Here’s what you don’t need.
You don’t need a “holiday calendar” that’s nothing more than a glossy PDF you can’t edit, use, nor make your own.
You also don’t need an exhaustive chart of dates untethered from:
- Scaling your ad spend
- Creating and testing creative
- Experimenting with low-cost placements
- Tracking specific metrics during specific times
- And, optimizing a profitable budget built around your offer
You don’t need any of that. So, that’s not what we built.
Instead, we created a …
Week-by-week Black Friday social media campaign calendar you can actually use.
No doubt you’ve heard plenty of advice about the ecommerce trends shaping this year and the holidays. Everything from buying traffic early to driving success ahead of Black Friday.
But what does that actually mean?
- What’s the sequencing, the timing, the placements, and the strategy?
- When should you research, evaluate, and test your offer?
- How about content, creative, and copy?
It’s all here …
Planning Your Best Black Friday Marketing Campaigns: The Calendar
To create the calendar, we started by identifying and color-coding four activities:
Then, we worked backward from Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM) and a shipping-cut-off range roughly two weeks before Christmas.
We also excluded a number of Q4 holidays that show up on other calendars — not to mention notes about hashtags, tweets, and “going viral” — because those social media marketing tips simply do not drive consistent wins this time of year.
None of the work-day events within the calendar are set in stone. Each should be updated as you plan.
They do, however, represent the structural framework we’re using this year across our clients.
September: Strategize Your Offer, Spend, and Delayed Attribution Multiplier
The first order of business for BFCM planning lies in determining your overarching business goal for the Q4 holiday season …
- Is it to be profitable?
- Is it to acquire new customers?
- Or, is it some midway point between the two?
From there, plan your campaigns in phases. Strategize 3-5 campaigns (funnels) centered on landers, ads, and emails for …
- Black Friday (BF)
- Cyber Monday (CM)
- Christmas: Gifting + Shipping Cut-Off
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
While we’re all for originality, as you begin your holiday strategy, take inspiration from macro-trends and see how you can apply them.
Do so by conducting competitive and inspirational research on offers from last year in two waves: preliminary and final.
As you plan campaigns across media channels, we’ve also set aside specific days for determining your …
- Delayed Attribution Multiplier (DAM)
- Success metrics and leading indicators
- Spend and profit targets based on different Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday deals
October: Budget, Offer, and Scaling
With iOS updates decimating Facebook reporting, the end-of-COVID return to retail, and legacy retailers dumping spend into digital channels …
You’ve got the perfect storm for choking acquisition costs compounded by low-value shoppers — distracted, distressed, and on the hunt for deals.
To overcome these roadblocks, your October strategy should be focused on accelerated timelines to strike early and often, while costs are low.
You can’t scale an account without new creative. Each week you’ll need to refresh your account in anticipation of holiday sales.
Prepare for this by determining your merchandising plan and creative content: talent, stylization, SKUs, bundles, etc.
Design your holiday creative within 1×1 and 9×16 aspect ratios. Keeping content in these dimensions ensures that it will look and work well within Facebook’s many placements.
Plus, sticking to this format saves you time and money.
In Oct. and the beginning of Nov., optimize your ads for placement on Instagram Stories, Reels, Snapchat, and TikTok. Develop vertical creative that supports those platforms, where costs are far lower than News Feeds.
As you launch new creative, test it through different placements and on different social media platforms.
More importantly, commence scaling.
Plan on doubling or tripling spend for your Black Friday campaign compared to your normal social media strategy.
To do that profitably, we’ve included weekly spend increases of ~15-20% starting in Oct.
But, before you scale, make sure you have your holiday budget, offer, and delayed attribution multiplier.
The reason we’re pushing hard to launch campaigns during Oct. is that CPMs are much cheaper.
This means lower costs to advertise and drive traffic, despite the holiday tradition of ad costs being at their most expensive for the year.
It also means you’ll be building a retargeting audience with the expectation of converting them when the big shopping days arrive.
(Cue the Shopify notifications.)
November: Scale Spend, Prospect, and Prepare for the Rush
During the first week of November, finalize the copy and creative for your holiday ads.
Immediately before and during BFCM, focus on three types …
1. Offer and urgency ads
You’ll keep your Black Friday deals secret until they go live. Still, we cannot stress enough the centrality of your holiday offer and the creative that accompanies it.
In addition, don’t neglect iterations of your offer to release in stages throughout BFCM weekend — particularly a mounting sense of urgency in your copy.
Scarcity, limited time, and countdown clocks lift conversion rates as products sell out and the end nears.
2. Gifting and “gift guide” ads
Prior to Black Friday, holiday gift guides preview select products, hint at your offer, and simplify (or even gamify) holiday shopping.
More importantly, they can also be used to build your email list — as long as the content you create is genuinely merry (i.e., valuable and useful to shoppers).
During BFCM, “give one, get one” plays to everyone’s inner narcissist. Releasing new free gifts keeps excitement high.
3. Tiered-discounts or bundles
Tier-discounts pile on savings while simultaneously lifting average order value (AOV).
- Spend $100, save $25
- Spend $150, save $50
- Spend $200, save $75
Bundling also works and can be especially powerful on a pre-BFCM landing page to remarket, collect email addresses, and “unlock” purchases from when the holiday hits.
Similar to Oct., continue to scale spend, test creative, and launch new creative with two goals: (1) buy your customers early and (2) find what works prior to holiday.
Let’s break those down:
1. Drive Traffic By Prospecting
Get as many new people into your funnel as you can through paid tactics, so that by the time that Black Friday, Cyber Monday rolls around, you’ll have tons of people to remarket to.
Keep in mind that your ROAS probably won’t look as good as it did in Oct., because shoppers are getting a lot smarter — they know the sale is coming.
