Veterans Day Social Promotion: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

  • November 7, 2016
  • Shelley Nall

We’ve all seen it, and with Veterans Day this week we are certain to see it again – corporate fails on Twitter. It is part of a social media manager’s job to find ways of increasing their brand’s exposure by inserting their company’s voice into a hot conversation. Trending topics, like national holidays, are an easy way to jump on the bandwagon – that’s why National [Blank] Days are such a hit – but in our desperation for relevance, some social media pros lose sight of the bigger picture and end up making cringe-worthy mistakes.

Sometimes these gaffes are harmless, like the KFC Colonel having never visited his own birthplace. But other times, corporations trying to jump on the hashtag bandwagon go beyond embarrassing themselves to being outright offensive. Kenneth Cole and DiGirono Pizza both made light of trending hashtags that were, in fact, very serious topics of conversation. The former jumped on #Cairo, in reference to the Cairo protests of 2011, while the latter misunderstood the meaning behind #WhyIStayed, an avenue to draw awareness to the complexities of domestic violence.

There is perhaps no better example of corporate-tweets-gone-wrong than the (many) unfortunate times a company has tried to hang its brand-hat on a somber national holiday. Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day, September 11, and upcoming Veterans Day were established to give us time to reflect and be introspective. Any attempt to co-opt these holidays can come off at best as tone deaf and at worst spark a backlash against your brand.

While I fully believe these social media manager meant no harm and were simply trying to engage, it doesn’t make the results any less face-palm-inducing. Using a smiling cartoon logo to remember Pearl Harbor, making your product the focus of the 9/11 memorial, and referring to Martin Luther King as a “poptimist” come off as forced and insensitive to the meaning behind the holidays. As a social media manager, it’s important to know when the best social media response is no social media response at all.

So how can a company avoid making a similar mistake as the examples above? There are a few simple questions you should always ask before you tweet:

  1. What is the meaning behind the hashtag/holiday I want to leverage?
  2. Does that meaning connect with my brand messaging?
  3. Does it really connect with my brand messaging or am I trying to force it?
  4. Does my content celebrate the meaning of the hashtag/holiday or am I asking consumers for something?
  5. Is the risk greater than the reward?

It’s tempting to want to jump on the hottest trending hashtag or leverage every national holiday as a chance to gain more exposure for your brand, but does the conversation around remembering those who have died while serving in the United States armed forces really need to involve craft beer? Probably not. This is not to say there isn’t a tactful way to recognize national holidays from your corporate account. The American Airlines and American Eagle examples below showcase the brand in a natural way that feels true to the brand while being respectful to the holiday. The Animal Planet post below also feels honest and makes the focus those whom the holiday is for, not the brand.

Even if your brand message aligns strongly with a specific holiday, the key here is to ensure your content is true to the spirit of the holiday and not hiding a sales pitch. Don’t include a call to action or link to your product page. Instead, use the opportunity to participate in, but not direct, the conversation. Remember, however, that text is a hard way to communicate and your meaning or tone could be misinterpreted. Generally short and sweet content will do the best, but even then someone might read into your post. That’s why the last question you should ask yourself is, “is this really worth it?” Does gaining a little exposure by leveraging a popular hashtag or holiday really help you build your brand in the long run?

As we approach Veterans Day and you’re faced with the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we conundrum, think through the above questions and, if you do decide it makes sense for your brand, remember to keep it simple and true to the spirit of the holiday.