The Mention Blog

Social Analysis From Black Friday & Cyber Monday

We’re in the silly season. In the mad dash to Christmas, shoppers are shopping, sellers are selling, and tweeters are tweeting.

Marketers have taken the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas and turned it into a out-of-control spending spree.

And who can blame them? This is what marketers do.

Remember when Taco Bell tried to invent “Fourth Meal?” Because apparently people aren’t eating enough during the three traditional meals:

And since the biggest shopping weekend has just passed, it’s time to see what everyone was talking about on social media. Were they excited about the sales, or sick of all the hype?

We wanted to take a closer look at what they’re saying. We also wanted to find out whether Black Friday and Cyber Monday actually matter to people, or if all this hubbub is just marketers marketing (as always).

Here’s what we found…

A Busy Black Friday

Black Friday 2017 was a record sales day in the United States. Americans spent $5 billion online in just 24 hours, up nearly 17% from last year. Foot traffic numbers (people visiting stores in-person) were down slightly, but overall spending was way up.

Before we move to the social media buzz, you probably want to know what all those people actually bought.

Most popular Black Friday purchases

Here were the most popular items on Black Friday:

Bizarrely, a few of those (including AirPods and Nintendo Switch) weren’t even discounted. Why would you subject yourself to the horrors of the holiday rush to pay full price?

Even guns saw a massive surge – The FBI received a record number of background check requests.

So clearly people were eager to spend their cash. But did social media see a surge?

The story on social

Let’s start with the very, very obvious. “Black Friday” mentions saw a massive spike on November 24:

It also won’t surprise anyone to see that these mentions were vastly more positive than negative:

[Reminder: most mentions are neutral.]

Black Friday is all about bargains. People love bargains. So it makes perfect sense that the majority of social posts would be positive, rather than negative.

Personally, I still would’ve expected to see a slight higher number of people complaining. This is also a bad day for traffic, the malls are crowded, and stress levels are high. But perhaps because so many people shopped online this year, it seems that social users weren’t bothered by it all.

Or perhaps the sales were just overwhelming.

Here’s another data point that won’t shock anyone:

By far the most Black Friday mentions came from the United States. This should surprise nobody. For one, the whole point of Black Friday is that it’s the day after Thanksgiving. And for those of us not from or in the USA, there is no Thanksgiving.

But there were still a sizable number of mentions from outside America. From Monday 11/20 to Monday 11/27 (Black Friday isn’t really just one day, after all), about 35,000 of 88,000 total tweets came from the land of the free. That’s a smidgen under 40%.

In other words, over 60% of all tweets containing the words “Black Friday” came from outside the United States.

That seems a little surprising. But it appears to point to the fact that Black Friday has gone global. It’s one of the biggest retail events in Britain each year, and here in France you’ll find plenty of marketing around the event.

Whether or not Black Friday is the must-spend event that it is in the States – The Independent says “no” – it’s getting hard to find people who aren’t aware it exists. And that’s reflected in the social statistics.

Small Business Saturday – huh?

Here’s one that most people I’ve spoken to aren’t aware of. Small Business Saturday was founded by American Express in 2010, but has since entered the mainstream somewhat. And it has at least one high profile fan:

Despite being relatively unknown, “#SmallBusinessSaturday” was posted on social media 130,717 times in the week from November 20-27. And on Saturday, the hashtag was used more than 60,000 times:

So it looks like people bought in. Especially Americans, who were motivated to stimulate small business sales and promote local commerce:

It wasn’t the smash hit that its big brother Friday was, but Small Business Saturday seems to have been a social media success.

How About Cyber Monday?

Because Friday and Saturday just aren’t enough, Monday gets its own shopping holiday too. In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick refresher:

The basic concept is that Friday is the day to go the mall, stand in line, and hopefully not get trampled when stores open. Cyber Monday lets you shop from the peace and safety of your own home.

How many people were talking about it?

Online shopping keeps getting easier – remember web sales were way up for Black Friday as well. So it makes sense that Cyber Monday has become a very big deal.

