Prime Day 2019 divides web & social platforms


By   |   July 18th, 2019   |   Reading time: 4 minutes Brands, Communications & PR, Digital Journalism

Social Media, Social Media analytics

Amazon’s annual Prime Day has gotten so big, it’s expanded into two whole days of sales. For the fifth year in a row, consumers can browse deals and score various items at steep discounts. But this year’s event also brought with it a significant amount of scrutiny.

Let’s start by taking a look at last year’s engagement. Prime Day 2018 saw a peak of about 650k engagements to web content. Prime Day 2018 fell on July 16th and lasted 36 hours, an increase from 2017’s 30 hour sale.

Prime Day 2018 Engagements to Web Content

The most-engaged story for 2018’s Prime Day was Bloomberg’s coverage of Jeff Bezos becoming the richest man in modern history, topping $150 billion. There were strikes last year as well, demanding better conditions for workers.

This year, Prime Day’s engagements did increase, by about 100k, but coverage focused heavily on the strike in Minnesota. Several publishers covered these strikes extensively, interviewing workers because this year would be the most intense yet, with deals extending to 48 hours and conditions reported to be just as unforgiving as in previous years.

Prime Day 2019 Engagements to Web Content

Engagements peaked at 744k, and different narratives quickly emerged depending on the social platform. Twitter was alight during the sale, with many people calling for a boycott of all Amazon products in order to show solidarity with those on strike. Lists of all Amazon-owned products and companies emerged and #AmazonStrike circulated throughout both days, imploring others not to shop until working conditions were changed and those voices were heard. 

Publishers on the web fell into one of two camps: those that promoted items from Prime Day for their own “round-up” article series and those who reported deeply on the strike by speaking to Amazon employees about their working conditions.

Engadget’s coverage of the strike was widely shared, catapulting them to the top of the most engaged publishers list for Prime Day. Buzzfeed, a close second, shared several round-ups of different deals for home decor, electronics, beauty and more throughout the day.

The top stories for Prime Day show in clearer detail what topics publishers covered during the 48-hour sale. In the top 15 stories, there were only three narratives: The strike, things to buy during the sale, and Target’s announcement of “Deal Days” to compete with Amazon.

A statement from Amazon as reported by The Verge came from an Amazon spokesperson, Ashley Robinson:

“It’s Prime Day. It’s high visibility, so we know that our critics — unions and politicians — are going to use it to raise their visibility, and we know from a business perspective, it works to the union’s favor because it will also increase their union dues,” she said. “There’s a business case to be made there.”

Apart from Twitter and extensive web coverage of the strikes, other platforms seemed completely oblivious to the events. Instagram’s most followed influencers were promoting Prime Day, tagging items in their photos they had purchased at a discount and encouraging their followers to also snag the great deals. Youtube’s most-engaged videos came in the form of hauls and round-ups from popular vloggers, but the top video was from Amazon itself, announcing the start of the sale.

Amazon’s promotional video was the most-viewed during the sale, but also had the most dislikes of the top ten. Will Smith’s promotion of Prime Day via a video of him and his son performed well on both Facebook and YouTube, and received the most Likes by far on YouTube of the top videos. Any pushback in the comments about partnering with Amazon was drowned out by those commenting on the hilarity of the video, and how much they love the Smith family.

Facebook seemed more positive as well, as celebrities and artists who had partnered with Amazon promoted Prime Day to their Facebook pages. The only alternate opinion came from Bernie Sanders, both his U.S. Senator Page and his personal page broke the top 10 with his declaration of support to those on strike.

During what felt like such a volatile few days on Twitter, Facebook was surprisingly tame. The most Shared post was Delish’s Burrito Blanket making the rounds again, since it was on sale for Prime Day. The most commented post came from Taylor Swift, who was promoting her music on Amazon. It was also the most Loved. 

Desperate for some drama, I even looked up the most Angry reactions and found that Teen Vogue’s post full of Amazon deals to decorate your dorm room with prompted the most Angrys and a litany of disappointed comments, but Angrys only totaled 281 reactions. 

While no one except Amazon can really be sure how much the boycott affected Prime Day sales (though stocks seemed to slide throughout ), what became clear over the 48 hours was which platforms people used to air out their grievances. Instagram and Facebook remained neutral and highly promotional, while Twitter was deeply divided and pushed back against support for the retail giant. Depending on which platform you frequented, the day was either a success, full of deals, or an angered show of overwhelming support for a company whose employees deserve better working conditions.

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