The biggest retail dates of the year are just around the corner. Do you have your social media marketing ready?

We’ve researched some of the trendiest marketing ideas for Black Friday + Cyber Monday, including flash sales, messenger marketing, and UGC. In this blog post, we’ll cover a host of new ideas, tips, and tactics that can help you boost your already-planned campaigns or give you some inspiration for an upcoming piece of content.

Find out some of the numbers behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and see what the most cutting-edge brands are trying out this holiday season.

Holiday shopping begins for people all the way back in September! So there’s a wide window of opportunity to reach customers who are in the shopping mood.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average shopper is planning to spend $1,047 this holiday season, which is a four percent increase from last year. 

Overall, sales in November and December are expected to rise between 3-to-4 percent, reaching more than $725 billion. 

That’s a huge amount of spending. We’ll get into some ways to best position your products and promotions during this spending season. But first, we wanted to start with a couple of outside-the-box campaigns to get you feeling inspired. 

Inspiring examples of Black Friday / Cyber Monday marketing

Outdoor apparel retailer REI has taken a rather unique approach to its Black Friday marketing. For the past four years, REI has chosen simply to not participate at all. They close their stores and send their employees home. Even the website has a giant takeover message. They want you to feel empowered to opt out of Black Friday and spend time outside. The hashtag campaign “Opt Outside” has been a hit. 

And this year, they’re taking it one step further by not only encouraging people to opt out of shopping but also asking folks to spend their time cleaning up the environments around them of trash and waste. 

It’s a really powerful message to send, and it’s been very effective for REI’s brand.

For another example of Black Friday creative campaigns, there’s this amusing one from the New York Public Library. The library put together some simple content to share on social, advertising a 100% off sale on all its books. 

Of course, the joke here is that the New York Public Library is a .. well, library. All of its books are free to check out all the time anyway. 

Nevertheless, it proved to be a very memorable campaign.

So with these fun examples in mind, let’s jump into some of the specific strategies and tactics you can take with your Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing.

1. Conduct hourly flash sales

When researching this episode, we came across a really interesting case study of HostGator, a web hosting service, and how they approached Black Friday / Cyber Monday. Essentially, HostGator put together a spreadsheet with multiple sales at multiple different hours of multiple different days. It was fascinating!

Yes, their sales typically lasted one hour with some steep savings of 60 to 70 percent. And each hourly sale had its own coupon code so they could track the results. 

It’s a really interesting strategy, especially when you think of how you can use it on social media. 

That’s right. Think of all the possibilities for Stories content and social posts if you have multiple sales during the shopping weekend. Especially with Stories, you have things like countdown timers and reminder stickers that you can use to great effect. Each new sale gives you another chance to reach out to your audience in multiple ways — getting attention before the sale starts, holding attention during the sale, and teasing the next one. 

2. Think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday

HostGator’s plan included sales for Early Access Black Friday as well as Small Business Saturday, and it’s a trend that many other businesses are emulating. 

The Black Friday weekend is almost a four day affair, if not more. We have Gray Thursday, which is U.S. Thanksgiving Day, then there’s Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, which some companies extend for the whole next week. 

If you’re thinking of using multiple days for your marketing plans, you can consider some fo the unique behaviors of your audience on these days. For instance, on Black Friday, you might tie some of your marketing into some Buy Online / Pickup In Store specials (commonly referred to as BOPIS) and on Cyber Monday, you can of course focus on online sales. Shoppers spent $7.9 billion online for Cyber Monday last year. 

Related to this, it’s also worthwhile to start, really, any time between now and the holiday weekend, if you haven’t already. Around 40% of consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween. So shopping is definitely top of mind for your audience, even before Black Friday hits. 

3. Update your design assets for each of the holidays

You’ve probably seen this with many of the brands you love. All their designs, photos, and graphics match the season we’re in. This might mean harvest colors in October and early November, short and catchy ads around Black Friday, and then holiday themes in December. 

