Valentine's Day was last weekend. You're thinking, "So what? It's all just a commercialized holiday opportunity to sell jewelry, chocolate, flowers, and ad time, all bundled up with the idea that sex (or love) sells."
Since most of our readers are agency clients, I'd like to address this next comment to you: You'd be right, but you'd also be surprised at the subtle trends showing up in our social intelligence data.
To understand more about the vast amounts of conversation concerned with the holiday, I turned to our social media intelligence tool, Infegy Atlas, to break down millions of pieces of public dialogue and dig deeper into our collective obsession with February 14.
Everyone is celebrating!
One place my personal research intuition ran aground was the expectation of a more lopsided split across gender demographic lines. With 55% of the 2016 Valentine's Day conversation coming from women, men comprise 45%, nearly half the data. While women do tend to speak more positively about Valentine's Day in general, the difference in sentiment distribution across both groups is much closer than I had expected.
Perhaps even more interesting, this divide is shrinking over time! Looking back at Valentine's Day conversation across the same period for the last five years demonstrates how the share-of-voice in Valentine's Day has shifted from overwhelmingly female to an increasingly egalitarian split.
"Love" is all around these days.
Just how many people took to social media to talk about Valentine's Day this year? An astonishing 34 million posts were written over the extended holiday weekend and the majority were resoundingly positive. By an overwhelming margin, conversations from the start of the extended holiday weekend (Feb 12-Feb 15) are resoundingly positive, too, which means we are talking about more than a few lovestruck outliers. Brands can capitalize on this outpouring of positivity by choosing to segue marketing and advertising efforts into positive messages and the feelings we associate with these more intimate moments.
In fact, people talk about positive emotions WAY more than negative emotions.
Concepts like joy, anticipation, and trust overwhelm the distribution of negative emotions in conversation data by entire orders of magnitude in some cases.
Joy, for example, is included in 12% of conversations, followed by Anticipation at 3.6%, and Trust at 2%. Trust nearly doubles the next-nearest emotion, Surprise, at 1.2%. Nearly 3 times as much conversation contains elements of Trust than Fear, and 4 times the percentage of conversation that communicates Disgust.
Valentine's Day IS a commercial holiday, after all.
Despite being inundated with ads for diamond bracelets, cards, and emails offering each of us the "perfect Valentine's gift," I wanted to resist the idea that commercial interests control Valentine's Day traffic, especially given the results uncovered by our query so far.
As you can clearly see, however, this holiday is overwhelmingly discussed in terms of Expectation, Acquisition, Quality, and some degree of Purchase Intent. While most emotions expressed in digital conversation tend to be quite positive in nature, it turns out that the drivers behind these details are all based in what we're getting, giving, and the personal pride behind what we're doing more than the sentiments we hold for whoever is lucky enough to be our Valentine.
One caveat in this research is that younger age groups contribute most of the conversation volume, meaning that most of this thematic and emotional analysis will apply mostly to those 25 and younger. This is not all bad news, however, as more and more marketers continue to shift their focus toward the growing purchasing power in Millennials and younger. For those people, this is interesting food-for-thought and, in the right hands, excellent data for future campaigns.
First and foremost, agencies should recognize that Valentine's Day conversation has shifted from a predominantly female share-of-voice on social media to a much more even split across gender lines. While women still contribute the majority of conversation data, men are increasingly invested in their share of Valentine's Day, too.
Second, an increased male presence across what many (rightfully) recognize as a commerical holiday/marketing opportunity presents an opportunity to engage men in a variety of new ways, including product launches, opportunities to bundle "his and hers" sets together, even rebranding standard essential consumer goods in terms more relatable to the romantic associations of Valentine's Day.
Finally, for future Valentine's campaigns, more marketers should direct advertising at meeting the needs of everyone invested in the conversation, instead of the traditionally-understood burden that men are responsible for meeting a female partner's expectations. Even simple outreach efforts could capitalize on the notion that women who date men might gain some benefit from dedicating extra attention to what their man wants, too. Likewise, perhaps a different answer might be to remove gender as a consideration from Valentine's-related targeted advertising altogether, as gender-focused differences seem to matter less and less over time.