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Big business in ugly holiday sweaters—is social media the key?

December 16 is National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day. The Metia team will be celebrating the occasion by sporting our favorite gaudy sweaters covered in bells, ornaments, snowmen, and lights. For many, the holiday sweater is a prized tradition, as we witnessed in Bridget Jones Diary—a genuine expression of holiday spirit.

It’s a festive way to celebrate the holidays, and would you believe that the business of ugly holiday sweaters is also worth millions?

For Fred and Mark Hajjar, two brothers in Detroit it has become a $5.5 million business of selling intentionally hideous holiday sweaters. In late 2012, they started UglyChristmasSweater.com and made $40,000 in sales. But revenue jumped by 300 percent the following year and by 275 percent the year after that. "The momentum has been incredible," said Hajjar.

To keep up with the demand, they now have 30 employees and add 20 seasonal employees each year. They also have a variety of outrageous styles, featuring reindeer, gingerbread, Star Wars, 3D, light-up, scratch-and-sniff—the more peculiar, the better.

And how are they spreading the word? Through social media. "We now have two full-time employees dedicated to social media because ugly sweaters are such a viral topic," Hajjar added. They are using social media channels to connect and interact with their audiences, who in turn are sharing their experiences with the products through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Through social media platforms, they can build awareness within their focused customer communities. To execute properly, it takes thoughtful and strategic planning to ensure measurable value. To learn why social media is essential to the marketing mix, check out our recent guide.