Paula Kiger

The Holiday Hashtag Decision Tree

By: Paula Kiger | December 1, 2015 | 
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Holiday Hashtag TreeBy Paula Kiger

When Laura Petrolino wrote about the marketing of Thanksgiving and Black Friday last week, my mental wheels started turning about other holiday hashtag days—the #HashtaggableDays, if you will, in late November and early December: #ShopLocalSaturday, #CyberMonday, and #GivingTuesday.

While CyberMonday is fairly straightforward, the two relative newcomers of #ShopLocalSaturday and #GivingTuesday are interesting, from a messaging perspective.

Shop Local Saturday

Whereas Shop Local Saturday (sometimes referred to as Small Business Saturday) may sound like a quaint grassroots movement, this five-year-old initiative was established by none other than the distinctly un-small, un-local, American Express, which holds the trademark for Small Business Saturday (more about the history here).

Pros:  From a messaging standpoint, Shop Local Saturday is a great opportunity for local businesses to counteract the Black Friday frenzy and the pricing scalability big box stores are able to achieve because of their massive size.

An organized effort can drive shoppers to these local treasures, at which point, independent vendors have an opportunity to prove why local is such a great shopping alternative (as well as supporting the local economy simultaneously).

Cons:  The question behind Shop Local Saturday is: Does your choice to shop local on this particular Saturday really line the coffers of that establishment? Or is it actually yet a different route by which a conglomerate can make another dime?

As one commenter on the Shop Local Saturday Facebook page, which suggested small businesses offer an incentive gift for shoppers to visit, asked:

Is this meant to be ironic? This year, for the first time since the inception of Small Business Saturday, AmEx will not offer the statement credit for cardholders, which was the most powerful draw to have customers shop small businesses. And yet they want small business owners to offer a gift to make the day more special? Does anyone else see the irony in this?

In addition, small businesses are often fighting an ever-dwindling profit margin, taking meticulous care to keep additional expenses at a minimum. Requiring shoppers to use the credit card with the highest administrative cost is not small business friendly.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is the youngest of the holiday hashtag days.

Established in 2011 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday was begun “to help people organize their charitable giving.”

One look at my inbox, because I am involved in many causes (or at least on the D-list for many causes) will tell you that Giving Tuesday is in full holiday bloom!

Pros: Who can consider generosity at the holiday a con? By helping people focus on the challenges their fellow humans face, after a few days when they may have been spending like crazy, the day provides a “re-set” and a reminder of helping their fellow man.

Having a specific hashtag, and the infrastructure of a campaign behind it all, provides additional support to a universally acceptable message of giving to one another.

ConsWhat if people give a little to many causes, versus a lot to a few, because they feel required or compelled to do so? What if that takes away from the bulk of what these donors would have given otherwise?

For me, personally, the first Tuesday in December is a horribly difficult day to give charitably. I’m counting pennies and trying to create a great holiday for my family, knowing that the other months of the year I give generously of my time and as generously as I can with my money.

The Holiday Hashtag Decision Tree

I suggest the Holiday Hashtag Decision Tree:

  • IntentFirst, what is your intent? If it is to support a local business, head directly to your nearest independent bookseller, gourmet shop, or bistro and consume (but not just on Shop Local Saturday). If it is to give to a cause you love, get out your credit card and press that “donate” button with a full heart (but not just on Giving Tuesday).
  • Your capacity. If the local small business’s merchandise exceed your budget, don’t buy just for the sake of Shop Local Saturday. If the need, no matter how compelling, of the cause which sent you a solicitation for Giving Tuesday is beyond your ability to donate, make a donation of time instead or offer to promote their cause in some other way.
  • Your goals. What do you want to achieve with your holiday? Do you want to recognize those you care about with a token of your affection, staying within budget or do you want to line the pockets of a conglomerate? Do you want to give to a cause you love because it is aligned with your values and humanitarian mission or are you giving money you don’t have and insulating your heart against future solicitations because you feel overextended and too frequently asked?

At the root of every decision tree should lie your values and your truest intentions.

Just don’t let a holiday hashtag, alone, convince you otherwise. 

About Paula Kiger


Paula Kiger lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and believes her Twitter bio almost says it all: Wife of one. Mom of two. Friend of many. She spent the past 20 years in the non-profit health care insurance environment (as an administrator for the Florida State Child Health Insurance Program). She also writes, enjoys being an extra in Florida State University Film School productions, and runs.

