Holidays and observances have quickly become one of my favorite things as both a consumer and creator of social media content. And I’m not necessarily talking about the big ones like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas – I’m talking about the holidays that most of us probably wouldn’t even know existed if it weren’t for social media, like Peanut Butter Lovers Day or National Pet Day. The reason I love these holidays is because they’re a simple, more frequently occurring way to easily leverage the theme and conversation around an entire day and tie it back to your brand. Simply put, it’s really great for social media writer’s block.

However, not every holiday or observance is one that warrants a tweet or an Instagram story – some “holidays” make you wonder how they were even created (no offense, but I’m looking at you, International Tuba Day) and some just make you laugh. Cue 4/20.

While it may seem like a simple concept to grasp, it isn’t always clear where the line is between “edgy” and “distasteful,” made even more difficult by the fact that “the line” isn’t the same for everyone.Click To Tweet

As the social media landscape continues to change, brands are continuously looking for ways to push the boundaries and earn greater reach across social platforms. For those who don’t know, 4/20 is the unofficial holiday dedicated to marijuana, and this year, it proved to be a great of example of what we can learn from creating content around these taboo holidays. Below are the three biggest lessons about engaging with not only a holiday, but one that’s controversial.

  1. If you feel like you’re forcing it, you probably are.

As mentioned above, not every holiday or observance needs to be celebrated. When it comes to creating content, know your brand and where you fit in the conversation. If the connection is a stretch to make, then there is no connection (sometimes it’s best to sit a few out.) If there is a good connection to the topic at hand, less is always more – keep copy simple and don’t drag out a lengthy punchline that will show your audience that you’re trying too hard to make it work.

  1. If you can’t curate content that fits, seek unique ways to engage with your audience.

If you find yourself in the group described above and can’t find a way to create content that aligns with the given observance, rely on your audience. One of the many lessons we’ve learned from the Wendy’s Twitter account over the last year is that you can sit back and let the conversation come to you. Monitoring tags and hashtags are a great way to find opportunities where you can reply and engage with your audience. Lyft, for example, ran a promotion in partnership with Super Troopers 2 on 4/20 but never created an organic post about it – they simply responded to their fans who were talking about it online, which proved to help build their overall brand loyalty.

  1. Know where the line is.

While it may seem like a simple concept to grasp, it isn’t always clear where the line is between “edgy” and “distasteful,” made even more difficult by the fact that “the line” isn’t the same for everyone. The most important thing is to know your brand and what it stands for, and to take that into consideration when addressing a topic that is controversial, like marijuana. One company that nailed this in my opinion, was Ben & Jerry’s. Given the hippy image they’ve always owned, 4/20 was an appropriate topic for them to cover, which they did through a series of posts that perfectly captured their values and the essence of who they are. As shown below, you can see that their posts humorously included everything from their thematic ice cream flavors, to posts about marijuana legislation and activism, to the simplest weed puns.

What do you think about brands posting about 4/20? Did you appreciate the candor and humor, or did you find it low-brow and unappealing?

For more insights on communications and brand strategy, industry trends and more, subscribe today to the Weekly Buzz here.