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. 

Paula Kiger

Paula Kiger believes her Twitter bio says it best: Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. She is a communications professional who provides writing, editing and social media services through Big Green Pen. She was the community manager for the Lead Change Group for two years. Paula has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Systems from Florida State University. She is an active advocate for many causes, including access to immunizations for children worldwide.

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