  • Thank you for sharing this post. I hope there can be a healthy discussion about this topic. I wish I could give to every single cause streaming into my inbox today, on Giving Tuesday. But I guess the beauty of a 52-week year is I have 51 other options during which I can spread the love to the ones I can’t help today!

  • biggreenpen

    ginidietrich darn that phrasing gives me all the power!!! #DropYourGreenOnBigGreenPensForEveryoneOnYourList!! SpinSucks

  • MegmacPR

    .https://twitter.com/biggreenpen good points, especially the one about gifting “intent”. While I love a good hashtag, I’m not specifically compelled or motivated by any. To be honest, I didn’t even remember that today was #GivingTuesday, despite the fact that there is a sizeable check sitting on my desk earmarked for the U.N. Refugee Agency. I agree though that the holiday season puts an added emphasis…and sometimes stress…on charitable giving and community service that some might find overwhelming. Like you, I believe that commitment to causes and social movements cannot and should not be solely focused on a once-a-year hashtag trending frenzy, though as a PR consultant I get how focusing on these types of social media driven seasonal calls to action can benefit organizations year round.

    One practice I’ve observed for 9 years now is redirecting corporate gifting. Instead of indulging in the age-old practice of pricey holiday cards and meaningless tokens designed solely for my own self-promotion, each year I make a sizable donation to a charity in my clients’ names (collectively). At the end of the day, the President of that company or PR Director of that publisher or production studio doesn’t need another fruit basket or “Tower of Chocolate” or, heaven forbid, calendar emblazoned with my company logo. I personally find these gifts have little impact in the grand scheme of marketing. They often arrive late and some never make it out of recipient’s mailrooms. But using that money to make a charitable donation to people (and sometimes animals) who really need it, and whose lives can be greatly impacted by even the most modest sum is a gift that keeps on giving that everyone can feel good about. I choose a different recipient organization each year (this year UNHCR) and then send my clients a lovely designed and personalized electronic holiday greeting letting them know who they’ve helped. The response I get each year from clients is tremendous…worth its weight in fruit cake. And the feeling I get is priceless.

  • MegmacPR Thanks for your thorough comments. And I *love* your solution to the corporate donation (especially this year’s choice of UNHCR —- it’s a personal fave of mine). At my former employer, a not-for-profit, the perceptions of the gifting situation got more and more sensitive every year (the big health plans would give US the chocolate towers, etc.). It was awkward to try to convince a delivery person not to deliver the item — and then you just knew a $100 (or whatever) item was going to waste. Such an unnecessary dance.

  • ginidietrich

    biggreenpen Drop your green on big green pens. LOL

  • biggreenpen

    ginidietrich let’s get #FlairFriday trending U0001f609U0001f49a

  • biggreenpen

    ginidietrich let’s get #FlairFriday trending! U0001f609U0001f49a http://twitter.com/biggreenpen/status/672024076471377921/photo/1

  • martinlieberman

    MoninaW Wow. What a cynical article.

  • MoninaW

    martinlieberman that was my initial reaction too then I thought it was just me. I appreciate campaigns like these all year round.

  • MoninaW martinlieberman Thank you both for reading the post. I understand the questions I raised may appear cynical, and I certainly respect your take on it. It’s ironic because I am a crazily optimistic person (my other twitter is the “Optimism Light”). That said, I do think it is important to think clearly and analytically about the way we as consumers respond to messages intended to convince us to buy, sell, or give. My strongest feelings are about Small Biz Saturday. I am also a huge supporter of small businesses, but I try to support them year-round and don’t use a credit card that is going to cost them a high amount of admin fees. Thx again for reading!

  • AllettaSimons

    I have recently just noticed these hashtags and really appreciate that you took the time to talk about them! I also found #GivingTuesday to be somewhat random and a hard, awkward time to try and get people to give. I like that you tied it all together by reminding us that at the bottom line, our actions should always reflect our values and intentions. I think as public relations practioners that is something that’s incredibly important to remember.

  • AllettaSimons Thanks for your comment. I have been following Giving Tuesday since the beginning, and the short version is that it was seen as a way to focus on the “giving back” portion after several days of consumerism. I do give on GT, and I do promote it on social media, but (returning to my original comments), I think it’s wise to think through the bigger picture. I keep wondering if it’s a Freakonomics type thing where people give on GT, and give a little bit to many charities, but in the long run end up giving less than they would have. // I have seen some interesting comments from organizations this year, some of whom classified GT as “the beginning of the giving season” which sort of makes more sense because that implies that there’s a longer period of time. Some encouraged other ways to give (time, for example). Here’s to “values and intentions”! 🙂

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