As we move into Thanksgiving week, brands, retailers and ecommerce sites are focused on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the 32 shopping days leading up to Christmas. All, of course, have active social media components to their marketing efforts. And some will do it well, while many others will not. Let’s take a look at what makes for an effective social media Black Friday strategy.
The first thing, of course, is to not focus your efforts on a single platform. Customers use various tools, so don’t fall in love with your favorite platform, while neglecting others. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest should all be part of your Black Friday Social Strategy. For those with brick-and-mortar stores, Foursquare is important. Why not offer special discounts for check-ins? And as mobile takes hold, the web is becoming more and more visual. Retailers should take advantage of visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.
Existing or Specialty Accounts?
One key decision is whether to use your existing brand accounts to communicate Black Friday deals or to create new ones. In other words, should you push deal offers through your existing social media accounts or create custom Black Friday accounts? I recommend the latter. If I’ve been following a brand and am accustomed to seeing 3-5 messages per day from them, I don’t want to see that change to 40 deal offers per day for the holidays. Use your existing accounts to promote awareness of these Black Friday deal accounts, but don’t suddenly change how your existing brand accounts function. Your customers chose to follow you for a reason; don’t alienate them by changing behavior for five weeks.
Should your social media streams be “one size fits all” or should you have multiple streams for different buyers? That depends a lot on the size and diversity of your offerings. For some brands, that’s easy. For a retailer like dELiA’s, catering to a single demographic, one stream will suffice. Amazon uses a single Twitter address, @amazondeals, for all its Gold Box deals, though I think they would benefit by adding category-specific deal streams as well for electronics, media, home and other key categories. A good rule of thumb might be if at least 25-30% of your deals could be relevant to a given customer, keep it as one stream. If less than that, you should consider splitting it into multiple streams.
There must be a benefit to your customers for following you. Benefits might include early access to a deal, notification of what deals are coming up, or special discounts available only to social media followers. And keep timing and inventory in mind. Just as physical stores alienate customers by not having enough inventory on doorbuster items, etailers can lose customers by promoting items that are sold out by the time you click.
So, you’ve created one or more Black Friday streams – how do you promote them? First, use your existing social media accounts. Sprinkle messages into existing streams with messages like “for early updates on Black Friday deals, follow us at …”.
Make sure that the social media buttons appear prominently on your BF Deals page. Amazon (AMZN) uses a text link “Stay connected via e-mail, Facebook and more” with a pulldown menu on its Gold Box page, but it took me a minute or two to find it. They’d be better served by adding the graphical buttons there.
Amazon’s links may not be prominent, but at least they have them. Walmart (WMT), which uses its standard Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote its deals, does not have any link to those accounts on its Pre-Black Friday page. Best Buy (BBY) and Target (TGT) offer the ability to sign up for Black Friday deal email alerts, but no links to their social media accounts.
Retailers have been talking about integrated, multichannel marketing efforts for several years. Yet, few of them seem to be taking even the simplest steps to make that happen. Your social media marketing should not be isolated; it must be integrated with your other online and offline marketing efforts.
Engage and Monitor
Most retailers still treat social media as a broadcast medium, but the real value comes from engagement and monitoring.
There are many ways to engage with your customers on social media platforms. Why not allow them to vote on which item will be the next deal? Or use Instagram to post pics of the hot deals they land? And, of couse, you should listen for frustrated customers. Your messages will be shared in positive and negative ways. Watch for criticisms of items that are sold out by the time customers click or other negative comments. Work to make those customers happy if you can.
Track hashtags like #blackfriday to see where your content is being shared – as well as that of your brands and competitors.
Mobile commerce is growing rapidly. Your customers will be researching Black Friday deals on their tablets and phones. And they will price-check their purchases in the stores. Many will complete purchases on their mobile devices. Yet the user experience on most ecommerce sites is less than ideal on mobile. While you can’t solve that overnight, there are steps retailers can put into place today to improve the customer experience. Make sure that all your social media links go to mobile friendly pages. Don’t overload your deal pages with unnecessary fluff. Amazon does this better than almost anyone. While their website landing pages are a crowded mess, their Lightning Deal pages are clean and simple.
Some retailers choose to create or modify their apps for their Black Friday sales. Macy’s, Walmart and others have launched apps. Apps are great for those customers who will be shopping at your brick & mortar store, but I’m not as bullish on Black Friday apps as some. I think shoppers will only use apps from the one or two places they plan to do most of their shopping. For me, that’s Amazon, and that’s the only BF app I use. I believe it’s more important to get your content into the streams that customers will be using – and those are Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and of course, email.
The 32 days starting this Friday are the make-or-break period for most retailers. Social media is a key part of an integrated marketing program, yet most retailers still struggle with the "integration" aspect. The rewards are great for those who can truly do so.