Media Planning & Buying Social Media

Using Social Data to Inform Your Holiday Communications Strategy

November 20, 2014

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two mega shopping events that have been a boon to brands for years, together generated more than 50 Billion dollars’ worth of sales each of the last three years And in 2013, more than 92 million people* shopped on Black Friday alone. While the dollar amount that each shopper actually spent dropped – reminding brands that consumers still need to be convinced to spend – these particular shopping days present a critical opportunity for brands.

Leading up to the Holiday season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 360i’s Insights and Planning team conducted online listening research to understand when and why consumers discuss Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and how brands can translate these learnings into optimized communications plans. In the below post we dive into our findings and the importance of brands in making their messaging timely, dynamic and integrated with social channels during this important shopping window.

*The National Retail Federation, Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping By the Numbers 

Social buzz begins as early as mid-October, but communication on the day of is crucial

Black Friday and Cyber Monday conversation starts to pick up six weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday, as consumers begin sharing previews of doorbusters with each other, as well as their plans to buy specific items – such as new electronics. At this point, social buzz remains neutral, as deal-savvy consumers create carefully crafted game plans for getting the best deals.

Buzz for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday builds steadily until up until Thanksgiving and spikes on the holiday and through Cyber Monday. During this crucial time period, consumers are very active on social media channels, accounting for 65 percent of all Black Friday and Cyber Monday social buzz during the holiday period.

In an hour-by-hour breakout of each shopping event, we identified that social conversation peaks the night before and during midday of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The night before, consumers discuss their shopping plans, while on the day of, they share their favorite deals and seek advice for which other stores they should visit.

Black Friday Daily Buzz

Cyber Monday Daily Buzz

Source: 360i Analysis of the social media landscape conducted
November 2014 for data spanning November 28th, 2013 – December 1, 2013
Estimated full population of posts from Twitter
Black Friday: ~ 4,075,000 posts
Cyber Monday: ~ 774,229 posts

Marketer Implication: To be most effective, brand messaging must be timely, and marketers should consider using consumers social buzz volume data as a tool for informing media spend decisions. Marketers should consider spending more heavily on media when consumers are organically talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. Brands have a particularly significant opportunity to connect with consumers on both days when consumers are using social channels to make their shopping plans and seek deal advice.

Social buzz around Black Friday begins as informational and deal-oriented, but becomes increasingly polarizing

In late October, when the conversation begins to pick up, consumers are mostly focused on finding the best deals. Being in an objective mindset, they evaluate the various deals offered and decide which ones to pursue. In the immediate weeks leading up to Black Friday, the conversation switches from deal-oriented, to people-oriented – which is much more emotional in tone. Much of this conversation is negative as participants share previous unsuccessful shopping experiences or make jokes about the holiday shopping craze, such as observing shoppers camping outside of stores.

Black Friday Sentiment Over Time

Source: 360i Analysis of the social media landscape conducted November 2014 for data spanning October 18th, 2013 – November 29, 2013
Sample Size: 150 posts from Twitter

The social landscape then abruptly changes on Black Friday, as participants share their excitement about the big day and positivity suddenly spikes. Our analysis uncovered that this positivity is mainly driven by “group shopping,” the social aspect of Black Friday where friends and family engage in what is becoming a family tradition of shopping for great deals together.

Marketer Implication:Brand communication must be dynamic, optimizing content according to the needs of the consumer. A few weeks out, brands should consider providing functional, helpful communication that enables consumers to compare deals. On Black Friday though, brands should carefully navigate the social space to avoid consumer pain point topics, while taking advantage of the positive aspects of Black Friday, such as group shopping, by creating opportune content that amplifies the experiences consumers already enjoy.

Cyber Monday earns favorable consumer reviews and is more social media centric 

Because Cyber Monday is the newer of the two shopping events, it is frequently compared back to Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season. About one third of Cyber Monday conversation centers around comparing the shopping event to Black Friday, and almost all of those comparisons are favorable towards Cyber Monday. Consumers enjoy shopping on their own time, either in the comfort of their homes or on-the-go – while still getting the same great deals. While Cyber Monday is largely discussed favorably, brands should be wary of consumer identified paint points, such as email marketing fatigue and technology or site issues.

Sentiment Breakout

Source: 360i Analysis of the social media landscape conducted November 2014 for data spanning October 1st, 2013 – December 31, 2013
Black Friday Sample Size: 150 posts from Twitter
Cyber Monday Sample Size: 150 posts from Twitter

Not only is Cyber Monday perceived more favorably, but it also garners an incredible amount of social buzz. While Black Friday sales in 2013 were 25 times those of Cyber Monday, the social buzz that Black Friday generated was only 6 times larger. As an online shopping holiday, Cyber Monday has a natural connection to social buzz, heightening the importance of brands connecting with consumers during this shopping window on social media channels.

Buzz Volume Vs Sales

Source: 360i Analysis of the social media landscape conducted November 2014 for data spanning October 1st, 2013 – December 31, 2013
Estimated full population of posts from Twitter
Black Friday: 6,361,542 posts
Cyber Monday: 1,073,753 posts
Black Friday Sales: Bloomberg, Black Friday Weekend Spending Drop Pressures U.S. Stores
Cyber Monday Sales: CNN, Cyber Monday Sales Reach New Record


Marketer Implication: While Black Friday is still the leader in overall social buzz volume, Cyber Monday has the much higher social buzz-to-sales ratio, highlighting that social media marketers have an important role to play on Cyber Monday. Consumers are spending more time in social spaces while shopping during Cyber Monday, allowing brands valuable opportunities to communicate with shoppers via their social channels.

Creating a timely, agile communications strategy that understands your consumer

Through our holiday shopping analysis, we were able to determine key takeaways for marketers looking to effectively reach their target consumer this holiday season. Marketers should look to be timely with their paid media and agile with their content messaging. The path to purchase for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday happens over several weeks, and brands must look to optimize their content in concert with the consumer journey, avoiding consumer pain paints and amplifying positive, existing social conversations around their brands. Additionally, marketers should have independent game plans for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This holiday season, power your marketing strategy with valuable social data and insights to effectively connect with consumers when they’re most actively listening.

Co-authors: Sam Stein and Amelia Henke, Insights & Planning Analysts at 360i

Contributors: Giuseppe Napoli and Stephanie Silberberg, Insights & Planning Interns at 360i

Cover photo via PayPal