Marketers are facing a conundrum this holiday season, a new study suggests. Consumers want to see more deals on social media than brands have been offering. But they also tune out companies that bombard them with too many promotions around the holidays. Marketers need to walk a fine line, the study finds.

Many leading retailers are underutilizing social media as a channel to promote deals, according to a study of more than 500 consumers conducted by Yesmail, an email marketing firm. Yesmail asked them about their general and holiday shopping preferences and incorporated their responses in an analysis of digital marketing campaigns.

While the resulting study showed that consumers are more open to social media promotions in general, it also revealed a potential pitfall for marketers: Holiday-themed promotions often perform worse than nonholiday promotions in terms of engagement.

The study tracked the social media campaigns for the brands released during the spring and summer, where 14 percent of Facebook campaigns and 8 percent of Twitter campaigns had a holiday theme. The findings showed that those campaigns that focused heavily on getting consumers to make purchases showed less-than-average engagement, while the messages aimed at simply getting followers into the respective holiday spirit performed much better.

"The winners focused on what the season means to consumers, rather than using the holiday to directly promote a product or sales event," said Michael Fisher, president of Yesmail.  "Brands have to be especially careful about not being overly promotional during the holidays, even though customers are increasingly turning to social channels to find deals."

The study also showed that social media plays a significant role in spurring consumer purchases, particularly online. Half of consumers are influenced by social media when making online purchases, compared with 42 percent for in-store purchases. And slightly more than a third (34 percent) have purchased a product as a direct result of a social media promotion.

The Yesmail research also showed that marketers should tune up the timing of their social media promotions. Almost 60 percent of consumers prefer to interact with brands on social media between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., but the majority of brands run social campaigns during office hours.

"Consumers are oversaturated with holiday messages this time of year,” said Fisher. "We’re not suggesting that brands ignore the holidays on social media, but marketers have to strike a balance between using social channels to drive sales and simply engaging with customers who are celebrating the holidays. Brands have to be especially careful about not being overly promotional during the holidays, even though customers are increasingly turning to social channels to find deals."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.