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two jack o lanterns

Tricks and Treats for Halloween Social Media Marketing

Steve Heisler

two jack o lanterns

Maximize shares and likes with a social media strategy tailored to Halloween foot traffic

Regardless of the weather outside, families and adults always leave the house on Oct. 31 in pursuit of candy and other Halloween goodies. This affords small businesses along trick-or-treating routes ample opportunities to directly interface with customers. Translate those interactions into sales and marketing by setting up a strong Halloween-themed social media strategy.

According to data collected by the National Retail Federation (NRF), 68% of those surveyed say they find inspiration for Halloween purchases on social media, beating out numbers from the last five years. The numbers further break down to encourage a focus on photo posts. Pinterest is the leading social media platform at 18%, while Instagram has seen a decent amount of growth over the last year, from 12% to 14%.

Millennials and Gen Z have already linked Halloween with social media. In fact, 48% of millennials say they purchase Halloween items just to include in social media posts—things like costume pieces or props. The numbers for Gen Z are equally impressive, at 37%.

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Here are some easy ways to capitalize on the added foot traffic afforded by Halloween to maximize marketing exposure on social.

Create a Hashtag

Outdoor Voices, an athletic apparel company, sets a prime example of how retail can seamlessly integrate into a social media marketing policy. The company plasters the mirrors in its fitting rooms with its hashtag #DoingThings, so when people inevitably take and share selfies showing off their new threads, the hashtag will be included in the photo.

Ape the spirit of that strategy by constructing Halloween-themed photo backdrops with a hashtag displayed on them, or hand out visual props, such as signs carrying spooky slogans and your hashtag, for patrons to hold up in pictures. This encourages people to linger at your business for a longer amount of time as well as directly interact with your customer service team. The hashtag serves as an easy way to track down photos to repost on your official channels.

Focus on Pets

Social media’s embrace of pets goes beyond the anecdotal during Halloween. The NRF estimates that Halloween sees $8.8 billion in spending this year, and roughly half a billion of that total will be used toward costumes for pets. That’s a significant amount of market share, and everyone who purchases a pet costume is likely going to bring their pet along for trick or treating and later post a photo on Instagram.

Stray away from costume contests as a way to encourage people to bring pets into your business. For example, Beyond Indigo Pets, a veterinary marketing agency, recommends that vet practices hold a “guess the X-ray” contest, in which they post X-rays of pets that ingested something odd and ask people to figure out the type of pet and what wound up in their stomach. This demonstrates that retail businesses aren’t the only types to see social media benefit from Halloween foot traffic.

Offer Home Decorations

The financial investment in Halloween doesn’t end with the costume. According to the NRF, 49% of people celebrating the holiday plan to decorate their home. By offering accessories such as fake cobwebs, ominous lights or small pumpkins, you can help customers make the most of their decorating dollar. Incentivize them by offering a discount when they next visit if they snap a photo of these decorations set up in the yard and share it on social. This keeps your business top of mind even after customers leave, and incentivizes them to return.

For maximum benefit, write or print your hashtag on the sides of those pumpkins, or hand out trinkets like fake bugs to adorn customers’ pets. And don’t forget to share plenty of your own photos. It’s been shown that customers like interacting with brands that demonstrate a human side—plus you put a lot of effort into your costume, so show it off.

Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash.

Steve Heisler is staff writer at the American Marketing Association. His work can be found in Rolling Stone, GQ, The A.V. Club and Chicago Sun-Times. He may be reached at sheisler@ama.org.