decide on a venue for your shoot. Will you be shooting inside our outside? Do you need to rent a venue, or can you use a space that you already have access to, such as a coworker’s house or cabin?

If you have to rent a venue, get it booked as early as possible for your shoot day!

However, COVID-19 and social distancing measures could mean studio time is hard to come by, you can create your own photo studio at home! And you don’t need a professional kit to achieve it either.

Check out how @earlofeast has mastered the at-home shoot for their product launches — and it’s a look that could be easily adapted to suit a holiday marketing campaign too!

Think about your props, location, lighting, and even your models. And yes, you can model your own products if you need to!

Check out how the founder of heirloom jewelry brand @chupi, Chupi Sweetman regularly acts as a hand model, along with her staff, in their product shots!

TIP: Try to create content for several different holidays in one go. For example, some slight variations to your studio setup for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or New Years’ sales can help streamline your content creation process.

If you need some help with prop inspiration, try referring back to the Pinterest board you created earlier!

Next, you need to create your shot list and storyboard for the whole holiday season.

Start by making a specific list of the products that you want to feature in each shot, and an overall description of the “scenes” you want to create, including venue, props, and shot selection.

If you’re shooting a holiday campaign video, it’s a good idea to create a shareable storyboard. Your storyboard doesn’t need to map out the entire video in intense detail, but make sure you have your beginning, middle, and end nailed down. Basically, you want to give your videographer a clear and cohesive story.

And don’t forget to shoot video content for Instagram Stories!

Each of the “big days” of your holiday marketing campaign should have a dedicated Instagram story to support and enhance your other Instagram content, whether it’s showing your products in action or promoting special “limited time” offers.

You can also tease your holiday campaign by sharing behind-the-scenes photos and videos on Instagram Stories!

Need help coming up with ideas for your Instagram Stories? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories for inspiration. Or you can download our storyboarding worksheet to get those creative juices flowing!

When shooting photos for your holiday campaign, try creating a healthy mix of promotional product shots and lifestyle imagery.

For example, if your e-commerce store sells socks, you could shoot inspiration photos of people wearing your socks, photos of your socks hanging by the fireplace, and even detailed close-up shots of your socks.

The more variety, the better!

Just make sure that all of your photos work with your holiday campaign idea or concept.

If you need holiday-specific imagery for your website, emails, or social media graphics that doesn’t include your products (think: gifts under the tree), you can save time by sourcing them from stock photo sites.

One of our favorite platforms is Unsplash: a platform with over 1 million free high-resolution images brought to you by the world’s most generous community of photographers.

Now, you can find free, on-brand stock photos right inside Later with our Unsplash integration.

You can gather, edit, and schedule high-quality stock photos, without ever having to leave Later, in a matter of clicks you can build out a collection of lifestyle seasonal content that’s perfect for your campaign!

We’ll help you give proper credit to the original photographer, so there’s even less to worry about before you schedule and post.

The good news? It’s free for all Later users — just sign in to the desktop app to start browsing for on-brand stock photos for your business!

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Holiday Marketing Campaign Step #4: Reach Out to Your Ideal Influencers

Influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the best strategies for businesses to reach new audiences and even drive e-commerce sales.

If you really want to run a successful social media campaign over the holidays, it makes sense to partner with niche influencers who fit your target market and have the right audience demographics for your brand.

So how do you do it?

To start, create a shortlist of influencers you’d like to work with on your holiday marketing campaign.

Try sticking to influencers who are relevant to your audience and brand. A good way to do this is by doing a quick audit of their followers. Do they match your target audience? Do they seem like people who would be interested in your products but don’t know your business yet?

At this point, you also want to self-audit your campaign to make sure it’s inclusive and diverse and represents the community you are working for.

Take MeUndies, a later client, for example. MeUndies is known for its bold prints and fun social presence, but their success is no surprise — they put a lot of thought and consideration into their marketing campaigns.

Every single one of their marketing campaigns makes an effort (holiday or not!) to be diverse and inclusive of their entire community.