Just how big? 565,000 mentions over the full week, and more than 260,000 mentions on the day in question:

Who were the people talking?

Social media gives us some nice demographic data. Just as you might for your own brand, we wanted to learn more about the kinds of people that post on social on Cuber Monday.

For starters, women tended to tweet more for the big day: 

[Note: We don’t have this data for every user – not every platform is willing to share. The 28% missing above represents this.]

They were also overwhelmingly posting from the USA:

Again, we don’t have location for every mention. But for the ones we do, 72% of them came from the United States.

Remember for Black Friday, that number was around 40%. So this is a huge difference. And I guess it proves that Americans love a shopping holiday!

How the holiday weekend played out overall

We’ve looked at each day of the weekend individually. But how do they compare to each other?

Which holiday won the weekend?

If you care about holiday marketing, you’ve probably already seen pronouncements that Cyber Monday is bigger than Black Friday. The numbers aren’t in (as of writing), but it’s already been called the biggest shopping holiday on the calendar.

Which is bogus, because we all know that Singles Day is the clear winner:

Tangents aside, Cyber Monday tends to be the biggest online shopping day in the United States. But what about on social media?

Looking at all the mentions over the last week, this isn’t really close:

Black Friday had more than triple the mentions of Cyber Monday, which had nearly double those of Small Business Saturday.

But that’s not a fair test. Friday had the the first to hit, giving people longer to talk about it as I write this (it’s Tuesday morning, by the way). So what if we just look at the key 24 hours for each day?

It’s actually roughly the same. And here’s what it looks like when you see it over time:

Maybe it’s because Black Friday is the oldest, with the most history. It also likely appeals to more people – Cyber Monday is theoretically just for tech deals.

Whatever the case, the social world clearly seems to care more about Black Friday than its holiday siblings.

Facebook dominates

Another interesting trend emerged over the weekend. Normally when we analyze large numbers of mentions online, most of them come from Twitter. It makes sense – tweets are short, and people tend to just throw their thoughts out there.

For instance, here’s what it looked like when we compared iPhone X vs iPhone 8 earlier this year:

But something very different happened this past weekend:

Somehow, there were vastly more Facebook posts about each day than any other source. As someone who’s done this many times, that looks weird.

So how can we explain it? Here’s my best guess…

Facebook is now firmly in the ecommerce game. You may not have noticed it, but you can add a shop section to your Facebook page and sell products (if you’re a business). You can also use the shop section, but let buyers check out on your main website.

Having a quick look through some of those Facebook posts we collected, there are a lot of “BLACK FRIDAY DEALS” to be found. Again, I’m just guessing, but I think this may show how Facebook is already clearly at home in the ecommerce business, and chances are we’ll see a lot more of this.

A few of the best bits from the whole weekend

Before we go, here are a few choice tweets.

Bye bye pocket money

You can’t have your money and spend it too. Looks like Norm made his choice:

Hilarious mistake or stroke of genius?

McDonald’s posted a tweet on Friday morning that seemed to be missing something:

As of writing, that tweet has more than 20,000 retweets and 70,000 likes! It remains to be seen whether there ever was a Black Friday deal at McDonald’s, or if this was all part of the plan. If so, bravo to Ronald, Grimace, and all the gang.

Not everyone’s loving the marketing spree

If you don’t want to know about sales, don’t check your email over the holiday weekend:

Although at least one American was happy with the attention:

Cards Against the President

Popular game Cards Against Humanity is known for its Black Friday marketing stunts. In 2016, the team raised more than $100,000, and used the money to dig a giant hole. Then they filled it up again.

This time around, they introduced a new product at Target:

The company says that the mascot (Brayden the Prongles Hog) was inspired by the President Trump. Shots most definitely fired.

So that’s that

Another busy Thanksgiving – Cyber Monday weekend in the books. When the dust settles, it’ll almost certainly be the biggest one so far.

For marketers, the countdown to Christmas is now on.

We did the analysis above (and found all the tweets) thanks to Mention. Learn how the tool can help you monitor your brand, your competitors, and your industry on social media: