Social Media Use During the Holidays

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Social Media Use During the Holidays - Volume Usage

Direct, reliable data on holiday season volume usage across social media channels in the US does not appear to be available in the public domain. Still, our findings give insights into whether the usage decreases or increases in the holiday season, as well as how the usage fluctuates throughout the holiday season.


  • According to a Twitter social listening session that took place in late 2014 and 2015, occurrence of common phrases on Twitter peaked in two instances: in early October 2014 and shortly after New Year, in early January 2015. The occurrence of common phrases was also fairly high in early November.
  • On the other hand, the occurrence of common phrases was at its lowest around Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • During the same social listening session, the phrase "go shopping" appeared the most around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Throughout the rest of the year, this phrase was relatively rarely mentioned.
  • In 2015, Facebook revealed its platform sees a 26% increase in posts in the holiday season, which it defines as the period between November 1 through January 1. According to Facebook's Business department, 20% of Facebook users start holiday shopping already in October.
  • Facebook also announced that this holiday season, shoppers are expected to start shopping earlier than usual.
  • According to Disruptive Advertising, the most mobile traffic in December occurs on the day after Christmas.


The research team was unable to analyze the US holiday season social media usage trends, after attempting to obtain relevant information in the following ways:

First, the research team conducted a search for graphs, charts and other statistical information on month-over-month social media usage. Our goal was to examine social media usage values for each month and compare them with social media usage in the last 4 months of the year, in order to determine whether the usage increases, decreases or fluctuates. Statistical sources such as Statista were searched, as well as research databases such as ResearchGate, where we hoped to find studies on this topic. The search attempt was unsuccessful because available data focused on irrelevant things such as the increase in general social media usage, the average minutes spent on social media per day on a yearly basis, or social media usage by age. No graphs, charts or other reliable statistical information focused on social media usage per each month.

We then turned to searching expert commentary on this topic. Here, our goal was to locate relevant insights on how social media usage fluctuates during the year, directly in reports written by marketing experts, social media experts or in interviews with such individuals. Some of the sources searched include marketing consultancies such as We Are Social, data providers such as WARC, as well as research agencies such as Forrester. Even though some monthly social listening information was obtained this way, no insights directly pointed out whether social media usage increases or decreases during the fourth quarter.

Next, we searched for usage information published by each social media network individually (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc.). We checked annual reports from Google, Pinterest and Twitter, among other social media networks, but were unable to locate any concrete statistical information on monthly usage fluctuations, or usage fluctuations during certain holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Seasonal internet usage fluctuations were mentioned in annual reports, but the companies didn't go in depth on these fluctuations.

We ultimately resorted to approaching this research from the consumers’ point of view. We searched for consumer surveys that consult Americans on the time of the year they use social media the most. This information would then be used to determine whether social media usage increases or decreases during the fourth quarter and how it fluctuates within the holiday season, but no relevant surveys were found. Consumer research sources such as Deloitte, PwC and Pew Research were searched, but the available surveys focused on active users within a given year, rather than specific months or quarters.
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Social Media Use During the Holidays - Content Trends

While the information specific to the United States is unavailable, the research team managed to provide the content trends across social media channels during the holiday season on a global scale. Most conversations on social media platforms revolve around holiday shopping activities, seasonal greetings, and New Year's resolutions. Videos are the most popular format for content shared on Facebook and Instagram.

2015 Insights

  • A Facebook-commissioned survey by Ipsos found that seasonal greetings caused a 26% spike in posts during the 2015 holiday season, most of which were videos.
  • Conversations about Christmas shopping intensified as early in November with millennials accounting for about 80% of the chatter.
  • Facebook's shopping conversations and activities stopped on Christmas Day with over 800 million posts dedicated to spreading Christmas cheer and wishes. Again, most posts were in video format.
  • Conversations about the New Year resolutions began one day before Christmas with posts on December 31 making up 34% of the total Facebook conversations between December 22 and January 9.
  • A 2018 Facebook infographic builds upon the data from the 2015 survey. According to Facebook, about 65% of all holiday greetings are posted on New Years and Christmas.
  • Additionally, 39% of Black Friday conversations globally happen in the "four days before retail doors open."

2017 Insights

  • A 2018 Facebook survey of 40,965 adults across 27 markets found that determined that people use both Facebook and Instagram to send greetings and to share experiences such as travel, moments, and gifts.
  • People also use both Facebook and Instagram to seek product inspiration and advice from their connections. Notably, people turn to Instagram to seek out informational how-to videos.
  • Subsequently, about 54.7% and 39.3% respondents report that their shopping decisions were influenced by Facebook and Instagram, respectively.
  • Notably, people spend about 5 hours per day on their mobile phones during the holiday season, with Instagram and Facebook accounting for 20%.
  • According to a Sprout Social survey of 2.9 billion Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram messages, Instagram saw a 120% surge in retail/shopping-related conversations during the holiday season with retailers expected to receive about 75% more social media messages during the period.
  • Black Friday alone generated over 2.6 million posts on Twitter in 2017.


Our initial research entailed searching on the public domain for any reports by both national and international general/business media resources such as CNBC, Inc., Washington Post, and Forbes, as well as social media-focused news resources such as social media news resources such as Social Media Today and social media analytics resources such as the Social Media Examiner. Our hope was to find reports of research carried out on the subject by authoritative resources. While most sites only produced marketing-aligned information, we found 2016 and 2018 reports by Social Media Today that highlighted two Facebook-commissioned surveys that were carried out to determine the trending conversations on Facebook and Instagram during the holiday season. However, these surveys were conducted on a global scope and, although the United States was included, there was no breakdown by country.

Secondly, the research team decided to dig deeper to uncover insights that are specific to the United States. Our second strategy entailed through the databases for the major social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Snapchat. We hoped that we would find additional research or surveys that had been conducted or commissioned by these sites that we could use to determine the content trends in the United States. We found insights by Facebook that built on the 2015 survey highlighted by Social Media Today, but there was nothing from the other platforms that we could use.

Our third strategy was to search through research and survey resources such as Ipsos, Mintel, Nielsen, and PwC. We also explored statistics resources such as Statista. At this point, the research team hoped that these resources had conducted either commissioned or independent research on the subject. However, we could only find statistics on the shopping trends and the revenue generated from resources such as PwC and Statista.

We believe that the information specific to the U.S. is unavailable because research has only been conducted on a global scale since even U.S.-based social media platforms are used across the globe. We have, therefore, provided global insights as a proxy for the United States since the all the research conducted factored in the country's data. We have used older data to consolidate our findings and to establish a trend. Regrettably, all the resources seem to consider the holiday season to be between November and January; although, they included data from October. Our efforts to search using the aforementioned strategies for any analyses on the chatter for September did not produce any information that we could use in this report.