It’s beginning to look a lot like the busiest time of year for retailers. As the 2022 holiday shopping season approaches, marketers should have a plan in place to manage social customer care and perfect their social commerce strategy.

Sprout Social analyzed more than 457 million messages across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to find out how retailers fared through the previous holiday shopping season and what brands can expect for 2022. We discovered social messaging frequency will increase on all platforms, brands need to improve their response rates and consumers will continue to turn to social commerce for holiday shopping needs. Let’s dive into the data.

A look back at social trends from the 2021 holiday season

Powered by online shopping, 2021 holiday retail sales were bright, growing over 14% compared to 2020.

The increase in sales correlated with an increase in social messages. Compared to an average of 2,477 messages received per month by retailers from January through October 2021, retailers received an average of 2,804 messages per month in November through December 2021. This represents an 13% increase in average messages received per month during the 2021 holiday season compared to the rest of the year.

A graphic with teal background and pink up arrow that reads "13% increase in average messages received during the 2021 holiday season (November and December) compared to the rest of the year (January–October)"

The sheer volume of social messages received during November and December is a good reminder for retailers of all sizes to remain present and active on their social platforms.

As businesses prepare their teams for the surge in messages, they also need to have a plan for maintaining fast social responses and a consistent publishing cadence.

In November and December, retailers sent 32% more Twitter messages per month compared to the non-holiday months. However, retailers’ outbound organic messages on Facebook and Instagram dropped slightly during holiday months, pointing to poor response rates that can impact customer care satisfaction—and ultimately the bottomline.

Gearing up for the projected 2022 holiday season

During the upcoming 2022 holiday season, experts predict total retail sales will reach up to $1.47 trillion.

Retailers can expect a 7.5% increase in sales in brick-and-mortar stores and ecommerce channels alike—but some challenges remain. High inflation rates will force consumers to tighten their budgets. To plan for a more competitive holiday season, retailers need a foolproof social media strategy to deliver the best customer experience.

Looking closer at ecommerce, online holiday sales are forecasted to grow by 11-15% year-over-year, which underscores the importance of giving shoppers a superior omnichannel experience.

Given that consumers have grown reliant on the customized experience and convenience of digital shopping, we predict they will flock to social again this year.

A graphic with a light blue background and blue up arrow that reads "18% more social messages per month in the 2022 holiday season compared to non-holiday months"

To no one’s surprise, retailers can expect an influx of messages during the 2022 holiday season—so get your social (and social customer care) teams ready now. Sprout Social’s data science team projects retailers can expect on average 18% more social messages per month this holiday season compared to the non-holiday months in 2022.

Growth expected across all social channels

Retailers should expect to see a spike in messages received across all platforms during the holidays.

A data visualization that compares projected increases in messages on Instagram (27%), Twitter (19%) and Facebook (7%) in the 2022 holiday season.

To maximize your reach and drive engagement, consider a combination of paid and organic social strategies. Paid ads on Facebook, for example, give retailers the ability to build custom audiences and target consumers who have previously interacted with your business in the past. Businesses can also run an Instagram Stories campaign to promote specific offers or tease special announcements—two creative ways to keep customers glued to your brand’s social feed.

As you gear up for the 2022 holiday season, it’s important to lead with the consumer and tailor campaigns around where your audiences spend most of their time online. For example, Instagram link clicks for arts and crafts retailers increased by 44% in November and December 2021—the most of all retail categories.

Response rates need to speed up

According to The Sprout Social Index™, 76% of consumers value how quickly a brand can respond to their needs. However, we’ve seen significantly decreasing response rates from 2020 to 2022.

A line graph demonstrating a sharp decline in brand response rates in Jan-Oct 2020 (almost 45%) compared to Jan-Oct 2022 (about 25%).

It’s essential to make sure your social team is prepared to handle the increased volume of messages by following social customer care best practices.

Some businesses may even consider reassigning a few customer service reps to help manage inquiries from social media—or at least have a system in place for social media marketers to redirect messages to the experts.

Once everyone’s gifts are unwrapped and holiday decorations are put away, retailers can use social listening to learn from their holiday experience and apply those insights toward their 2023 social strategy. With listening, retailers can glean information that can inform product development and even improve the customer experience year-round.

Social commerce continues to command attention

Social commerce sales are expected to increase by 25% in 2022. Retailers that want to remain competitive and profitable can’t afford to ignore social and its incredible value during the holiday season.

Since 2021, new social commerce tools have been introduced that have shifted the Twitter ecommerce landscape. Twitter Shops, Spotlights, Live Shopping and Product Drops provide new ways to convert brand enthusiasts to buyers on the app. Twitter also saw a 36% increase in holiday messages received last year, suggesting it could be the platform to watch for social commerce in 2022.

Other leading social commerce tools include Instagram’s Drops, shoppable content, clickable link buttons and TikTok’s expanding ecommerce options. Both platforms are ripe with opportunity for influencer and creator partnerships.

As we head into the 2022 holiday season, remember social commerce is an essential part of your larger omnichannel marketing strategy. According to Salesforce, successful brands will merge shopping experiences across both physical and digital spaces. A strong omnichannel strategy—where your social commerce, direct messaging, email strategy and customer experience collide—will guide consumers to purchase online and offline.

‘Tis the season to bring your social “A” game

Social is not only a place for brands to get in the holiday spirit, but also to drive holiday sales. Make sure to add UTMs and tracking tags to all holiday social content so you can show the direct impact on your business.

Beyond sales, how marketers approach social engagement and customer care across various platforms is crucial. The holidays are stressful, and providing shoppers with the best experience possible goes a long way in building customer loyalty and affinity that lasts beyond the holiday season.

Brands need a customer care plan in place that gives social teams the support they need to avoid social burnout during the busy season.

Social marketers are most likely managing the brunt of the inbound social messages—so equip them with tools, resources, additional team members and clear workflows to scale smoothly. Not only will this keep your social team in good spirits, customers will appreciate more personalized care and quicker response times.

Don’t lose sight of providing social customer care after the holiday season. Download this checklist to provide exceptional customer service on Instagram year-round.

About the data

All referenced data on social messages received and projected is based on 26,197 public social profiles (14,380 Facebook; 5,079 Twitter; 6,738 Instagram) of active accounts between January 1, 2022 and September 29, 2022. More than 457 million messages sent and received during that time were analyzed for the purposes of this report.

The messages analyzed included Facebook posts and Tweets directed to a brand via tagging or @message, posts and business reviews on public Facebook pages, comments on brand-created Facebook and Instagram content, and retweets with comments.

For questions about the data, please contact