Tomorrow is Independence Day, and because it falls on a Thursday, a lot of offices and businesses will be closing, not just for that day, but for an extended four-day weekend. Employees will be spending time with family, taking trips to the beach, or doing whatever it is they do when they want to relax.
The problem with this, whether it’s a one day holiday off from work, or an extended long weekend, is that quite often businesses not only lock their doors, but forget about their online presence as well. Let’s say today is your last day at work, and you know you won’t be back until Monday. Odds are you’ll change your outgoing message on voicemail alerting your customers of your absence. Perhaps you’ll do an out of office email auto reply. You might even put a sign on the door that says you will be closed from July 4 – 7, and alert your customers to your holiday hours.
But what about your website and social media accounts? Your doors may close and your phones may go unanswered for a few days, but the internet never sleeps. Your website is available 24/7, as are you Facebook and Twitter pages, and any other presence you have online. Having said that, before you go on an extended weekend, here are a few things to keep in mind that might help you craft a strategy for any holiday or long weekend.
1. Social Media habits change over holidays
People use the Internet differently. Some people use the holidays as their down time from the online world, while others ramp up their social media usage since they aren’t tied to a desk or office. In addition to how much time we spend with social media, the way in which we use it also changes. For some it might be time to use it for more recreational reasons, while for others it might be all about some side project or business.
The key is to understand your particular audience and their habits. If you are B2B, your customers are less likely to be online, at least in “work mode.” But if you are going after consumers, your business category might determine your holiday strategy. For instance, if you’re a grocery store, your main offices might be closed, but your stores are open, and the consumers are out there and active.
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2. Not everything and everyone takes a break
We no longer live in a 9-5/M-F world. While most offices shut down, there are plenty of stores, retailers, restaurants, and service businesses who are open. Not everything comes to a halt. In fact, many people might even be working extended hours. So again, understand your audience and where they are. There was a time when every business was closed on Sundays and holidays. Not anymore. Some factories run 24/7/365. Then there are hospitals, convenience stores, restaurants, and other businesses that are open almost all the time.
3. Keep your ears open
One of the most important aspects of social media is that of brand monitoring. Your business might be closed for the holiday, but people are still thinking about you and using your products. They might be commenting on your Facebook wall, tweeting at you, or even writing reviews about your business. Just because you’re out of the office, doesn’t mean you can stop listening. A strong brand monitoring program doesn’t take much effort, and you can be ready to respond when necessary. In most cases, people understand, but ask anyone who’s ever been through some sort of online PR or social media crisis. They always seem to happen at the least opportune time: weekends and overnight. The moment you let your guard down, you’re in trouble.
4. Customer service NEVER takes a vacation
Pretty self explanatory. Tied closely to the last point, if you can find a way to deal with customer service inquiries online during the holidays, not only will you avert a potential disaster, but you will win people over. Seriously, logging on from time to time isn’t gonna kill you and ruin your long holiday weekend. If you have a larger staff, you can even split the duties on things like this. I’ve worked at plenty of jobs where someone, including me, has been on call overnight or on weekends.
5. Manage expectations
Yes, you are taking some time off, and yes, you would like to enjoy that time off. If you have a brick and mortar store, you’ll put a sign in the window explaining why you are closed and when you will be returning. You might even add that to your voicemail and email. Do the same with your social presence. Change your Twitter profile and send out a tweet explaining how long you’ll be gone, and that you’ll respond as soon as possible on Monday. Even provide emergency contact information, if that applies to your business. Do the same on Facebook and your website. Let people know that you are gone, and let them know when they can expect a response. This will help to avoid any confusion and give your customers a realistic of idea as to when their issue will be dealt with.
6. Keep posting
Again, the internet never sleeps. Most platforms have ways in which you can schedule posts to at least maintain your presence over the long weekend. I think this sends a good message to your customers, and keeps your brand in their mind. This is especially important for consumer facing companies. You might post less, or not. You have to decide what works best. Remember: posting is based on consumer behavior, not your availability in the office.
Caveat: If you decide to schedule posts, keep track of what you’ve scheduled in case you need to change something on the fly due to circumstances.
7. Have fun!
If you decide to post over the holiday weekend, perhaps you’ll post some things that are a little more holiday related, and a little less business-like. For the 4th of July, post a patriotic greeting. There are plenty of fun images and videos out there that would work for this as well. Recognize publicly that some of your audience is off from work and spending time with family. Share photos or sentiments of how you and your staff are spending the holidays. Don’t be so serious all the time, OK?
Now, take care of some of these things and go home. Don’t worry, tell the boss I gave you permission. If he asks, just say, “No worries. I’ve got it covered,” and smile and walk out the door. And enjoy your extended holiday!
Special thanks to my old college classmate David Iriana for the picture of his feet at the beach. I saw it on Facebook and it seemed to fit perfectly for this post.