Retailers & Sales: Using Social Listening To Learn More About Black Friday

Black Friday may be culturally ingrained into the heart of American consumer, as familiar as turkey on the day before it – Thanksgiving – but for other nations it’s a fairly new concept. Considering most other nations don’t observe Thanksgiving, it might seem odd that we choose to observe Black Friday, but observe it we do.

Here in Britain, we were treated to images of supermarket shoppers pinning themselves desperately to 52″ Blaupunkt TVs and getting absolutely medieval if a rival tried to get in on the action. In the States, where the retail extravaganza originated in the early ’90s, shoppers queued outside retailers for hours to get the best deals. Hysteria levels appear to have gone through the roof.

And I’m not an innocent party, either – I ended up standing over the shoulder of my colleague who had managed to get onto a site that I couldn’t access due to high traffic levels, shouting ‘PUT MY CARD NUMBER IN! DO IT NOW! DO IT FASTER!’ like a maniac and panic-buying a coffee machine (I already have one) and a fake Christmas tree (I have two in storage).

So what is it about this shopping day that turns even the most level-headed shoppers (of which I am admittedly not one) into complete nutcases?


Feeling somewhat dirty after my Black Friday binge, I thought I’d have a little look in Brandwatch and see what other people online were saying about the day. Was I the only one sucked in? Of course not. But still, social listening does give us some interesting insights. So here they are! Elbows out. Let’s get stuck in.

A more global phenomenon than we think?

In the last 7 days, Black Friday has been mentioned more than 8.5 million times. And granted, 6.7 million of those came from the United States.

But the mentions map in the app shows that it has been referred to in nearly every nation across the globe.

To get this data, we used the Sample Queries functionality in the app, which allows you to explore broader topics and types of analysis that might not have been open to you before due to large volumes.

Not having to pull back a total volume means that not only do you need to worry about mentions limits, but also means a smaller, easier to manage dataset. So in the below chart, we see 10% of the total mentions volume.

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We can see mentions of Black Friday from places as far flung as Fiji (270 mentions), New Caledonia (250 mentions) and Mongolia (140 mentions).

It appears the shopping day is a truly global event, where even if the retailers aren’t observing the sale, the consumers in those countries are still talking about it.

Which state in the US likes to shop most?

Looking in more detail at the United States, where over 6.7 million mentions originated, we can see that one state in particular went pretty crazy for Black Friday.

Again, we’ve applied the Sample Query functionality – so what appears on the axis as 15k is in fact 150k.

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People online in California mentioned Black Friday a massive 54.9% times more than the next most vocal state – New York. Despite this, New Yorkers actually spent the most money on Black Friday, where shoppers blew on average $122 each.

Retailers could use social listening to uncover purchase intent for certain areas, using Queries to cut through irrelevant chatter and discover where they should push certain offers and stock. If retailers took the huge volumes of chatter at face value, they’d be missing the more important information – those who are actually planning to spend money.

Do women or men talk about Black Friday more?

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Women spoke about Black Friday 12% more than men. I certainly know I spoke about it at least 80% times more than my boyfriend, but I’m the one with a new Christmas tree, so.

Tailoring Black Friday content to a more female audience may pay off for retailers next year. I might even buy another Christmas tree. Imagine.

Which retailers led the chatter?

Only two retailers were mentioned in the top ten hashtags on Twitter surrounding Black Friday – Apple and Kohl’s.

Kohl’s ran a Twitter competition to win a $500 gift card using the hashtag #KohlsSweeps, generating over 75,000 mentions.

They kicked off the competition well in advance of Black Friday – the 24th November – in order to drum up hype and excitement around their sales.

Their huge sales, referred to in the press as ‘The Doorbuster’, certainly reflected the huge online hype.

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As for Apple, a news article yesterday reporting on how Apple led in sales of mobile devices generated a truckload of shares including the #appleinc hashtag. The hashtag #iphone was also tweeted 130,770 times.

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I could easily rattle on for another 800 words about all the cool insights I found using the app. But instead of reading them here, why don’t you have a go yourself?