Collectively shoppers spend more than 50 billion dollars every year during the Black Friday shopping event. To capture as much of this activity as possible retailers have always flooded the airwaves, billboards and newspapers with their greatest deals, but consumer behaviors have evolved and retailers have been forced to adapt. The Black Friday social discussions in 2012 show the degree to which social has become the primary online medium for brand to consumer, and consumer to consumer conversations about Black Friday. To determine which retailers are effectively navigating this transformation, Dachis Group analyzed tens of millions of unique Black Friday conversations using our Campaign Performance Monitor. We’ve presented a subset of our findings below.
Lesson #1: There is no such thing as too many posts on Black Friday
Looking simply at sheer conversation figures around Black Friday, Walmart was clearly the most prominent social participant among retailers. Walmart flooded their audience with branded social content leading to 211 million impressions across 82 Walmart accounts. While Walmart provides fans with content on a day-to-day basis, during the week of Black Friday, they significantly increased the frequency of brand posts for Black Friday and helped spur a twofold increase in social conversation as a result.
Lesson #2: Coordinated attacks are a risk for even the most sophisticated social brands
While Walmart may have dominated Black Friday conversation among big retailers, they also led the retailer group in the volume of negative conversation around their brand. On Black Friday 2012, WalMart was the subject of a highly coordinated series of real world and online attacks for their labor and wage practices. These attacks did not ‘go viral’ or prove to dominate the Black Friday dialogue, but they did disrupt some key WalMart tactics. For example, the brand created a hashtag, #WalmartElves in order to help customers find deals and to direct shoppers to WalMart to buy, yet the hashtag was hijacked with aggressively negative messages that ruined the spirit of the conversation WalMart sought to initiate.
More positively, even though Walmart was bombarded with negative mentions, the company came prepared. Walmart was heavily staffed with employee responders on their social channels, they were positioned to respond quickly to customer requests as well as any gripes and complaints. The combination of the heavy brand messaging and the rapid responses of WalMart employees enabled the brand to drown out drown out much of the negativity and achieve a similar ratio of positive/negative commentary as any other Black Friday brand.
Lesson #3: Online retailers discovered they have a heartfelt story to tell too
Traditionally online retailers on Black Friday have been deal focused to the exclusion of almost everything else. This year, Amazon.com took a slightly different approach leveraging two indisuptable advantage of online shopping: first, there’s no risk of getting into a fistfight while checking out on Amazon.com (unless your little brother wants to use the iPad). Second, digital shopping lends itself to social amplification in ways that physical retail stores lack. The result of these advantages was a clear cut win for Amazon.com in the critical metric of trusted impressions.
Amazon’s brand messaging throughout the retail holiday was that shoppers could get great deals without staying up all night, waiting in line or getting trampled by sleep-deprived shoppers. Amazon told customers to focus on spending time with family rather than standing in lines; to shop from the comfort of the couch and encouraged deal seekers to shop in their pajamas on Amazon.com. Customers eagerly obliged and expressed their love for the Amazon business model in social conversations. These advocate conversations led to an amplification rate of 214% for its own branded Black Friday messages. Meaning, that Amazon.com more than doubled the natural reach of their brand messages through consumer advocacy. This type of free, trusted, consumer-endorsed brand marketing can significantly impact people’s propensity to buy and will help Amazon.com stay top of mind throughout the remainder of the holiday shopping season.
The opportunities to optimize social performance surrounding Black Friday are ample for every brand, even those that performed well this year. We’ve tried to capture a few of the key lessons learned from Black Friday 2012, but no one was perfect. Here are some recommendations for next year:
Experiment with elevated post frequency across all brands. WalMart showed this year that on the topic of Black Friday deals, retailers have a free hand to post with an otherwise unprecedented frequency. Brands should take advantage to ensure their messages reach the widest possible audience.
Brick and mortar brands must embrace deeper social integration of the shopping experience. Much of Amazon.com’s message amplification was generated on a semi-automated basis through an optimized shopping experience. Every retailer with a digital presence should embrace this method for generating trusted social conversation. It is an efficient and inexpensive way to massively increase reach.
Plan for comprehensively for potential negativity. WalMart highlighted some best practices for counteracting coordinated negative attacks on a major shopping day this year. They planned for it, staffed up appropriately and as a result mitigated the damage. Nonetheless, they also made mistakes. Think long and hard about how to name your hashtags – putting your brand name in a hashtag often seems like a good idea, until people begin keyword searching “WalMart” only to stumble into the midst of a labor dispute.
We hope this look at Black Friday 2012 social business perfomance was helpful for you. To learn more about the social performance for 13 additional Black Friday 2012 brands including Target, SportsAuthority, FootLocker, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Toys “R” Us, Bass Pro, Cabelas, Dick’s Sporting Goods, J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Sears, just let us know.
We’d love to discuss our detailed findings.
Special thanks to Brian Kotlyar, Liz Courtney and Ray Renteria