How to Properly Address Holidays in Social Media and Marketing Content

Using holidays in social media posts as a way to promote your business seems like a gimme. December is a bonanza of holiday opportunities where you can target just about every audience and demographic in a non-stop holiday haze. 

But, should you? 

Although using holidays in social media may seem like a no brainer, you could be negatively impacting your brand in multiple ways without realizing it.

Authenticity Builds Brand Image

The majority of Americans celebrate Christmas (92 percent according to a Pew survey), though one-third celebrate it as a secular day and not as a religious holiday. Religious and spiritual views are one aspect of your holiday social media that need to be considered. 

But this behemoth holiday is one of a long list in December. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa may easily come to mind. But don’t forget Milad un-Nabi, Pancha Ganapati, the winter solstice, Dongzhi and Boxing Day.  

If your business is a Christian institution and your target audience is such, you would be fine to celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas. If you sell medical supplies or are a healthcare provider, you need to consider the broader implications of the diversity of December holidays. 

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your marketing campaigns and social media is be neutral. You can be “safe” in your wording yet remain authentic in your messaging. Authenticity can still be festive and timely without offending or leaving out any demographic.

Example:

Our team at Lotsa Electronics wishes you a happy and healthy holiday season!

Stay safe and warm! Happy holidays from the team at Smiley Dental!

  • Don’t forget your graphic elements. Hot cocoa, snowmen or a wintery landscape make a cheery, yet neutral backdrop for your greeting.

When and What to Capitalize

Yes, social media is more conversational and certain liberties can be taken. However, social media posts use capital letters as if they were a rule of copywriting. Every. Single. Word. Please stop. 

Though capital letters can convey emphasis when used properly, they also convey “yelling” to some readers and leave your audience wondering about your improper grammar instead of the amazing message you want them to see. 

How you use a holiday in your post determines what words get capitalized. New Year’s Day is a perfect example. You capitalize “New Year” when you’re talking about the holiday or the big day, but not when you’re referring to the new year as a timeframe.

The school rule of capitalizing proper names and nouns always applies. Most holidays are proper names. When in doubt, do a quick search. Style guides, dictionaries, grammar sites and blogs are a few keystrokes away from your answer.

Examples:

Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Get your resolution running in the new year with a state-of-the-art treadmill.

Apostrophe Catastrophe

Those pesky little marks can turn the best social media post into a grammar disaster. Apostrophes are the way we show possession in the English language; or, that something belongs to something or someone else. 

I’m going to use New Year’s Day as an example because it’s just so perfect (and timely!). My eye twitches every time I see, “Happy New Year’s!” An apostrophe here is possessive, meaning have a happy New Year’s … what? Party? Pea soup? 

Alternatively, you should never ever say, “Happy New Years!” No apostrophe here indicates multiple years. 

When referring to the day itself, no apostrophe is needed unless you include the word “Day.” The three most common uses of New Year are:

  1. New Year’s Eve: the evening before the new year
  2. New Year’s Day: the first day of the new year
  3. New Year’s resolution: something people resolve to do in the coming/new year

Examples:

“Happy New Year!”

“Happy New Year’s Day!”

I have one more example that is a personal pet peeve—using an apostrophe in holiday cards. This often pertains more to families than businesses, but it can trip you up depending on how you print your cards, such as, “Happy holidays from Mercy Hospital’s!” 

From a personal perspective, consider this example: “Happy holidays from the Smith’s!” The apostrophe signals possession, but of what? It cannot be their home or business because their home does not own the people living there. You would not write, “Happy holidays from the White’s house.” The house the Whites live in cannot write or send cards.

Examples:

Happy holidays from the Smiths! (plural, indicating the family is saying, “Happy holidays.”)

Happy holidays from the Smith family.

Happy holidays from Mercy Hospitals.

Know the Meaning of Holidays

Does every one of your holiday social media posts start with “Happy _____!” Not every holiday is meant to be happy. Many are commemorative or a remembrance, such as Memorial Day. Treating these types of holidays as a sales opportunity and a reason to party is inappropriate at best and vulgar to many. How often have you seen posts and ads like this? “Happy Memorial Day! Time for a BBQ with friends and family. Celebrate with 50% off a new grill and start your summer off right!”

Memorial Day was created to honor and remember the lives of service members who died while serving in the United States military. There is never an acceptable reason to use it to promote a sale.

Example:

“Today we honor and remember the brave women and men who have died in service to our great country.”

Diversity and Inclusion: Raising Awareness and Understanding

As with Memorial Day, not every holiday or day of designation is meant as a celebration. There is a long list of days that are meant solely to raise awareness and understanding about an issue, a disease, a person, a population, a cause, etc. Knowing these days and establishing a social media calendar to address them is a great way to connect with segments of your audience and community. 

When you recognize a cause or issue or special population and take the time to help raise awareness and understanding, you are being authentic and building trust. You are helping the community you serve. There are plenty of diversity, cultural days, and cause calendars on the Web. Take some time to study them and decide where and how you can help bring light to issues your business cares about.

Sales Opportunities

There are certain dates and holidays when consumers expect a sale. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the most important retail sales days, book-ending the Thanksgiving holiday without encroaching on the holiday itself. 

Don’t mistake every holiday or surrounding days for a sales opportunity though. Think of the outrage and public outcry when businesses started their Black Friday sales ON Thanksgiving day, not only forcing employees to work on a traditionally family-oriented holiday, but also worse, commercializing and capitalizing on people being off work for the holiday and able to shop. 

Think of your brand and what you wish it to convey. If you want to use a holiday to truly thank your customers for being loyal, then do just that. Not every post has to be a push to click. 

Trust and loyalty are built over long periods of time. Breaking the trust of a loyal customer takes only a second. No sales opportunity is worth that.

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