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Social Media engagement will get you noticed this Christmas.

A new report has shown that those brands who are most focussed on social media engagement in their UK Christmas TV ad campaigns come out on top.

It’s that time of year again, when it seems every major retail brand has spent millions of pounds on an ever more impressive TV ad campaign that really signals the beginning of Christmas. This year has seen John Lewis and Sainsbury’s lead the pack in terms of production value, but is it a case of style over substance?

The Brand Agility Index from communications agency Waggener Edstrom, which measures a range of metrics including engagement, originality, differentiation and relevance, has put John Lewis’ Christmas ad top of the pile ahead of Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s. The defining factor in their success being? Integrated campaigns that put social media engagement at the centre.

John Lewis’ campaign about a boy and his friendship with a penguin has achieved a score of 44 since the campaign first aired 3 weeks ago, putting it ahead of M&S’s fairies-themed ad on 42 and Sainsbury’s on 38.

Waggener Edstrom put the success of John Lewis & M&S down to strong content creation and audience interaction as well as quick responses. The creation of characters – for John Lewis the two penguins Monty and Mabel and for M&S the two fairies – for the campaigns and introduction of their own Twitter feeds has proved “enormously successful”, helping boost engagement with audiences.

Both companies have been able to command a huge voice over social media, with John Lewis seeing 200,283 mentions of its #MontythePenguin hashtag in November according to figures from We Are Social. In second place was Sainsbury’s with 33,819 mentions of #ChristmasIsForSharing while M&S’s #followthefairies had 24,520.

The secret is being able to create an ongoing dialogue with customers through social media. Sure, an advert or product might grab your attention initially, through high production value or being new and exciting but will fade unless it turns digital to maintain an ongoing dialogue.

Those companies such as Waitrose and Lidl, who have recently picked up on the impact social media engagement can have, have seen their Brand Agility scores rise. Waitrose saw its score increase by three points over the past two weeks as it launched its #bakeitforward campaign, which Waggener says has seen strong engagement on Twitter and Facebook.

Lidl’s score also increased to 29 this week, from 27 and bottom of the pile in week one. The discount grocer has used its #lidlsurprises tagline across social media where other brands have resorted to “generic Christmas conversations”.

At the other end of the table, Iceland has cemented its position at the bottom by seeming “unwilling or unable” to get involved in conversations on social media, meaning its scores poorly in terms of engagement and speed of response.

It doesn’t just have to be at Christmas that you should be thinking about the importance of social media engagement with customers. Of course not everyone has the budget to create an elaborate ad campaign full of characters with their own hashtags, but you need to give your brand or product a voice. The more entertaining, original and interesting the better, but get your voice out there. Something is better than nothing.

Social Media can be recognisably overwhelming, but the importance and range of social media cannot be ignored.  It is important not to shy away from getting your brand out there, and to consider the potential loss by not taking part or failing to get your voice heard.