Facebook wants to highlight Black-owned businesses this coming season with #BuyBlack Friday, a new effort tied in theme to the kick-off of the holiday shopping period.
The push, unveiled Thursday, is part of the social media company’s upcoming “Season of Support” campaign for small businesses.
“The research and the data that we have says that Black-owned businesses are being impacted negatively [at] two times the rate of non-Black-owned businesses, or white-owned businesses,” Michelle Klein, vice president of global customer marketing, told WWD. “They’re closing faster and just experiencing more challenges, so we want to really push our focus — and consumer focus — through this holiday season to support Black businesses.”
Klein, whose group works directly with small businesses, points out that Black-owned businesses have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with twice as many closures than other small businesses.
According to company data, 3.5 million U.S. users have joined Facebook groups that support Black-owned businesses since the beginning of March. To punctuate the point, Klein also cited Yelp data revealing a 35x growth in searches for Black-owned businesses, compared to last year. Now her team wants to take away “the friction” and help connect consumers to these merchants. In separate news, Yelp launched a new feature called “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert,” as part of its broader Consumer Alerts program.
As for Facebook’s #BuyBlack Friday, the series will run every Friday from Oct. 30 to Nov. 27, with a mix of live and pre-recorded online events. Consumers can expect music and entertainment, as well as “Business Spotlight” segments, with product showcases and shoppable moments. The first event will be hosted by comedian, actress and New York Times best-selling writer Phoebe Robinson.
People can tune in on the Facebook app’s Facebook page or by visiting the Lift Black Voices hub in the app, which will livestream all events.
Facebook will also offer weekly gift guides covering categories from beauty and fashion to home goods. The list, the company said, will be curated by “leading voices in the Black community.”
Among the featured brands will be Annette Njau’s House of Takura — a luxury handbag and travel brand that sources from Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya to economically support these regions — and Flint, Mich.-based beauty business Elle Jae Essentials. The brand was founded by L’Asia Johnson, whose Crohn’s disease led her to search for safe products and eventually develop her own natural hair and body care products.
Facebook’s support extends to its platform via its Businesses Nearby feature. “If you go to the Businesses Nearby tab, you will be able to see, based on where your zip code is, the local businesses that are near you in all different categories,” Klein explained. “And so we’ve rolled out the ability [for business owners] to designate as a Black-owned business on this tool.”
For House of Takura’s Njau, the search feature is valuable in more ways than one. The tool is “vital in inspiring young Black children and younger entrepreneurs,” she said. “When they look at this brand and see that it is owned by a Black woman, I hope it reminds them that they can be whoever they want to be in life, that nothing can stop them and that they, too, can build something great.”
There’s no question that supporting Black entrepreneurs and business owners is not only laudable, but necessary — especially now, as the country contends with the trifecta of the COVID-19 emergency, an economic catastrophe and a reckoning over racial injustice.
What’s less clear is whether tying the #BuyBlack concept to Black Friday, to begin with, is a good idea.
Black Friday’s first recorded use referred to a financial crisis triggered when Wall Street financiers conspired to buy up gold in order to drive prices up, but wound up crashing the gold market in 1869. Other myths and theories about the term’s origin have sprung up, including one claiming that it describes the day white owners could buy slaves at a discount.
Modern retail lore has a much more sanitized theory, contending that the Friday after Thanksgiving was so dubbed because the sales rush tipped store revenues from red to black.
To Facebook’s credit, the company seemed to be aware of the risk of appearing tone deaf. The social media giant consulted with numerous U.S. Black Chambers of Commerce on the concept and worked with the groups — there are 145 local chapters — to develop the project.
Now the tech company is proud to reveal #BuyBlack Friday as its latest effort in a broader campaign to help small businesses.
The list includes $100 million COVID-19-response grants in more than 30 countries, grants supporting Black-owned businesses in the U.S. and a summertime program called Summer of Support, in addition to free resources and guides on how owners can optimize Facebook platforms.
Next week, a new chapter begins with the broader launch of Season of Support, which will cover the next three months in 15 countries.
“The holiday season for retail is a trillion-dollar opportunity in terms of sales,” Klein added. “[Although] this year is going to be different, we want to make sure that small businesses truly get their fair share of that pie. Because it could be literally make-or-break for many of these businesses that have had to pivot significantly to find new business models, find new revenue streams and need help and resources on how to get it done.”