If you’re able to align all these creative assets across all platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, even your display ads — it can create a very powerful and memorable brand experience, which often ends up tying back to ad performance and sales!In fact, according to Twitter Business, ad recall is 60 percent higher if a brand does something as simple as placing the logo in a consistent spot. These little things – logo placement, color, font, hashtags — they make a difference! 

4. Make the most of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp

There are some really big opportunities out there for messaging platforms around the holidays. 

The website Retail Dive touched on a bit of this in a recent blog post explaining the virtue of SMS and text messaging. Get this: During Black Friday 2018, there were reports of brands getting 2000% ROI from using SMS campaigns during the Black Friday weekend. 

That’s an incredible number!So probably your mind goes next to, well how can I get this set up for my brand? 

You can definitely go the SMS route. We think it can be almost just as effective if you think of applying this strategy to Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp as well. Either way, the workflow looks a little like this: Step One: collect the contact information and the person’s opt-in consent.

This can happen at signup or with a special one-off campaign to collect contact info with the promise of special deals coming soon. 

Then, you can apply some messaging strategies to the data. Send a discount code to subscribers. Follow up with an email with the same discount and more product offerings. For those who don’t purchase right away, send a reminder nudge. 

You can even tie this into the hourly flash sales we talked about earlier. Just be careful not to overuse this messaging channel — you want to always uphold first and foremost a solid, genuine relationship with the person. Sending too many messages can be a turn-off.

5. Focus on user-generated content (UGC)

You probably have a lot of content to create around these busy holiday dates, so it can be quite a relief to get some help from your community by re-sharing the content that they’re already making. 

This can take a lot of different forms like photos of your brand and product, or positive user reviews. It’s especially easy on Instagram Stories where you can reshare someone else’s post to your Stories with just a couple taps. 

Some companies go the extra mile and create programs to incentivize users to create and share content about the brand. You can tie giveaways into this strategy — offer prizes to random winners who have used a certain hashtag or commented on a post. We recently added a Giveaways feature to our social engagement product, Buffer Reply, if you want to check it out at 

For some simple ideas for creating UGC contests, we quite like this list by G2 Crowd. 

Ask your community to share a video or photo of them using your productAsk your community to reshare your contentAsk people to follow you on social Have people tag people in the comments, people who they think might benefit from what your brand has to offer

6. Craft a well-designed mobile experience, from social to your website.

For last year’s Black Friday / Cyber Monday shopping, Adobe Analytics found that mobile devices sent 58 percent of traffic to websites, which represented a 20 percent increase from the year before. 

That means that more than half of your website visitors are likely coming from mobile. Is your website prepared? 

it’s worth considering this type of user flow when you’re putting together your social media campaigns. Be sure that whatever you’re linking to — whether it’s from your social ads, from the Swipe Up in your Stories — that the page is well-optimized for mobile. It’s going to make a big difference with user experience and with conversions. 

7. Prepare for product returns

People often turn to social media to get in touch with brands for product questions. You can expect that volume to be especially high around the shopping weekend. 

Yeah, we thought this stat was really interesting: projections say that 77% of consumers expect to return some of the presents they get this year. And almost 20 percent of consumers say they’ll return more than half of their gifts. 

Knowing this in advance, you can put together some workflows and some docs to help prepare your social media teams to handle these types of requests and this volume. 

8. Stories, Stories, Stories

As has been the case in past years, Stories on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat continue to be more and more important for showcasing what your company sells. 

According to Facebook’s holiday marketing guide, Stories have become a hugely popular place to window shop. Last year, 63 percent of shoppers either watched or posted videos on Stories and more than a third of shoppers claim that videos were influential in choosing what to buy. 

So whatever you do with your content plans this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be sure that you’ve allocated plenty to Stories! 

About the Show:

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing strategies from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ listeners each week and rock your social media channels as a result!

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