For many, holidays bring out traditions.

Halloween? Getting all dressed up for the company party. But, not this year.

Thanksgiving? Tables full of food and not an empty seat in the house. But, not this year.

Black Friday? Overflowing carts, yet still stressing out about the perfect gift. Definitely this year…but, it’s going to be different!

Different has become our new normal when it comes to holidays and traditions in 2020. But as Black Friday approaches, we wanted to understand what that actually means for this worldwide shopping holiday. We used Sprout Social’s advanced listening to take a look at what deals look like this year, how shopping has changed and what nuances we can find in the best Black Friday social media campaigns emerging amidst a global pandemic.

Big deals are still a big deal

Black Friday is absolutely still on this year and the conversation is bigger than ever across social media. Comparing November 1 through 23 for 2020 to 2019, there is a:

  • 175.5% increase in total messages about Black Friday YoY
  • 968.5% increase in total engagements on Black Friday messages YoY
  • 6.25% increase in positive sentiment on Black Friday messages YoY

So what? People are talking about Black Friday. In the retail world, increased buzz often translates to increased website traffic, sales and revenue. This is good news for an industry that’s taken some major blows with the pandemic.

As we’ve seen both Amazon Prime Day and Singles Day smash records this year, we could be in for the biggest Black Friday ever.

But, how is it different?

One day is not enough

Remember how scandalous it was when retailers started kicking off Black Friday on Thanksgiving and then came Cyber Monday? Oh, how the times have changed. Amidst the pandemic, companies are starting earlier and going for longer when it comes to discounts.

We can see this in the hashtags and campaign slogans.

  • “This year, we’re doing Black Friday all season long” (Best Buy)
  • “Black Friday Now” (Target)
  • Black Friday “Deals For Days” (Walmart)
  • Black Friday “Early Access” (Macy’s)
  • “Too great to wait Black Friday deals” (Kohl’s)
  • #BlackNovember

We can see this in the timing of discounts.

There has been a 160.8% increase in usage of the keyword “early” on 2020 Black Friday posts comparing to 2019, which is not surprising or necessarily all that different. Companies have always built anticipation for post-Thanksgiving deals, but what’s changed is a 27.5% decrease in the usage of “sneak peek,” in their campaigns.

Translation? Companies are not holding back deals, but are spreading out discounts throughout the month to:

  • Incentivize early holiday shopping (both online and in-person)
  • Strive to avoid shipping delays
  • Get ahead of returns logistics
  • Discourage iconic, massive, coronavirus-filled crowds

Spotlight on Walmart

Annual trend setter, Walmart, is demonstrating all of this with their Black Friday social media campaign, which includes:

  • Name: “Black Friday Deals for Days,” with branded hashtag #DealsForDays
  • Six big deal days in November, each with their own mini-campaign pushes throughout
  • Online exclusive deals, similar to Cyber Monday
  • Fun and creative countdowns

Safety starts on social

Huge crowd of shoppers entering a store

Unless these people are breaking down the doors to get a vaccine somewhere, the traditional flood of shoppers is exactly what companies are striving to avoid amidst a global pandemic.

While social distancing and mask-wearing have been trending topics on social media throughout the pandemic, it is still top of mind with Black Friday.

For many companies, safety starts on social, not the moment a person steps through their doors. They are accomplishing this through social posts which:

  • Prioritize and incentivize online shopping, rather than in-person
  • Encourage taking advantage of contactless or curbside pick-up
  • Inform customers of in-store safety expectations, like social distancing and mask-wearing

This content is a key piece of any brand’s strategy for social these days, whether they’re preparing for Black Friday or talking about their plans for reopening.

Can you handle a 1,302% increase in comments?

If hiring additional seasonal help is a typical rhythm for your company, perhaps some of those seats should be for customer care agents on social media because from 2019 to 2020, Black Friday posts have seen a 1301.7% increase in comments from November 1 through 23. 1,301.7%!

So what?

Consumers will increasingly be reaching out with questions about products, frustrations over returns and delays, discount clarifications and genuine excitement about your offerings.

It’s crucial to pay attention to this enormous increase because, as outlined in the Sprout Social Index™, 23% of consumers expect a response within the first two hours to their questions, comments and messages on social media. Thirty percent expect it the same day.

Comments and direct messages that fall through the cracks are often missed opportunities and revenue. And even worse, lost loyalty: 49% of consumers will unfollow a brand on social for poor customer service.

People expect your brand to be active and engaged in conversation on social media, and Black Friday campaigns and posts are no exception.

Black Friday Takeaways

  • When building campaign strategies, social listening data is a powerful and essential tool to analyze year-over-year trends and your competition.
  • Adopt an “early and often” mentality into your end-of-year social campaigns, particularly for online shopping deals.
  • Help keep people safe. Start by showcasing safety priorities and expectations on social.
  • Make sure no one falls through the cracks in your comments and inboxes by responding quickly, accurately and genuinely across your profiles.

For more ideas on how to establish a thriving ecommerce presence on social media, check out this article on setting your ecommerce strategy up for success.