How Social Media Influences Shopping’s Biggest Holiday

Well, the 2012 holiday shopping season has officially started with this past weekend’s Black Friday (or its full name “Black Thursday Evening through the Middle of the Night continuing on Friday and capping with Cyber Monday”). Companies are reported to continue to push the limit on the timing and duration of their holiday promotions. For example, Walmart started their Black Friday festivities at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

But opening your doors earlier wasn’t the only way to generate huge profits on the biggest shopping weekend of the year, which can account for as much as 40% of a retailer’s annual sales.

Another strategy companies used to drive customers to their stores on Black Friday, is leveraging their social media presence. Businesses taking advantage of social media are not only attracting more customers, but also raising customer satisfaction and brand awareness while shortening lines and decreasing wait time.

Let’s look at a few ways that companies, both big and small, utilized social media platforms during Black Friday:

  1. Lines and Logistics: By frequently updating their Facebook and Twitter pages, companies were able to communicate to customers expected wait times, locations that may have shorter lines, and where geographically in the store certain products are located. All of this greatly improved the sentiment of consumers waiting in long lines in the middle of the night and cuts down on chaos once the doors do open.
  2. VIP Treatment: Companies also expanded their social media presence by only broadcasting certain Black Friday deals to customers who have “liked” their Facebook page or followed them on Twitter. This tactic allowed customers to get exclusive access and updates to the brand’s best promotions, while the company increases its user base on the platform for future communications. Walmart has consistently “leaked” deals to their followers weeks before Black Friday.
  3. Real Time Deals: A very cool way that some companies have leveraged social media is by offering real time promotions to customers on the actual shopping holiday. Walgreens tweeted out a mobile app for their followers to download that allows them to get up-to-the-minute coupons that you can scan straight from your phone while in the store.
  4. Spread the Word: The most common strategy, or advantage, for companies using social media during Black Friday – customers using the platforms to tell their friends about the deals they are getting. Although this may seem like a side effect and not a strategy, some companies are making sure customers had a reason to post or tweet their brand name. Urban Outfitters found a way to let their customers do the talking/modeling by easily letting buyers Tweet or Instagram Black Friday purchases and outfits out to the social sphere using a specific Black Friday hashtag.

We saw a variety of strategies brands used in order to drive sales during the year’s biggest shopping day and not all of them included the earliest opening or the largest discount. Carefully crafted social media campaigns can make lines shorter, raise customer satisfaction and retention, and yes, increase sales.

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