However it could simply be that a discount offer doesn’t necessarily require a user to leave a ‘like’ or comment, while competitions obviously require some sort of action in order to take part.

Accenture’s report compares the social activity of 80 major consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands versus five global retail brands from November 15 2012 to January 7 2013.

The CPG brands included Nike, Gucci, Oreo, Adidas, Skittles and Coca-Cola, while the five retailers were Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, Tesco and Asda.

Overall there were 55m conversations of which the retailers consumed 40%, while 10 of the most active CPG brands accounted for a further 27%.

Although this chart is quite vague, it does show that there were noticeable spikes during the holiday season.

Sampling of brand activity during the study period

Based on engagement scores, the report judged the relative success of different social media tactics.

It found that holiday-themed posts, product promotion and contests were successful, while generic information, event promotions, discount/vouchers and surveys failed to catch the public’s imagination.

As a result, Accenture has come up with these dos and don’ts for holiday season social strategy:

The dos

1. Remember the holiday season has three social media traffic peaks.

Plan and execute a campaign that takes into account the three different peaks in holiday social traffic, and launch the campaign in multiple waves to keep fans engaged.

2. Running campaigns with a holiday theme is a clear winner.

It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but nearly every social media campaign before Christmas that involved a Santa or Christmas tree theme received a positive response.

Brands failing to capitalise on the holiday opportunity are really missing a trick.

3. Don’t ignore the value of having a two-way dialogue.

Brands shouldn’t just push out content on social – instead consider running campaigns that require an element of crowdsourcing.

Campaigns like Heineken’s call to help design its new bottle received a massive response as it gave consumers the opportunity to be part of the brand experience.

4. Retain consumer interest with a variety of relevant content.

Providing quality multimedia content, such as video or eye-catching imagery, increased consumer engagement in campaigns.

Furthermore, consumers responded more to contests that offered exciting prizes.

5. Work to engage with target audiences, not everyone.

Don’t waste time experimenting with different types of tactics that your fans don’t associate with your brand.

For example, many brands in the study implemented event promotion campaigns but they only really proved to be a success for fashion brands.

The don’ts

1. Over-do your social advertising.

In the already cluttered realm of social media, avoid broadcasting generic information and requesting survey responses.

In general these tactics achieved low scores for consumer engagement, unless they were requests for feedback on customer service.

2. Conduct surveys.

Out of the various surveys conducted by CPG and retail brands during the study, 80% of them failed to engage consumers and 20% received a lower response than other social media tactics.

Surveys take time to respond to and are not motivating enough for consumers to share with their social network.

3. Broadcast generic information

Social content should engage consumers in an ongoing two-way dialogue, so don’t use social channels to push out generic brand or product information.

One example cited in the report is a Facebook app from Knorr that asked people to share their favourite flavour so the company could track global flavour trends.

4. Run a contest without a compelling prize.

Overall contests proved to be an effective tactic, but they failed to generate much interest if they didn’t articulate a clear and compelling prize.

One example that performed poorly simply stated: “Continue the song – there may be spot prizes for our favourite lines.”

5. Offer discounts through social media.

The discount category failed to draw a noticeable consumer response, despite the fact that online consumers are often portrayed as being keen bargain hunters.

For example, a campaign offering a $2.50 discount on Pampers was not visibly effective and some stores refused to accept the coupons as they didn’t have the usual barcode on them.

In fact, the study reported finding a number of comments related to issues faced by consumer trying to redeem these coupons.