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Crime & Coffee… The Real Keywords Behind Black Friday

I don’t shop on Black Friday, but I do watch others try to shop on Black Friday because it’s better than football. It’s the modern equivalent of a gladiator battle, each lone shopper fighting for survival and the ultimate prize – reduced price consumer goods. This year proved to be no disappointment, with pepper spray, shootings, fights and grandpa beat-downs on the list of fine holiday fun in malls across America.To monitor the mayhem, I had my colleagues at Viralheat set up some profiles in our social media intelligence system so we could enjoy the festivities in real time.

As a true voyeur, I went  beyond requesting the expected profiles for major retailers and popular products, and wanted to see the seedy underbelly of Black Friday… So I added in profiles for crimes, parking tickets, online banking issues, illness and even caffeine.My penchant for doom paid off in spades, as I watched mentions of “headache,” “larceny” and “Red Bull” catapult to the top of the list. While I giddily sifted through mountains of data from the comfort of my couch on Friday, my husband looked on (with a concerned gaze) and then asked why I’d set up keywords for so much depressing stuff.

As I gave the reply some thought, I knew it went beyond my personal passion for observing crazy crowd mentality and I came up with a couple of things:

The first is the most obvious, which is people like, or can’t help, watching unfortunate circumstances. Rubberneckers want to see what’s inside the twisted metal, news stories of horrific explosions captivate us for hours and Hollywood scandals have more TV show airtime than I care to calculate.

The second is a more complex issue, which is the difficult task of trying to understand, monitor and market to any particular audience without fully understanding the environment in which it exists. In this case, Black Friday is more than discount merchandise, it’s an entire system of issues that affect everything from coffee sales and traffic patterns to online banking and public safety.

We knew there would plenty of mentions of retailers, products and prices… but what blew us away was the sheer change in volume for other keywords. The word “coffee” saw 110% more mentions on Friday than the day prior, “crime” a 90% increase from Thursday to Friday, while keyword “parking ticket” saw nearly 120% more mentions.

An important lesson to be learned – when you’re setting up real time web monitoring for your business, competitors, industry or campaigns, think beyond the basic terms and expand into the surrounding ecosystem for some surprising and revealing results. Understanding your audience is an ongoing effort, and a good start usually includes participation in their entire world so you can figure out how and where you fit into a portion of it. (For example, I now know the real way to make money is to set up a coffee and aspirin cart on Black Friday outside of a major shopping center or offer help with online banking to frustrated consumers.)

Now my fun begins with crunching and compiling all of this data into some meaningful stats for Black Friday/Cyber Monday infographs and reports. Got thoughts on keywords or topics you want to know about around Christmas or New Years? Send them along and we’ll add them to the list and keep the trends live on our website during the holidays.

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