How to Use Social Media for Christmas Gift Shopping

Many of us still remember a time when the first shot of the Christmas season was fired as a giant stack of catalogs dropped with a bang onto the kitchen table. But the times, they are a-changin'.

A recently released poll by Crowdtap.com found that nearly 65% of shoppers now use social media to research and purchase gifts. A similar poll, performed last year by ConsumerSearch.com, found 62% of shoppers consulted social media for ideas, reviews, and offers.

Crunch time for holiday shopping is still deceptively far away. However, given the expansive and expanding landscape of social media and the immense user base of each individual service, the failure to efficiently navigate these sites could lead to a sweaty dash of Christmas Eve shopping at the nearest gas station. While beef jerky is a delicious anytime treat, it's hardly an appropriate present. So let's take a look at some social media gifting strategies that should leave you with enough free time to actually enjoy the season; after all, A Charlie Brown Christmas isn't going to watch itself for the 37th time.

  • Facebook

    The aforementioned Crowdtap.com survey reveals that Facebook is the Social Media outlet with the most influence in the purchase decisions of holiday shoppers by more than double its closest competitor, Pinterest. The overwhelming advantage to consulting Facebook as an adjunct to holiday gift shopping is that everyone and their parole officer uses it. Any topic, business, or product is going to see participation by a vast cross-section of consumer demographics, so you can be confident that most comments or reviews on products in which you may be interested will be honest and unbiased (though short).

    The real benefit to Facebook is the opportunity to spy on potential gift recipients to see what they would want. By and large, the pictures and status updates on Facebook are going to be about kids and cats. The key is to decode the available information into digestible nuggets that you can use to find a suitable gift for that person. Focus on the pages that the user Likes and any stated hobbies and interests on the About page. Did your target post “We're all pretty bizarre” on the official page for The Breakfast Club? Perhaps the new Simple Minds retrospective collection might be in order. Has someone been known to Like a dozen novelty T-shirt companies? Keep an eye out for wacky screenprints of unicorns high-fiving exploding walruses.

    Individual retailers give out discounts on their Facebook pages in exchange for Likes and comments, but this is only efficient if you already know what you're looking for. Shoppers who are still searching for inspiration straight from the wallet can save time by browsing the walls of the largest couponing pages. Tjoos brings the most ammo to bear with exclusive coupons for deep discounts to a wide variety of national retailers; even better, the page hosts several weekly contests and drawings for gift cards that can range in value from $50-200 each.

  • Pinterest

    While Facebook holds an unassailable credibility with online shoppers, online surveys noted that social media users with no clue yet as to what to buy were most likely to begin the initial search on Pinterest before turning to other outlets for further information. The reason is simple: Pinterest's only function is for users to exhibit and talk about the things they like. It's almost like cheating, as you have an opportunity to see a living and evolving wish list of the person you're shopping for. Some tags, such as foreign travel, might be less suggestive than others (foreign phrasebooks or whimsical luggage tags) but many pinned images, such as cupcake baskets, will drop hints right into your lap.

    Captured pictures from other websites will link back to the source material if you click them in Pinterest, so there's no need to figure out where to start digging up the things that catch your eye. Once you get a notion, however, you should conduct further evaluation elsewhere; Pinterest allows for comments, but the overwhelming majority of Pinheads content themselves with browsing rather than saying anything about the pinned material.

  • Twitter

    The 146-character limit imposed by Twitter doesn't leave a lot of room for pith. As such, a shopper isn't going to find much worth in the way of commentary or information beyond tweeted links to headier material. Cherry-picking hashtags by topic or trend might lead down the rabbit hole to some truly compelling stuff, but the true value of the site itself is wealth of discounts you can come away with if you even just think the word “coupon”.

    The Pew Research Center states that 66% of adults who regularly go online incorporate social media into their daily activities. Knowing this, virtually every retailer attempts to leverage online presence by offering deals that are exclusive to Twitter. You could set fire to a whole pile of time by checking out the official corporate Twitter accounts individually, but a number of content aggregators collect these daily deals and rapidly fire them off in a dizzying series of tweets.

    Ultimate Coupons (@UltimateCoupons) is as good a place as any to start combing for coupons from some of the biggest online and offline stores. Ben's Bargains (@BensBargains) links to deals alongside headlines from its blog, The Checkout. Flipping through the tweets can reveal some truly one-of-a-kind gift ideas, especially from the section entitled "Shut Up and Take My Money".

  • YouTube

    Unfortunately, a simple search for ideas by using keywords such as “gift”, “guide”, “ideas”, or “my girlfriend's going to kill me if I get her a cookbook again” will merely unlock a deluge of vloggers that post videos on the topic just to hear themselves talk. Most of the uploaders openly admit that they have very few novel suggestions and weakly offer two or three variations on the same basics of makeup, candles, and scented soap.

    The very best use of YouTube as it relates to shopping is its honest and often humorous in-depth reviews of products. According to ConsumerSearch.com, 41% of online shoppers factor the reviews of peers into their purchasing decisions. YouTube certainly doesn't lack for opinion, as legions of dedicated amateurs compare smartphones, evaluate video games, and test the durability of popular toys. If you're on the fence about a high-dollar purchase, consulting the wisdom of crowds can be indispensable. If you're still looking for an idea, the best plan is to bypass the erstwhile “gift guides” and search videos by keywords of the subject you're considering, e.g. “cosmetics reviews” or “best cookware”; you'll typically get entries that catalog and compare several similar items simultaneously to help narrow down your choices.

    Protip: Type “gift reaction” into the search bar. You'll be treated to a long list of creative efforts that might spark, if not a specific idea, the manner and mindset in which to go about giving a truly memorable gift.

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