Increasingly, social media is becoming a politicised arena. This isn’t just for accounts like former US President, Donald Trump’s which frequently find themselves the topic of tabloids worldwide, but small businesses, too. In Australia, #ChangeTheDate and #InvasionDay have tens of thousands of uses across Instagram alone in response to the January 26 Public Holiday, Merry Christmas has seen a shift towards Happy Holidays and more companies have announced flexible public holiday policies.
So, what does this mean for social media?
Your industry, your business or service type, your brand pillars and even your personal opinions all play a part in deciding what path your social media takes in response to public holidays and other contentious dates. Engaging in discourse, carrying on with business as usual or simply waiting for the time to pass are all viable options, however making a decision which is in line with your brand and social media strategy, and is reflective of your voice requires a few considerations.
Individual holidays require individual responses
Holidays are more than a day off work – as a multicultural country, Australian society is a richly woven fabric that pulls traditions from all corners of the world. With this, comes a variety of holiday dates with their own customs, traditions and celebrations attached. Christmas Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, April Fool’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, St Patrick’s Day, Ramadan and New Year’s Day all have vastly different backgrounds and are celebrated in unique ways. You wouldn’t go on an Irish Pub Crawl during Ramadan, or unwrap gifts stacked under a tree on Cinco de Mayo, so why would you engage with all holidays the same on social media? If you decide to post, assess the cultural significance of each date, be mindful of cultural sensitivities and histories and take a genuinely individual approach to each holiday.
Stick to your strategy
Your brand and social media strategies *link to the quarterly social strategy blog* are your guiding forces for when, when and where you post, and should provide you clarity around which holidays provide a space for on-brand engagement, and which would come out of left field for your audience. If your followers are politically minded and social justice inclined, championing the celebration of Australia’s colonisation on January 26 might not land so well, whereas acknowledging that the date has different connotations for different people may elicit a different response; a tequila brand may choose to highlight their links back to Mexican roots on Cinco de Mayo, but it would be an odd date to see celebrated by a pet food company. Your brand strategy exists for a reason, so use it to guide your decision around which holidays to engage with, and which to let pass you by.
Acknowledgment or celebration?
The anniversary of the landing of Gallipoli and the Christmas holiday season are vastly different events, and should be treated as such. Historical and social dates can provide a learning experience for you audience and a space for you to share relevant business and charity partnerships, however, they’re not often the dates to announce a sale or launch a product. ANZAC Day provides the opportunity for businesses and individuals alike to acknowledge the country’s service men and women, whereas Christmas Day and the multitude of other holidays that fall around it have led to ‘Happy Holidays’ becoming a respectful, all-encompassing term of celebration throughout the season. Take a moment to think about the connotations of each day, as well as the relevance to your audience before posting, remembering to adjust your tone of voice to suit.
While there’s no one answer when asked whether or not to engage with contentious dates and public holidays on social media, take a moment to reflect on your brand values, consult your brand guidelines and marketing strategies, and remember that social media is just that – a place and platform to engage socially with your customers, clients and followers. Community thrives on connection, so sharing conscious content that resonates with your brand is likely to strike the right chord within your digital community, rather than getting swept up in trends and movements that are at odds with your business and brand.
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