Black Friday, known in the US as the day after Thanksgiving, is an event where retailers offer huge sales and incentives to lure shoppers in-store. To many shoppers, the consumerism around with Black Friday has gone overboard.
This is why REI, an outdoor gear focused retailer, announced in late October that the company would close its stores on Black Friday and urged their employees to enjoy the great outdoors, instead.
Dubbed #OptOutside, the movement spawned a media cycle and rampant enthusiasm amongst REI fans who celebrated the brand’s bold counter-move against shop-til-you-drop consumerism. Many state park systems, including Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Delaware and more announced free or reduced priced admission to encourage people to enjoy natural areas.
As outdoor enthusiasts took to parks and wilderness areas, they also Tweeted, Instagrammed and Facebooked their adventures. Like these folks:
Now that the Thanksgiving weekend is finished, we thought it would be interesting to examine the activity and trends behind #OptOutside using our Sysomos social intelligence software.
We started by looking at how often the hashtag was used across social media over the course of the weekend starting on Wednesday, as people prepared for Thanksgiving, right through this morning. The data shows that #OptOutside was used more than 37,000 times over those 5 1/2 days, with the majority of mentions coming via Twitter on Black Friday.
Since REI is an American company and Black Friday is mostly celebrated in the US, it was no surprise to find that the majority of mentions of #OptOutside were originating from the US. However, since Black Friday, as a day of shopping deals, has spread to other corners of the world, not to mention the stories of Black Friday mobs, we also found that people from all over the globe were also discussing #OptOutside, meaning the movement spread globally.
We were also curious to see what people were talking about when using the #OptOutside hashtag over the holiday weekend. We started by looking at a buzzgraph that centered around the chatter across social channels and found that the #BlackFriday hashtag was most commonly used when people were also mentioning #OptOutside.
The common keywords being discussed around #OptOutside included “outdoors”, “explore”, and referenced “hiking” around some national “parks.”
This theme of hiking in parks was reinforced when we looked at the most common hashtags being used on Twitter. To help people find their closest park, the US National Park Service in conjunction with the #OptOutside movement using the hashtag #FindYourPark – fourth most used hashtag around REI’s campaign.
Interestingly, when we looked at the activity around #OptOutside on Black Friday, we found that the hashtag spiked in the morning and then again in the evening, while most of the afternoon saw very few mentions. While it’s hard to say for sure, our hypothesis is that many outdoor enthusiasts spent their afternoon in national parks with no cellular service so they couldn’t tweet about what they were doing and instead were just enjoying nature.
Looking at Facebook with Sysomos Scout
To examine trends and data on Facebook, we made use of Sysomos Scout, which looks at Facebook Topic data, to see if people were talking about #OptOutside on the world’s leading social network.
Sysomos Scout revealed that the hashtag achieved a lot of traction on Facebook on Thanksgiving and then again on Saturday, but on Black Friday when people were supposed to be actually opting to go outside, there was very little action around the hashtag.
Looking at the data, we believe Facebook users discussed their #OptOutside plans on Thursday and then what they did to #OptOutside on Saturday, while Friday they may have been too busy outside to actually post about it.
We can support this hypothesis by looking at what kind of Facebook interactions were happening around #OptOutside. The data shows the majority of Facebook posts were pictures that were being tagged with #OptOutside. These image-focused posts also received the most amount of interactions (likes & comments) on Facebook as well.
Lastly, we looked at who was getting outside rather than shopping on Black Friday this year. Across most social platforms, we found that the split between men and women using the #OptOutside hashtag was almost even, with men using it slightly more (51.9% compared to 48.1% by women).
But over on Facebook, women were posting about and interacting with the hashtag much more often than men. About 190,000 women used the hashtag in a Facebook post over the weekend while only about 90,000 men did.
On a day that’s traditionally been known for people trampling over one another to get deals, it was nice to see that a major US retailer decided to turn the day on its head. It’s even nicer to see through this data presented above that many people chose to follow REI’slead and #OptOutside instead of spending a beautiful Friday shopping. We hope this trend will continue and grow next year.