Once BFCM weekend hits, remarket to the traffic you built up from this month and reap the benefits of recouping your return on ad spend.
2. Don’t Focus On Cost Controls, Focus On Delivery
Normally, we preach about using cost controls as a way to protect delivery and make sure that every dollar is used efficiently.
But, Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t normal.
Because the market is so competitive, the goal for this moment should instead be getting delivery and getting your message out to as many people as possible.
Run your accounts on lowest-cost, so that you’re spending through your full daily budgets. That demands a reorientation of your overall strategy …
As you scale spend, placements, and creative, evaluate ad performance based off of key metrics that indicate high purchase intent.
(Emphasis on intent; not purchases.)
Discipline yourself to pay attention to four metrics not associated with CPAs or ROAS:
- Cost Per Outbound Click (CPC)
- Outbound CTR (Click-Through Rate)
- Cost Per Unique Add To Cart
- Cost Per Checkout Initiated
Black Friday, Cyber Monday Campaigns
Now, the big day we’ve all been waiting for. Once BFCM weekend rolls around, things change a bit.
Keep your Black Friday offers secret until the actual event, this helps build anticipation for your sale.
Once the clock hits midnight, launch your Black Friday ads. Repeat this process for Cyber Monday (often with an increased discount on ads — stronger incentive).
As a rule of thumb, don’t go heavier on remarketing instead of prospecting.
While exact numbers may vary from business to business, we recommend your media buying strategy fall in the ballpark of 60/40 for prospecting versus remarketing.
During this time frame, the best social media content is square images and videos that can be used across all placements — feeds, stories, or anywhere within the Facebook family of apps.
Use this content to remarket to the audience that you grew earlier in Oct.
Now that this audience is already familiar with your brand, make sure you’re clean, clear, and concise with your ad copy.
Keep your messaging to the point by spelling out, “What is your offer?” and “What are you selling?”
Also, be sure to build and schedule your ads before the event.
In the calendar, we suggest doing this on Wednesday, Nov. 24th. This will help save you from approval purgatory.
Once Black Friday hits, turn your site over to update it with holiday banners, homepage creative, and graphics. Same goes for Cyber Monday.
These changes can be creatively dramatic …
Or, more straightforward with a slight uptick in your sale …
At midnight before Black Friday, launch your Black Friday ads. Within your Facebook Ads Manager, switch over to a Dashboard view that reflects metrics significant to your BFCM success.
In this order, these are the metrics to select:
- Campaign Name
- Ad Set Name
- Cost and ROAS Controls
- Amount Spent
- Website Purchase ROAS [Revenue Divided by Ad Spend]
- Website Purchases Conversion Value [Raw Revenue]
- Cost Per Website Purchase
- Website Purchases
- Cost Per UNIQUE Checkout Initiated
- Unique Checkouts Initiated
- Cost Per UNIQUE Adds To Cart
- Unique Adds To Cart
- Outbound Clicks
- Cost Per Outbound Click (CPC)
- Outbound CTR (Click-Through Rate)
- CPM (Cost per 1,000 Impressions)
Some brands may change their offer from Black Friday to Cyber Monday (increase % off, etc.). If so, make sure to build new creative and launch ads that reflect this difference between offers.
And be sure to turn off your Black Friday ads the moment they’re no longer relevant. (That should go without saying but — tragically — it happens to large retailers every year.)
December: Shipping Cut-Off and Post-Holiday Campaigns
Once everyone has taken advantage of your BFCM offer, it’s showtime to run creatives that highlight your gifts, last day for shipping cutoffs, or wish lists.
These value propositions are key to creative that converts — so lean into these, especially going into Christmas.
After your BFCM specific campaign ends, it’s time for one final push — build and launch ads for shipping cut-off dates. When running shipping cut off ads, ensure that you kill the campaigns at your shipping cut-off date.
Shipping cutoff ads drive urgency and offer an opportunity to drive more sales after the traditional shopping window of BFCM weekend ends.
After your last day to ship, kill your ad campaign and start new after Christmas with a post-holiday campaign.
Post-holiday campaigns allow you the opportunity to get rid of surplus inventory (ex: clearance sale) or tease new January releases.
Buying Your Holiday Shopping Traffic Early: How & Why
At Common Thread Collective, we have a reputation for screaming from the top of every available mountain that CPC and CPM are not valuable metrics to use in making decisions.
For nine-to-ten months of the year, we anchor ourselves in this contrarian position for the sake of your ad accounts.
Suddenly, Nov. rolls around and everything changes. We extoll the value of traffic and CPC. Hypocrisy, right?
It’s not. The holiday season represents a unique cultural moment.
People aren’t looking for new products. They’re looking to get value on the products they already know and love — an opportunity to get the best price.
In our holiday marketing ecommerce manifesto, we push back on the alleged rise of CPMs and how you can arbitrage this by focusing on ad placements and diversification.
We also talked about how your DAM (Delayed Attribution Multiplier) peaks in early Nov., giving you the opportunity to scale more aggressively against lower ROAS targets.
Pour as much traffic as possible — and collect as many emails as possible — in the weeks leading up to BFCM.
Where? Wherever traffic is the cheapest. And so …
Strategize your campaigns, goals, spend, and DAM
Set your budget, begin to scale, and prospect
Refresh your creative, prospect hard, and remarket even harder over BFCM
Run gifting and shipping-cut-off campaigns, followed by post-holiday offers and New Year preparation
Reap the rewards of a profitable plan laid out within a holiday calendar you and your team can actually use.
Aaron is the VP of Marketing at CTC. Previously the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, his content has appeared on Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, The New York Times, and more. Connect with Aaron on Twitter or LinkedIn (especially if you want to talk about bunnies or #LetsGetRejected).