As stores like Macy’s and Walmart continue to open earlier for Black Friday, brands should be adjusting the timing of their social media campaigns accordingly.
This year, many major retailers plan to open their doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, continuing a trend of Black Friday encroachment on the holiday that started in 2011 and accelerated last year. And now it looks like the earlier start to the shopping season is shifting how consumers engage with Black Friday promotional posts on social media.
Using the Yesmail Market Intelligence tool, we compared the 2012 and 2013 Black Friday campaigns of 50 major retailers on Facebook, Twitter and email to see how trends have shifted over the past two years. As it turns out, earlier store openings may be pushing back the best days for consumer engagement on social media.
The most dramatic example of the possible connection can be seen by looking at average social media campaign engagement in the days leading up to and including Black Friday:
In 2012, when many stores were still closed on Thanksgiving, the day before the holiday was the worst day of the week to deploy a Black Friday campaign on Facebook, seeing 39 percent less engagement than the week’s daily average. In 2013, the day before Thanksgiving turned into the best day of the week for Black Friday campaigns, seeing 57 percent higher engagement than the daily average.
Conversely, Thanksgiving went from the best to the worst day of the week for Black Friday campaigns. In 2012, social engagement on the holiday was 23 percent above average for the week, compared to 44 percent below average last year.
Apparently, consumers don’t pay attention to Black Friday deals until the day before they plan to go shopping. Brands that plan on opening their doors earlier this year should plan to give consumers at least 24 hours’ notice via social media campaigns.
Twitter appears to be less affected by the earlier store openings, with the best day the week for engagement being the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for two years in a row. Black Friday itself is the worst day for Twitter promotions, seeing about half as much engagement than the daily average for the week. Despite that, it’s the most popular day for brands to tweet out deals, accounting for more than 35 percent of campaign deployments. By shifting some of their Twitter campaigns to earlier in the week, marketers should see more retweets, giving their promotions a higher chance to reach a larger audience.
Total Facebook engagement drops
Another notable finding of the study is that the average daily engagement on Facebook dropped 59 percent year over year, likely due to the social network’s declining organic reach. Despite brands deploying more campaigns in 2013 than the year before, significantly fewer consumers interacted with that content, presumably because fewer users saw it in the first place.
There are two solutions to this problem. Brands can either shift resources into other channels such as Twitter – which they did last year, increasing the number of Black Friday campaigns by 171 percent in 2013 – or they can find other ways to reach consumers on Facebook, such as paid advertising or getting into consumers’ news feeds by tapping into a network of brand ambassadors.
Shifting resources to other channels may prove beneficial for brands seeking to avoid the social rat race. From 2012 to 2013, the open rate on Black Friday jumped by one-third, while open rates for the week leading up to the holiday jumped 53 percent. Given the annual growth in email, algorithm changes from Facebook and inconsistent results from Twitter, email remains the most promising area for marketers looking to increase engagement and sales.
With the social media landscape constantly shifting, brands have to keep a close eye on how engagement is trending this holiday season. Just because something worked last year doesn’t mean it will just as successful in 2014.
Yesmail analyzed a group of 50 retailers’ activities across social networks from Nov. 25-29, 2013, and Nov. 26-30, 2012. All posts mentioning “blackfriday” or “Black Friday” were included. For email best practices, check out our whitepaper on the do’s and don’ts of holiday-themed messages.