Guest post: @WebSam – #nzsecretsanta history, growth and learning

Christmas is fast approaching and with that it means NZ Twitter Secret Santa is here.  This is the 7th year it has been going which is awesome and I sometimes must stop and realise that I ran this for the first 3 years, which looking back on it, was some crazy times.

In the beginning

I had a conversation on Twitter and the topic of Secret Santa in the workplace came up, we discussed how cool it would be if there was a Secret Santa for people on Twitter.  That thought must have stuck in my head as next thing I know I am announcing that’s what was going to do.

There was no planning, or real thought put into it.  It seemed like a good idea and I asked whoever wanted to take part to DM me their addresses and I would match them up with someone.

I had no idea how I was going to manage the matching side of things, but via the magic of Twitter I was sent a rather fancy spreadsheet that would randomly match people up and create the tweet for me to DM later.

Initially there were around 240 people sign up, and due to a little bit of media coverage right at the end of sign up, I did a second round with another 200 + people signing up.

There were many late nights making sure I had the details I needed, tweets going all over the place and making sure people didn’t get matched with people they didn’t want to be matched with.

For the 2nd and 3rd year I put together a website that collected people’s details, which helped streamline the process for me, and from memory the 3rd year had around 850 people signed up to play.

Running a Secret Santa on this scale by yourself leads to some challenges, people not getting gifts, gifts turning up 4 months later, or participants turning up to hand deliver their gift in March.  But overall, everything seemed to go OK.

I think some people thought there was a whole team working behind the scenes, probably didn’t help I used my average Photoshop skills to create 3 of myself working


Time to grow

I didn’t think I would be able to deal with another year of running it, or give it the justice it deserved, so I put the call out to see if there was anyone else out there that was up for the challenge.

I didn’t have any idea of who would be an ideal fit for this, I just knew I wasn’t keen for someone to commercialise it, this was evident when people said they would rather prefer a hairy giant pumpkin grower from Hamilton was running it rather than a nationwide radio station who had shown some interest early on.

NZ Post contacted me and said they might be keen, they just had to check with some bigwigs and would be back in touch, while they were doing that I talked to a couple of people on Twitter about it, and the responses were positive.

To cut a long story short, NZ Post took over NZ Twitter Secret Santa, and with their small team of Elves have been improving the Secret Santa experience ever year, this year they implemented loading your block lists, matching Secret Santa’s and getting an amazing group of businesses on board to help with the inevitable bad Santa’s.

I can’t think of a better company to be running NZ Secret Santa, and I get excited to take part every year, I hope you do too.

Things I have learnt

Being in the unique position of running and taking part in NZ Secret Santa, here are a few things I personally have learnt over the years.

  • Giving is more important than receiving
  • Putting just a little bit of thought into the gift makes it so much better
  • Handmade + Cheap doesn’t make a bad gift, just make it awesome
  • Be nice to everyone, including the Elves, they do an awesome job as well as their day jobs.
  • Make sure to tell everyone you know to take part, so many people never hear about it until after registration closes.
  • If the worst thing to happen to you is that you didn’t get a random gift from a stranger off the internet, then count yourself lucky.

For more on what I am up to, or to say hi.  Check me out @websam or

Guest post: @WebSam – #nzsecretsanta history, growth and learning

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