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The history of awareness days, their effectiveness and demise

In this social media-led world, awareness days are something we have in abundance. Every single day is dedicated, often more than once, to something. You only have to log into Twitter to see a ‘hashtag holiday’ trending.

They can be based on absolutely anything: International Day of Peace (September 21), National Water Day (March 22), National Hotdog Day (July 23), Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19). But how have we got to the point where anyone can create an awareness day? 

For example, March 21st has 12 causes attached to it which is baffling and overwhelming in equal measure. The essence of some of them is lovely – but if there are no limits, then it becomes a bit contrived. 

We set out to collect data on the effectiveness of Awareness Days. For the study, we looked at over 1000 Twitter posts and the engagement they received. The hashtag holidays we covered were a range of topics, including International Pet Day, World Water Day, Talk Like A Pirate Day and National No Socks Day. 

By looking at who exactly is fueling these days and actively putting resources into them, we’ve uncovered whether Awareness Days hold any value to brands. Let’s look at the data. 

Methodology

To conduct our research, we took to Twitter and looked at a variety of hashtags for a range of Awareness Days. We looked at tweets for the day before, day of, and day after the dedicated day to account for time differences. We counted the number of engagements each post saw, and their number of followers, and took a sample of 100 tweets for each. We did this for 10 separate holidays, and then averaged the responses for each follower bracket. 

Breaking down the numbers

Different Awareness Days attract different audiences. For instance, World Water Day is more charity-led than National No Socks Day is. But whilst World Water Day is a solid cause, it doesn’t lend itself to social media well. Its aim is to raise awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to freshwater. But it falls flat on social media as people take clean water for granted. This, in fact, is the whole point of the cause, but without the necessary impact, the hashtag holiday barely makes a splash. For this day, even brands with 100k+ followers saw just an average of 0.4 replies, 11 retweets and 33 likes… shocking.

Furthering this disappointment, average replies for International Coffee Day didn’t reach above 1 until followers made it past the 100,000 mark. Likes and retweets also sat between 0.1 – 3.6 for up to 20,000. The engagement was low across the board, with only a few big brands bringing the totals up.

In fact, the data as a whole presented Awareness Days to be weak for engagement numbers.

An exception to this is global giants, like Microsoft with their 8.9 million followers, who threw out this tweet.

When brands are as big as this, they don’t engage with Awareness Days because they want to increase their reach; they don’t engage to align themselves with a cause. They simply see something trending, add their 2 pence to the discussion and naturally gain some traction because of their large following. As marketers, we shouldn’t look to them for content creation advice; often what works for them won’t work for you, because it’s comparing apples and oranges. 

To grow a brand, you need to talk about yourself, not irrelevant hashtag holidays. If you gain engagement from content surrounding another topic, such as International Talk Like A Pirate Day, it’s not actually opened a relevant dialogue, and nearly always brings about no positive brand sentiment. 

If however, the Awareness Day is specific to your industry, there’s more success. International Dance Day faired well for brands in the 10k-20k followers bracket, with an average of 153 likes and 30 retweets. These were from relevant accounts or events. 

Those days that seem accessible to all brands, like Talk Like A Pirate Day, easily fall into the social media void. This food brand shoehorned it into their content and might as well have received a tumbleweed in reply. 

Looking at our data, this thinking is a general trend for Awareness Days. Brands with more than 100,000 followers always saw the best engagement. But it was also barely a fraction of their entire following. 

Small brands, with less than 50,000 followers, barely poked their head above water. Lots of small accounts were met with silence. Sometimes, a GIF or witty comment would do well, but again it wasn’t about their company, so it’s not brought about any ROI.

Why are marketers going mad for awareness days?

The draw of these days for marketers is clear to see: these ready-made campaign days invite audiences to freely promote their products and services on social media – what’s not to love? 

But it’s this mysterious willingness to celebrate something, on any random day, just because someone has said to, that’s interesting. For some, saying it’s National Ice Cream Day is enough of a reason for them to go out and buy ice cream. It echoes the sentiment “if they jumped off a cliff, would you too?”

By forcing your brand to align itself with these generic days, you’re not offering anything valuable to the conversation. And this is what fuels the pointlessness of it all. On the whole, the data doesn’t support the notion that Awareness Days are worthwhile, or profitable, for brands. The general trend was that if you already had a large following (over 100,000 followers) then you would receive good engagement. But you could likely post anything and receive a baseline number of replies, retweets and likes. 

The results

Awareness Days do not bring much awareness to brands, on the whole. 

Take this example from CBS Sacramento, a Twitter account for news in California. It has 127.5k followers and posted this video on National Pet Day.

It received one like. 

Surely, if CBS truly understood their audience, they would have put the resources spent on this video into more news-worthy content, particularly during a pandemic. Whether it’s National Pet Day or not, your focus should be on what matters to your brand. 

By having so many days, we have allowed Awareness Days to become ‘just another day’. They’re around all the time, so they’ve become meaningless. The outcome of promoting so many days is that you promote none at all. And the data supports that. 

Author Bio: Amber Dawson @ambermaydawson

I’m the Creative Content Strategist at Adzooma and divide my time between writing and coming up with ideas for our blog. I studied English at Exeter University and have a Creative Advertising Masters from Falmouth. In my spare time, I like to read, draw and get taken for walks by my German Shepherd.

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