March 16, 2023

How Marketers Capitalize on Social Media Holidays


Marketers just love holidays and celebrations (and so do customers). Whether it’s promoting a Black Friday sale before the end-of-year holidays, inspiring customers to buy something for that special someone on Valentine’s Day, or sharing creative costume ideas for Halloween, holidays and marketing have a long and happy history together. Marketing teams have practically perfected Mother’s Day and Father’s Day by making these holidays synonymous with buying greeting cards and gifts or taking mom out for brunch. Somehow Presidents’ Day became the weekend everyone gets the best deal on a mattress. But, what’s the deal with social media holidays like National Dog Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, or National Donut Day? 

Brands created social media holidays 

Brands love social media holidays. Some holidays such as Pride Day or Pride Month (June) came out of a social movement. June 28 is the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. International Women’s Day (March 8) was promoted by the United Nations. Many social media holidays, however, were invented by brands. Some examples include:

  • National Underwear Day (August 5) created by Freshpair
  • National Drive Thru Day (July 24) introduced by Jack in the Box
  • Small Business Saturday (Saturday after Thanksgiving) developed by American Express
  • Prime Day (date varies) is of course an Amazon creation 

So what’s the point of all of these so-called holidays? Social media holidays—or hashtag holidays as they are also known—give marketing teams an excuse to boost organic engagement with current and potential customers, support a mission or cause, show appreciation for customers with a discount or giveaway, and even boost sales as customers share in the celebration.

In a world where it’s difficult for even the biggest brands to get discovered organically on social media platforms due to algorithm changes and increased competition, social media holidays can give brands a boost.

How enterprise brands make social media holidays successful 

It’s easy to find social media holidays for your brand to celebrate on digital directories like NationalToday. Not every social media holiday is going to fit your brand. Even the most viral social media holidays can fall flat if they just aren’t aligned with what you do. Stick with celebrations that are a natural fit for your content calendar and excite your customers. 

Here are a few best practices to follow when launching your next social media holiday celebration. 

Less is more 

Social media holidays should be used sparingly. Brands should celebrate no more than three a year, maximum. Constantly posting about different social media holidays can feel spammy to your audience and cheapen your brand’s content. Instead, go all in on less than a handful of social media holidays that resonate with your brand community. 

For example, National Tequila Day (July 24), Cinco de Mayo (May 5), and National Dive Bar Day (July 7) would be great additional holidays for a tequila brand to add to their marketing calendar. There isn’t a need to add more non-traditional holidays to the content calendar. Fun fact: National Dive Bar Day was created by the alcohol company Seagram’s. 

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Celebration-oriented brands like Party City or Hallmark, for example, may benefit from creating content around different holidays each month. 

Be authentic and transparent 

Today’s customers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, want to support brands that are authentic. Authenticity and the ability to establish genuine emotional connections with customers are major competitive advantages for brands. Issues such as sustainability and the environment also inspire consumer spending and loyalty. In fact, 79% of Gen Z consumers believe brands should take more responsibility for fighting climate change. 

These aren’t just marketing tactics. Brands that promote sustainability actually need to have sustainable business practices such as eco-friendly packaging, green products, an ethical supply chain, etc. Consumers can easily spot deceptive marketing practices such as greenwashing. This is when an organization spends more money and resources on marketing themselves as sustainable rather than business practices that actually have a positive impact on the environment. 

The takeaway here is that brands should look at their business practices before developing messaging around certain holidays and movements. Consumers won’t hesitate to call a brand out on social media if they celebrate Earth Day (April 22) or World Wildlife Day (March 3), but don’t have eco-friendly business practices. Companies that don’t promote diversity throughout the year in their marketing, hiring practices, etc. shouldn’t launch a social media campaign around Diversity Month (April). 

Nor is it enough just to have sustainable or inclusive business practices. Brands need to back up their support of these holidays by displaying social proof of the actions they have taken throughout the year and even as part of the holiday.

One brand that has done that is REI. As part of their #OptOutside campaign, REI closed 170+ locations including stores, activity centers, distribution centers, call centers, and headquarters on Thanksgiving and Black Friday to give their 15,000+ employees paid time to enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends. This is a great example of a brand showing customers that they authentically care about their employees and spending quality time enjoying the outdoors. They also put their own unique spin on a social media holiday (Black Friday) that has traditionally been centered around big sales and early store openings. Authenticity coupled with uniqueness made their #OptOutside campaign stand out.  

