Moses Velasco, chief strategist at social media analytics firm Socialbakers, offers his top tips on how SMEs can use social to their advantage to drive engagement and sales in a space where it feels like the big dogs have it covered.

The John Lewis approach to Christmas marketing – create an emotive video and share it across owned, earned and paid channels – has become the norm for retail brands. With its big bang approach to content translating to social, how do small businesses who don’t have the big budget compete at key, seasonal times?

Top tactics

It may sound obvious but social media offers a direct line to those you know want to hear from you. Be it lead times for orders, stock availability in the run up to summer or opening hours on New Year’s Day, use your channels to share important and unique information with customers.

And don’t stop there. Make the most of the nature of your business. As a SME, you can move quickly and be agile – the perfect combination for social. Find a fun way to create engagement and drive awareness no matter what the season.

Who’s winning

Take Meantime Brewing for example. The craft brewery shared seasonal content across social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, which positioned Meantime Brewery’s beer as the perfect gift and ideal accompaniment to Christmas merrymaking. They not only created the custom hashtag #MeantimeXmas, they tapped into influential hashtags including #gift and #greatpresents to ensure they reached an audience actively looking for present ideas.

On Twitter, the company’s use of #MeantimeXmas had a significant impact. During the month of December 2015, when using #MeantimeXmas, the SME saw four times the growth in followers versus its average month, almost nine times higher engagement and six times more user mentions. And this translated into sales – the company reported that it smashed previous record sales by over 20%, selling over 3% of its annual volume in just one week.

Making the most of influencers

And if you are able to, take it one step further incorporating influencer marketing into your social campaigns making for an even more memorable and successful campaign. Think of the most memorable campaigns of the last 2-3 years which have had staying power – they’ve all had a strong influencer component to ensure audiences engaged with them over time and brands weren’t entirely reliant on a big bang paid and earned push which can only ever maintain momentum for so long.

Take ‘Like a Girl’ – we think of it as starting with Emma Watson, but in reality she was one of a number of planned peaks built around influencers. The campaign itself had been slowly building momentum in the weeks before her now famous UN speech, but it was this which caused the spark to turn into a fire.

As SMEs, Emma Watson may be a bit of a stretch, but for campaigns focusing on a specific audience, you don’t need her. What is needed is carefully thought through relationships with influencers from within your audience – figuring out how you can work with them to ignite interest on a weekly basis. That could be anything from doing a live Q+A with them on your own channel on a Monday to following up with content from partner bloggers across the next week.

The reality is that brands don’t need to spend the big bucks to compete. Yes, the John Lewis ad has become a staple seasonal campaign that many eagerly await to see, but there are other ways of being heard. Just because you bark the loudest, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the biggest bite.

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