Making the Most of Social Media: Ride the Cultural Waves of Holidays and Festivals

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Click the image to visit our Holidays calendar.

Are you planning ahead for International Children’s Book Day on April 2? Or, if you’re an author focused on food: How about National Jelly Bean Day three weeks after that on April 22? On May 13, you certainly won’t forget a Mother’s Day note for your friends on social media, will you? But what about marking Nurses Day (May 6), Teacher Day (May 8) and Armed Forces Day (May 19)? You may be surprised at how eager folks are to “like” and “share” timely items that touch on themes close to their hearts and families.

In our weekly columns about Book Marketing and Publishing Trends, David Crumm and I have talked a lot about the importance of social media. All of our advice rests on the assumption that you want to be authentically “social”—to engage honestly in a friendly, newsy and timely way with friends and followers.

This week, we want to draw attention to an ongoing resource we have provided for many years through ReadTheSpirit magazine: a section you can reach through this easy address www.InterfaithHolidays.com. That web page is the gateway calendar to reporting by holidays expert Stephanie Fenton, coverage that dates back to the founding of ReadTheSpirit in 2007. This week, Stephanie’s calendar has been updated to highlight lots of special themes coming up this spring—especially in April and May. So, please take a look.

Want to see some examples of how other writers make use of the colorful array of themes sprinkled across the calendar? I like Days of the Year, which covers “the world’s weird, funny, wonderful and bizarre holidays under one roof, to create the ultimate guide to celebrating each and every day.” Days of the Year staffers have been discovering and documenting international holidays since 2009. I like that they’ve been around for a while and are not a flash in a can.

It’s important to check out many different online sources if you are going to highlight holidays and festivals. Stephanie Fenton’s coverage tends to focus on major international holidays and anniversaries, while Days of the Year writers have fun with all kinds of odd-ball events—like National Jelly Bean Day.

TIPS ON THOSE TRICKY HOLIDAYS!

Our main tip is: Check (and double check) calendars! There’s nothing more embarrassing than making a big deal about an observance that’s either bogus or that you’re marking on the wrong day.

These days anyone can declare a new Day or Week or Month. In fact, the National Day Calendar website has this page that invites “companies and organizations” to create and list a new observance. That illustrates how holiday listings seem to pop up—and later to disappear. People are creating new ones all the time, often as part of marketing campaigns.

Pope Francis loves to laugh! It’s one of his most endearing qualities. Consider saluting your Catholic friends on World Laughter Day.

But don’t be too skeptical about the unusual listings: Some of the most unusual days really are authentic observances. Does World Laughter Day on May 6 look bogus to you? In fact, this springtime festival was established 20 years ago as part of a wonderfully refreshing practice of laughter that arose in India among men and women who practice yoga. In fact, the award-winning director Mira Nair produced a popular 2001 documentary about India’s Laughing Clubs that helped to popularize the practice. While it is intentionally silly, World Laughter Day is real!

Also, if you’re going to have some fun with holidays and festivals in your social media, make sure you find out when your audience is likely to mark these dates. In the United States, minority communities often move international holidays that fall in the middle of a work week to a convenient weekend, sometimes before the actual date in their homeland. So, you might miss an ethnic festival entirely if local groups vary from the traditional schedule.

To further complicate holiday coverage, there are similar-sounding observances sprinkled all over the year. You may want to give a shout out to nurses on May 6 in the U.S. (a date established by Ronald Reagan), but most of the world focuses on Mary 12, which was Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Another example: A lot of authors may find it helpful to salute National Teacher Day on May 8 in the U.S.—but different teacher-themed days, weeks and months are literally all over the map! Check out this Wikipedia overview.

One of the veteran teams in this field produces the Holiday Insights website, which actually tells readers on its front page: “If you are using the dates in our site for calendar or other publishing purposes, we recommend you double check with other sources. Each year, we find a number of holidays with conflicting dates.”

That warning is offered in the same collegial quest for accuracy we all share. Holidays are fun but they’re also tough to nail down!

So, come on. Have some fun and you may find this timely approach to social media energizes your friends to share your posts with others. Some holidays are guaranteed to make everyone smile. Just think about May 4 Star Wars Day for a moment. Why is it marked on that particular date? Because we all know: “May the Fours be with you!”

OUR BEST HOLIDAY LINKS

I also suggest you check out:

  • Holiday Insights: In addition to their main page, don’t miss their This Day in History section.
  • Interfaith Calendar: Holidays experts know the granddaddy of all online religion calendars is this very basic listing year by year. This venerable website’s disclaimer also warns: No calendar is perfect. Want to know more about lessons learned in the tricky business of marking holidays? Check out this site’s FAQs.
  • Time and Date: The other widely cited master list of holidays comes from Norway as part of a comprehensive website about all things related to timekeeping. The site is global, but has a special page for U.S. holidays.
  • Wikipedia: This may be the mother lode of holiday listings, but you have to dig a bit through the links to links to links.
  • Hashtagging Holidays: Darryl Villacorta at SproutSocial offers this Calendar of Hashtag Holidays for 2018. For a different approach to calendar-themed hashtags, SparkFlow marketing writer Steven Ma shows how to simply call out the days of the week through clever hashtags.
  • Marketing Calendar: Steven Ma also gives us a broader overview of good dates to mark in 2018.

About Susan Stitt

Susan Stitt is marketing director of Front Edge Publishing. Over the years, she has guided many authors through the challenging process of launching books and developing strategies that will grow readership. She also has worked widely with nonprofits. Now, she shares her expertise twice each month on our Front Edge Publishing website.