Unless you’ve somehow managed to live your life completely bracketed off from any digital media—and if you have, congrats—you’ve no doubt encountered head-scratchingly questionable ersatz holidays like National Unicorn Day and National Lazy Day on social media. But what are these days? Where’d they come from? And can brands benefit from playing on these days?
I learned the answers to these questions (which spurred even more questions) a couple weeks ago when I was involved in a project to find which of these days—social media holidays—would pair well with certain brands under a certain client’s portfolio. While this project’s origins were relatively simple in nature—plot out which days make sense for which brands, with brand-grounded rationale—skepticism got the better of me, and I began to question the effectiveness of brand activations on these days. And unfortunately, without access to the appropriate metrics—and what the KPIs were to begin with—there’s a limit to how much you can know about this.
Even with the dearth of metrics, I encountered enough (mostly qualitative) primary data to glean a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t for brands when they play on these days. So without further ado, here are a few recommendations if you’re considering suggesting a client do an activation on these days:
Make sure you consult a calendar like this from Sprout Social to see which days make sense for the brand or brands you’re working on. While some social media holidays are more frivolous than others—and most have an air of levity to them—it’s critical that what day you choose aligns with your brand’s values.
Many of these days are patently absurd. (No one truthfully asked that there be a Talk Like a Pirate Day, but here we are nonetheless.) My point: exhibit levity yourself and don’t take your brand (or this day) too seriously if it’s appropriate.
Don’t be insensitive.
This is a given, but there are too many corporate social media gaffes to count. Consult your people. Know your audience and don’t piss them off. This is supposed to be fun, remember?
And know what you’re up against.
Historically, brands and retailers started off activating purely on a seasonal basis, with the major calendar holidays thrown in the mix. But now that mix includes social media holidays, and we know the nature of these days—they exist on the internet and rarely anywhere else—so to expect any kind of significant business-helping outcome is unrealistic.
But that’s just what I observed (and probably from brands that aren’t doing this well enough). So if you do want to make an impact, know that these days don’t have enough cultural significance for them to be strong on their own. But then execute a PR-heavy stunt that will throw your brand miles ahead of what most brands are doing on these days and share it on social media. This will not only gather attention the first time you do it, but if it’s splashy and relevant enough, it will be remembered for a long time to come.