Social Media FailBlack Friday is a day marketers dream about all year long. Shoppers are promised deep discounts as a reward for getting an early start on their Christmas Shopping. Retailers can then sleep easy at night for most of the holiday season, knowing that they’re “in the black” sooner – rather than later. One would think social media and Black Friday sales would be a match made in heaven. After all, what better way to find all the doorbuster sales than to hashtag #BlackFriday on Twitter, watch a few product demos on YouTube, or peruse your friend’s shopping activity on Facebook?

It’s been exactly 1 week since Black Friday and the results are in…

But alas, Black Friday 2012 was an EPIC FAIL. Here are 8 reasons why…

1.      The news headlines are driving home the notion that social media is useless in driving sales. Given the raw data from the IBM Black Friday study, the following headlines reign: Twitter Generated Zero Percent of Black Friday Sales (Mashable), Social Networks Fail To Entice Black Friday Shoppers (TechEye), Social Media Has A Black Friday #Fail (WSJ), Social Media Drives Little Traffic on Black Friday (BizJournals), and Social Media Doesn’t Click For Black Friday Sales (Patch.)

2.      It’s hard to argue with cold hard statistics. Referrals from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube were down by more than 35 percent from last year. This comes at a time when reports show online sales were UP 21% from 2011. Even though shoppers were flooding the internet to buy, it appears social networks only generated a paltry 0.34 percent of all online Black Friday sales. Sure, most sales revolve around “brick and mortar” deals, but I – like many others — did every last bit of my Christmas shopping on Black Friday – all online… not a single item purchased from a social media tip.

3.      Many brands failed to cultivate brand loyalty before November 23rd. I agree wholeheartedly with Erin Davis when she wrote: “On Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, I already knew which websites I was checking for deals. I have been following them for some time and I’ve learned to trust what they put out on the web. Most of what I bought came from companies I’d even purchased from before.” As social media expert Jason Falls told WSJ, many online networks are more obsessed with pushing coupons and offers than cultivating an engaged audience. “Honestly, I think most brands are going to give up on social media before they get it right,” he said. “They just don’t have the patience for what it takes to nurture an audience along in social media.”

4.      Shoppers are digital-weary. Is it just me, or have you been getting an increasingly insane amount of emails from stores lately? I unsubscribed from Dick’s Sporting Goods, Treat and 1-800-Flowers this week because I’m tired of hearing from them on a daily basis. As a result, many people are shunning all forms of digital recommendations – social media included.

5.     The day before Thanksgiving, it was found Twitter users would buy 33 percent more than other shoppers on Black Friday. According to research, 39 percent of Twitter users who saw an organic or paid retail tweet were “more likely to purchase.” Those who saw 12+ tweets from a retailer were 32 percent “more likely to buy online.” Yet, despite all that hype, Twitter contributed to 0 PERCENT of online Black Friday sales. Ouch!

6.     A study back in October revealed that 75 percent of customers planned to use Facebook to find holiday discounts. Yet, Facebook only contributed to 0.68 percent of Black Friday online sales – down 0.01 percent from last year. It appears people were talking about stores like Walmart, Toys R Us, Macy’s, Amazon, Converse, Foot Locker, Spencer’s, Aeropostale, Target, and Kohl’s. However, these conversations were not directly driving traffic.

7.     Black Friday was totally trumped by Small Business Saturday, but no one cares. The headlines are largely screaming about what an epic FAIL this Black Friday has been for social media. Yet, a less widely reported statistic is that Small Business Saturday received 89,400 mentions during a 14-day period – which is not much compared to the 6 million mentions Black Friday received. However, it should be noted that 92.5 percent of Small Business Saturday tweeters had positive things to say about their shopping experience.

8.     48 percent of Black Friday tweets were negative. Trending words included: hate, work, lines, time, sleep, tired, goodnight, exhausted, sotired, hell, crazy, and waiting — as well as several unmentionable vulgarities.

 So, What Does It All Mean?

Despite the gloomy picture painted, there is more to social media than LAST CLICK data. As Miranda Miller at Search Engine Watch writes: “The lack of conversions shown in analytics programs by people who came directly from Twitter doesn’t mean Twitter interactions with the brand didn’t influence their purchasing behavior.”

She later adds, “Twitter is a relationship builder, loyalty program, PR/news channel and customer service venue all in one, for socially savvy brands.”

Social media is not a last resort for desperate coupon sharing and marketing pleas. It’s a way of reminding your most loyal friends to check out your blog. It’s a place where you can ask consumers what they do or don’t like. It’s a forum to make people laugh, smile or ponder enough to share your content. Social media is a powerful medium, but it’s not always easy to find the right formula for success.

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