The Secret to Winning Black Friday on Social

Published on Nov 23rd, 2015

by Jack Weinstein

Want to dominate social media in the lead up to the biggest shopping event of the year? Don’t mention it.

Nordstrom far outpaced the competition on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in November without once mentioning Black Friday or #blackfriday. In fact, only three of the top 10 performing department stores and big box retailers mentioned the annual sales event on Facebook and Twitter. None of the top performing brands mentioned Black Friday on Instagram.

While Black Friday mentions are on the decline—down  32% on Facebook and 27% on Twitter compared with November 2014—engagement has increased this year. Total actions (likes, comments, shares and retweets) increased by 31% on all three platforms compared with the same time last year.

Nordstrom’s social strategy didn’t appear to change in November compared with other months this year. Its most engaged posts of the year are simple: they include a close-up photo of a product and a short description, often fewer than five words. Top Facebook posts also include links. Top tweets mention brands and Instagram posts often include emojis . Both use hashtags.

Nordstrom was responsible for eight of the top 10 posts from department stores and big box retailers in November. Seven of those posts, including the top six, followed that simple format and generated a majority of Nordstrom’s engagement so far this month.

Announcing Early Sales

In recent years, some retailers have begun turning away from Black Friday sales by promoting deals throughout the month . The same is true on social.

Nordstrom’s most engaged Facebook post that didn’t follow that photo and short description format included a link to a mid-month sale . Other brands capitalized on early sales.

Sam’s Club generated the most referral traffic of any Facebook post with a short video announcing a one-day sale in mid-November. The post also included a link that was clicked nearly 135,000 times, the most of any department store or big box retailer this month. By comparison, the post generated nearly 33,000 total actions.


While many brands are shunning the term Black Friday, one has embraced it, but probably not in the way you’re thinking.

REI announced Oct. 26 that it would be closing all 143 of its stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. It’s even suspending online orders until Saturday. REI’s most engaged Facebook post of the year with more than 119,000 actions—53% more than the next most engaged post—used the term Black Friday. It also included #OptOutside, which REI has used to engage its fans and followers, especially on Instagram .

A YouTube video announcing the closure had more than 577,000 views as of Monday afternoon and included a URL to an interactive website that features information about how its customers can get outside, in addition to a link to REI’s homepage.

REI has generated 36% more social actions this November on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram compared with last year.

A number of other retailers have announced that they will be closed all day Thursday , but not Friday.

Online Retailers Not Cashing in on Black Friday

Online retail brands also have not benefited from promoting Black Friday sales. A number of online brands have advertised sales since the first week of November, but the posts are far from the most engaged.

This month, online retailers have generated the most engagement on social media with sweepstakes .

Wayfair asked fans to comment on which item they’d like to win in the three top Facebook posts of the month advertising giveaways.

World Soccer Shop generated the most engagement on Twitter and scored the top five tweets by pairing contests with the performance of star players .

And QVC had the top two Instagram posts by announcing the last chance to enter to win prizes from its brands.

Cyber Monday generated even less engagement this month on all social media platforms among online retail, department store and big box audiences.


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