Once you’ve created a shortlist of influencers, you need to create an influencer brief using your brand guidelines and holiday campaign Pinterest board.

Here, you need to clearly outline your campaign dates, delivery dates, and content expectations, and payment details. You should also make sure to get permission to post your influencer-created assets wherever you need to, be it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or your website.

With your brief ready, you can begin reaching out to the influencers on your shortlist. The best way to do this? Send them an email!

If you have a great product, a friendly attitude, and the right influencer, you’re sure to find something that works for both of you.

Want to know more about working with influencers? We have a complete guide to get you started here!

Holiday Marketing Campaign Step #5: Collect and Schedule Your Social Content

Once the content for your holiday marketing campaign is ready to go, set aside some time to fully plan out your social media content calendar using Later!

Taking the time to schedule your posts will not only make your life less stressful during the holiday season, but it will also leave you more time to actually engage with your community, which is so important if your goal is to make sales or generate leads.

Start by organizing your photos and videos for your holiday marketing campaign.

Once you have your images in the Later Media Library, you can start to schedule your social content — even if it’s weeks or months in advance!

You can also use Later’s Visual Instagram Planner to preview how your holiday-themed grid will look in the future.

When you have all your holiday content mapped out, you can set to Auto Publish, and Later will do all the hard work for you. You can sit, back and relax knowing your campaign posts will be shared exactly when you want them to be!

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Holiday Marketing Campaign Step #6: Prepare Your Social Media Ads

If you’re looking to reach new audiences, social media advertising can be the quickest and easiest way to achieve your goal!

With the right social media ad strategy, you can build your following, get website clicks, and drive sales for your brand or business.

Knowing how to spend money on social media advertising can be overwhelming — especially when you’re just starting out.

Every platform has its own set of advertising options — each with its own unique set of benefits, rules, and audience targeting capabilities.

For example, if you’re an e-commerce brand targeting millennial women in the US, you might want to consider investing in Promoted Pins on Pinterest.

Or if you’re a food delivery service looking to target hyper-local customers, you may want to use Instagram or Facebook Ads.

So while you’re mapping out your holiday season content, it’s worth paying attention to how that content can be repurposed into converting social ads.

Whatever your target is, there’s an ad platform that will work for your brand! To help you get started, read our step by step guide to driving more sales with a social media ad campaign!

Holiday Marketing Campaign Step #7: Measure Your Results

As we mentioned earlier, in order to run a successful social media campaign over the holidays, you have to have a clear idea of what success means, as well as a way of measuring it!

The best way to do this? By using Google UTM parameters to track your success on social.

UTM parameters are simply tags you add to a URL. When your link is clicked, the tags are sent back to Google Analytics and tracked.

Basically, UTM parameters help you answer some basic questions about your web traffic, including where it’s coming from, how it’s getting to you, and why it’s getting to you.

By adding UTM parameters to your social links, you can quickly measure how effective your holiday marketing campaign is and even attribute your sales to specific social media posts.

Need help tracking your social media campaign using UTM parameters? Check out our guide on tracking e-commerce sales with Google Analytics!

And, if you use with Later, we save you time by making this step a whole lot easier for you! We automatically track this data for you.

It’s also a good idea to create a report on the overall success of your holiday campaign strategy and execution.

Set up your campaign report by circling back to your creative concept. What were your goals? What were you trying to market or sell specifically? How effective was your content and CTAs? Did your campaign generate a return on investment? What can you improve next year?

Include data and analytics wherever possible so that you can set an appropriate budget and measurable objectives for next year.

Now that you have all the tips and tricks (and a free holiday marketing campaign checklist!), we have no doubt that you’ll be prepared to have the best holiday season yet!

Plus — you’re starting the holiday marketing campaign planning and brainstorming phase early so kudos to you!

Whether you do a few simple things to “dress up” your brand for the holidays or commit to a full-on campaign, follow our guide to get the most out of the upcoming holiday season!

Download our free holiday marketing campaign checklist to keep track of your holiday campaign this year!

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