'Tis the season for holiday advertising: Social media, internet a staple for many businesses

This holiday season, advertisers are looking for new and exciting ways to engage shoppers and facilitate purchases. Many of these businesses have found success through the internet, local SEO and social media, according to a recent BDO USA, LLP survey.

While 65 percent of chief marketing officers at the businesses interviewed said that their holiday advertising budgets remained the same in 2011 compared to last year, social media has emerged as a powerful and affordable marketing tool. Eighty-two percent of CMOs surveyed said that they included social networks in their marketing campaigns during the 2011 holiday season, an increase from 75 percent in 2010, 51 percent in 2009 and only 4 percent in 2007. The study also found that 16 percent of holiday respondents' marketing efforts were devoted to social networking.

The internet as a whole has also proved once again to be a powerful tool for businesses this holiday season, as e-commerce spending in the U.S. increased tremendously during the month of November. The biggest online retail shopping day in the history of the internet was 2011's Cyber Monday, which took place the Monday following Thanksgiving. This day, consumers spent more than $1.25 billion collectively online - an increase of 22 percent from 2010, according to comScore.

The number of buyers, as well as the dollars spent per buyer and per transaction, also increased on Cyber Monday compared to one year ago. Ten million buyers shopped online this year, spending an average of $124.82 each and $66.97 per transaction, compared to the 9 million shoppers in 2010 who each spent approximately $114.24 and averaged $60.05 per transaction.

In total, more than $15 billion was spent on internet retail sites from November 1 to November 28, which is 15 percent higher than in 2010. On Black Friday 2011, the day after Thanksgiving, $816 million was spent and during the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more than $1 billion was spent, an increase of 26 percent and 16 percent from the previous year, respectively.

While November's numbers are impressive, these online shopping trends could continue into December, and businesses must be prepared with advertising that can incite shoppers of all generations, locations and backgrounds to make purchases, whether online or in-store.

There are still a number of eventful shopping days left on the calendar that advertisers can target, such as Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. Advertising campaigns for last-minute shoppers can point them to online deals with free or reduced overnight shipping, while marketers can encourage consumers to exchange gifts they didn't like, capitalize on post-Christmas sales or buy the items they really wanted for themselves.