Social media never sleeps. While you might be taking the day off, your audience is likely scrolling away.
Whether and what to post during holidays is a tricky question for brands of all sizes. While a post acknowledging a national or religious occasion might help followers relate to you, it could also isolate those who do not celebrate. Tougher still, holiday content can also come off as insensitive, opportunistic, or ill-informed.
Commenting on some of the most special days of the year may seem tricky, but with some research into your online community and genuine insight into your own brand, you’ll be poised to publish in no time.
Low engagement, high spirits
Unless you’re John Lewis, the odds of any holiday-related social media post going viral are relatively low, but that’s not to say you should abandon all marketing know-how when putting together your communications calendar.
Around any holiday, brands are faced with a tough task. Not only are they deciding whether or not to post, but they’ve got to figure out how to strike the perfect balance between leveraging the occasion with any kind of sales campaign or keep with feel-good content. Focus too much on a marketing gimmick, and you risk coming off as opportunistic and cash-grabby. Stick to a simple, generic acknowledgement of the holiday and you might miss out on an opportunity to excite your customers or get left out of fun viral trends.
Holidays aren’t a great time to push boundaries with a daring new ad campaign, but there are days when a basic stock photo and “Happy _____” won’t quite cut it either. The important point to keep in mind is that posting on these days likely isn’t going to make or break your analytics. You can and should rely on the same marketing decision-making skills and discretion that you use every other day of the year.
The heart behind the holiday
The first step to posting about a holiday seems simple – understand the occasion. Each and every occasion has a history, some more nuanced than others.
Take Columbus Day, for example. Many credit Christopher Columbus with “sailing the ocean blue” in order to explore what we now know as North America. Not only did Columbus not make it to America and instead end up in the Bahamas, but he did so centuries after other explorers ventured into Canada. He also violently oppressed indigenous communities, leaving a legacy of brutality and disease behind. This dark history has led to recent calls to instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day each October 12 in recognition of the cultures erased by colonialism and those that persevere today.
Like Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, patriotic observances are not interchangeable either. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are frequently confused, but the former recognizes those who have died while serving in the military and the latter recognizes all those who have served in the Armed Forces, living or deceased. Thanking all our armed service members on Memorial Day for example, could seem like an affront to those who died while fighting for their country.
While it may seem arduous to research every holiday, it is much harder to recover from a public relations problem in which your brand comes off as unknowledgeable or uncaring. Do a quick search on the meaning of the holiday in question and grab a peer to take a look at your social copy. When in doubt, revise.
You can’t talk about the holidays without talking about, well, the holidays. There are at least 12 major religious observances in December alone, ranging from the Buddhist Bodhi Day on December 8 to the Pagan solstice on December 2.
We aren’t saying you can’t post a festive “Merry Christmas” or that you should abstain from posting about the holidays at all. Quite the contrary, winter celebrations are a great opportunity to connect with your audience on a warm and fuzzy level, and to communicate that at the end of the day, you’re made up of people, not profit.
Who is your brand trying to reach? Who are the people that sustain your brand on a daily basis? Think about them and what they’re celebrating, and find a way to authentically support them in these celebrations. For example, if you’re an e-commerce store with an international presence, perhaps consider posting about a number of holidays throughout the season, or sticking to the all-encompassing “Happy Holidays” message. Alternatively, if you’re a local nonprofit dedicated to connecting with teens through religious service, it would align with your mission to post about the holiday that means the most to you.
At the end of the day, the important thing is that you find harmony between budget-balancing campaigns and running sales with meaningful, genuine holiday communications. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to celebrating on social media. No matter what you decide to post, we wish you lots of luck and a happy…whatever.
Social Impact Strategist
Julia Regeski is a content creator who believes that everyone's story deserves to be told in a way that's intentional, compelling, and authentic. Her work experience has been focused on advancing meaningful social causes, and includes advocating on behalf of Georgia's environmental resources and bringing together nonprofits in the wake of natural disasters. When she's not using her communications skills to try to make the world a better place, you'll likely find her reading, practicing yoga, or adventuring in the great outdoors.