What is social networking really for? Well, networking, of course. The digital version of word-of-mouth is what brands are after, however, as personal recommendations come in the form of Twitter status updates, Facebook wall posts and bookmarked web clippings. Social networking has become a conduit for sharing information we feel is important, hoping that others will feel the same.
Brands looked to this growing capacity of social networking for Black Friday in particular, as both social networking and social media marketing have reached the point of mutual acceptance. That means that brands are looking to social networks as relatively inexpensive ways in which they can leverage the act of the personal recommendation, utilizing individuals as authorities to promote their products.
As Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, getting everyone into the right spirit is a huge commercial task. Sales help towards that end goal of increasing end-of-year sales, but the combination of online word-of-mouth marketing and growing options for online shopping means that Black Friday is becoming a major point of interest for brands.
The expectations surrounding brand marketing for Black Friday were considerably higher than what we’ve seen in previous years. After last year’s holiday push for virtual goods on networks such as Facebook, many brands are recognizing the potential of social networks for spreading the word about various products and discounted prices.
So how did brands fare this year? Mobile payments increased, which is good for those brands that have a heavy focus on virtual goods and mobile shopping initiatives. Cyber Monday already looks to be more effective for retailers than Black Friday, indicating that online activity is a great conduit for marketing as well.
However, it is difficult to immediately recognize the affect social media marketing has on holiday shopping. This is largely due to the fact that social media marketing has more to do with instilling brand recognition and long term consumer engagement. That makes things like sales easier to measure, but immediate effect more difficult to calculate.
So far surveys have been a useful way to guage consumer attitudes surrounding holiday shopping, for both offline and online initiatives. A recent post on ABC’s news website requests anecdotes from readers sharing their own social networking experience towards holiday shopping, suggesting that the interest in acknowledging any social media influence on our consumer behavior.
Blame it in part on the economy–we’ve seen some major shifts in marketing efforts after the market’s downfall. Many companies are looking for cheaper ways in which to accomplish the things they were already doing, including marketing and advertising. That necessity has carried over to social networks, as brands need new ways to disseminate information and consumers need more effective ways of accessing and receiving that information.
Whatever the long-term effects are from this year’s holiday shopping initiatives for social network advertising, we at least know that it will continue to manifest in next year’s efforts as well. The ongoing increase in activity around this will play out in improved ways for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and we will likely see a bigger jump (especially in the mobile realm) between current activity and next year’s.