Let us be inclusive in our condemnation: "Social media" staffers who work for for-profit organizations should never tweet or craft Facebook posts about holidays. Doing so in response to Veterans Day is particularly obnoxious and should result in immediate termination. But it does help show why these efforts are always horrible.
Veterans Day, for those who are not residents of the United States, is our national version of Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. It's slightly different than Memorial Day, the May holiday during which we remember those who died in military conflicts. Veterans Day is a broader recognition and appreciation of the service of members of the military, living or dead. Don't take it from us. No one conveys the meaning of the day more clearly than the guy who played Superman in a movie that didn't do that well at the box office.
A special thank you to all our troops. Happy Veterans Day! pic.twitter.com/9WlqjNAdls— Man of Steel (@ManofSteelMovie) November 11, 2013
See, Man of Steel comes out on Blue-Ray™ and Digital HD© on Tuesday. So the people that are responsible for selling those products decided that a good way to remind people that 1) the movie existed and 2) they might want to buy it was to make a tweet showing the star of the movie standing in front of an American flag. And so here we are. As of writing, this tweet has been retweeted 185 times.
This is one of the better examples of a Veterans Day-related tweet. There are a variety of genres:
Get a discount to honor veterans
Buy a thing to honor veterans
Something something honor veterans
Please note how many of these tweets include the now-unavoidable images. Not only does Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg want to let you know that you can get her book signed, but she wants to make sure you see her standing next to a veteran, so you will know she really cares about veterans, and maybe wonder if you should read her book to learn more about veterans.
Below are two of the less obnoxious versions of the Veterans Day tweet.
Whether or not the Duck Dynasty guy pictured served (a data point we could not be bothered to look up) (Update, via Andrew Beaujon: he served in Vietnam), this is an ad. The Best Buy picture and sentiment is an ad. That's all any of these are, of course, but it's easy to lose sight of it when you compare Best Buy to Chevrolet. What Best Buy wants is for you to share its yellow picture. It wants retweets. It wants America to see that it, Best Buy, is a pretty cool company that really cares. Should you remember that sentiment the next time you want a new TV, Best Buy won't complain. In some ways, Best Buy's subtle request that you share its content is more obnoxious than the rest of these. It's an ad that pretends it isn't.
Compare these tweets with Oreo's now-famous Super Bowl blackout tweet — a plug so notorious that Twitter flagged it as a best practice in its IPO filing. What makes the Oreo ad different than, say, Zuckerberg's mind-bogglingly dumb one is that the Oreo ad is unabashed about what it's doing. "Hey, America, that thing you're all watching? We watched it, too; buy cookies," Oreo is saying. A well-timed ad on a dumb pop culture moment. Fine.
Veterans Day is different; nearly every holiday is. These are not pegs for tweets from companies that already spend their lives jumping up and down in front of us, trying to get our attention. They're supposed to be days off from that nonsense. If you are the president or executive of a company and can't see why plugging your garbage on, say, Easter is tacky, you should at least see how trying to glom onto Veterans Day is gross. It's like driving the Oscar-Mayer Weinermobile into a parade of former soldiers after painting it in camo.
As for Ms. Zuckerberg, an executive at a social marketing company, the only point you've made today is that the advice in your book might be worth taking with a grain of salt.
Update: Honorable mention, via Cooper Fleishman:
We LUV our veterans'! A salute to you on Veterans' Day and everyday.— Luvs Diapers & Wipes (@Luvs) November 11, 2013