Plan and promote ahead 

Unlike Christmas and Halloween, customers don’t always know that social media holidays are coming up, especially if brands invent their own. If brands wait till the day to start promoting a social media holiday sale or event, they might miss the mark. Take some lead time to promote social media holidays ahead of the actual day to create interest and excitement that inspires customer communities to take action. 

Create value and excitement 

Customers need a reason to take advantage of a social media holiday.  It’s not enough just to say “come into our bakery because it’s National Cookie Day” (December 4). Customers can do that any day of the year. Instead, the bakery should create an incentive. For example, they could run a two-for-one campaign inviting customers to buy a cookie and get one free for a friend in celebration of National Cookie Day. 

Dunkin’ celebrated National Donut Day (June 3) by giving customers a free donut with any beverage purchase. This is a great way to show appreciation to customers with a fun giveaway as part of a social media holiday. This approach has the potential to deliver value to people who stop by for a coffee every morning as part of their routine and to get new customers through the door because they were excited about the giveaway.

Nor are giveaways the only tactic that gets customers excited about a social media holiday. DTC mattress and bedding brand, Casper, celebrated National Dog Day (August 26) by offering 25% off dog beds. They donated 20% of all dog bed purchases to North Shore Animal League America. This offer, combined with the mission-based charitable donation to help homeless animals, got pet parents excited to participate.

Get employees involved 

Employees are just as much a part of a brand’s community as their customers. When it comes to social media marketing, employees are often one of a brand’s biggest assets. Brands looking to capitalize on social media holidays should run initiatives internally that get employees from the corporate office to the store floor excited to post about how the company is celebrating. Companies should also make it easy for employees to post by making posts, hashtags, and photos readily available and rewarding employees by sharing their content and by providing other incentives. 

Put community first 

Today’s customers are craving community. Consumers often look to their favorite brand communities such as Disney or Lululemon to find it. Social media holidays give brands a chance to be creative and have fun with their customer community.

IHOP, for example, trademarked International Pancake Day and celebrates every year by giving guests a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. This social media holiday not only shows customers appreciation with a free stack of pancakes. It also drives community engagement, as customers naturally invite friends and family to dine with them and share photos of their dining experience across social media.

As the lines between online and in-store experiences continue to blur, it’s important for brands to cultivate a sense of community online as well as in-store as part of a social media holiday initiative. 

Aside from a giveaway, special sale, or mission-based initiative, brands can also bring value to customers and build their customer community by sharing user-generated content, or UGC, across their social channels. Though UGC has existed since the advent of social media, it’s still a great way to curate fresh authentic content. Customer communities love seeing people “like them” taking part in the same social media initiatives. Just be sure to get the customer’s permission before posting and to tag and mention them to give them credit for the content. 

Brands continue to transform social media holidays

Social media holidays can be a lot of fun for brands and their communities, but they can also be a flop if they aren’t executed correctly. For enterprise brands with large and passionate social media followings, the primary question is: should they create their own social media holiday or capitalize on an existing one? There is really no right answer to this question. If the brand is committed to creating their own holiday, it will likely take even more pre-promotion to introduce the branded holiday and get the customer community excited. 

Even when brands capitalize on current social media holidays, they have the opportunity to put an entirely new spin on them. Brands can turn the past social media holiday playbook on its head by opting for a day of service while their competitors are hosting a sale with extended store hours, or by taking a break from social media to promote a mental health awareness day instead of the usual post about it. While influencer culture and video content continue to grow, successfully capitalizing on social media holidays or really any marketing campaign is just as much about a brand’s actions and the emotions a campaign evokes as it is about the content they produce.

Regardless of the approach you take, your brand will still need to generate content at scale that engages customers. Some of the world’s most famous brands use Persado enterprise Generative AI to create digital messaging that motivates customers to engage and take action. In fact, the stories that anchor marketing campaigns can account for more than 50% of a campaign’s impact. So no matter how alluring the offer or inspiring a mission-based campaign is, it’s words, emotions, and the overall narrative that connect customers to your brand and drive conversions. 

For more on how the Persado Motivation AI Platform uses Generative AI to create language that personalizes the digital experience and gets customers to convert at key moments, talk to Persado