4 Tips to Win the Holiday Season With Paid Social

4 Tips to Win the Holiday Season With Paid Social

By Ron Dod, co-founder and CMO at Visiture
5-minute read

In short:

  • There’s still time to position your e-commerce site to win the holidays with paid social tactics.
  • Use the below to make quick, strategic calls informed by your budget, audience, most-visited platform and best-performing creative.
  • Test varying tactics throughout the season, and you’ll feel confident your ads are performing to their potential.


The holiday season is right around the corner, and now’s the time for e-commerce companies to get marketing materials ready before the Q4 rush -- if you don’t, you’re almost certain to lose out to the competition, especially if you're not ready to take on the ever-changing paid social landscape.

While tactics like "social proof" are critical for sales, social media advertising remains one of the most effective opportunities for e-commerce companies to move merchandise. Social media platforms provide ultra-refined targeting features, dynamic ads for retailers and other powerful options for reaching your ideal consumers.

For your brand to run an efficient and profitable campaign, follow these four rules for winning with paid social this holiday season.


1. Allocate your budget per platform with a simple formula.

There's a lot of conflicting advice out there about how companies should spend their marketing budgets.

When speaking strictly about social media advertising, some say that Facebook is the best place for e-commerce retailers. Others contend that Pinterest is far superior, while still others claim Instagram as the ultimate social retail channel.

Honestly, all these assertions are correct on some level.

72% of Instagram users buy a product they saw on the app. Here's an Instagram shot (note: not a paid ad) from Corkcicle. 


However, not all platforms are equally useful for every brand. To understand where to invest marketing dollars, businesses must not only understand their objectives but also how current funds are performing.

If you aren’t running ad campaigns across social sites, start testing now to determine which channel shows the most potential.

If you’ve run campaigns across different social platforms, analyze their performance to determine which channel is most promising.

Return on ad spend (ROAS) is the key metric to use for investing ad dollars. ROAS shows you what in your strategy must improve in order to effectively drive sales and increase profits. The formula is pretty simple:

(Revenue – Cost) / Cost

While there is no definitive answer on what constitutes a “good” ROAS, 4:1 or higher is a reasonable benchmark.


2. Know your demographics, and use Audiences.

Targeting is vital to building a successful social ad campaign. Fortunately, platforms like Facebook and Instagram give advertisers access to sophisticated and powerful targeting options.

However, what might be most useful is Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.

Using Custom Audiences, retailers can target those who have interacted with their brand before, lower in the sales funnel and closer to converting.

Using a list of those who converted, sellers can build a Lookalike Audience to find top-of-funnel users who mirror those customers, increasing the likelihood of a conversion.


3. Deploy desktop and mobile strategies depending on your target.

People shop differently according to the device they are using.

While smartphone usage continues to increase, most consumers still prefer to browse on mobile but buy via desktop. This dynamic means that merchants must target consumers differently based on which device services the ad.

It is best to reach top-of-funnel consumers via mobile. However, for those lower in the funnel, desktop ads are likely a better bet. Given this dynamic, Facebook news feed ads tend to be more expensive for desktop. Be sure to target accordingly.

Moreover, advertisers shouldn’t create audiences only based on interests and demographic profiles but also on where these audiences are in the funnel.

Desktop ads are your best bet when targeting down-funnel prospects. Here's a Facebook post (note: not a paid ad) from PB2.


4. Generate new creative based on your observations.

With paid social, some of the most essential areas for sellers to focus on are images and headlines. The visual hooks the reader, and the headline provokes action.

Start by taking what works, and then build on it. Once you’ve established which platform is the most effective for your brand, you should also have some idea about the performance of ad creative.


The importance of images in ads

The human mind is designed to process visuals, with a 2014 MIT study reporting “the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds.” For e-commerce marketers, this means that images are vital to ad performance.

Following this logic, it is far better to employ real images over stock photos. VWO research found that using pictures of real people on landing pages boosted click-through rates by 95% over non-human visuals. Similar results were found with conversions, which increased by 48% just by using photos of actual people.

You can also try out video ads, if your budget and time constraints allow. Video might be the most effective for you given that:

With the aggressive push most platforms have made toward video content, and with new tools like Facebook’s Video Creation Kit, generating video ads is likely to prove prosperous.

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Choosing your holiday ad text or headline

As far as headlines are concerned, these should always be clear and simple. However, they should also include a verb. Doing so can increase clicks by up to 150%.

But the only way to truly know what works is to conduct A/B testing (split testing).

When split testing social ads, advertisers must test variations on ad type, placements, CTAs, targeting options and bidding strategies. When optimizing ad copy, test out different messages, lengths and formats to see what works best for your brand.

Be sure only to target one or two component variants at a time to establish what resonates with consumers. Some helpful tools for this are:

After analyzing the outcomes of your A/B tests, continue to develop and adjust new creative according to the results.

Holiday ad text should be tested and refined often. Here's an Instagram post (note: not a paid ad) from Enjoy Life Foods. 


Testing and adjusting throughout the holiday season

Because you’re targeting specific consumers based on their device and point in the customer journey, it’s vital to adjust your ad’s creative accordingly, tailoring the visuals, headlines and copy to match the intended audience. To do this, circle back to the A/B testing phase to figure out which elements resonate most with each audience.

For e-commerce brands to maximize their sales this holiday season, they must start creating and testing their social ad strategies now — either in-house or with social media experts — or they’re certain to fall behind.