The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages. According to Twitter, using hashtags correctly includes:
Unfortunately, many people misuse hashtags, abuse trending hashtags, or create hashtags that don’t exactly have the meaning they intended (you will see what we mean as you continue reading). We will share some of those mistakes made by real companies and lessons you can learn from these mistakes.
In 2011, Entenmann’s sent out a tweet using the hashtag #notguilty. Unfortunately for them, the #notguilty was trending due to the recent Casey Anthony “not guilty” murder verdict. The tweet caused a backlash. Entenmann’s claims that they were not trying to reference the trial in the tweet and it was completely unintentional.
In 2012, the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Welcome Center was promoting a Kalahari Resorts (African park-themed vacation destination) gift package for the Sandusky, Ohio location. Their tweet included the hashtag #Sandusky. Though seemingly innocent, #Sandusky was trending due to the Penn State Jerry Sandusky scandal.
In 2012, CelebBoutiqe, an online retailer based in the U.K., sent out a tweet using the trending hashtag #Aurora. #Aurora was trending due to the tragic movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado. However, they used it to promote their Kim Kardashian Aurora dress. CelebBoutique said, “we didn’t check what the trend was about hence the confusion, again we do apologize.”
Do not use hashtags if you are unsure of what they mean! ALWAYS research what each hashtag is. A mistake can spark a backlash in the Twittersphere or tarnish your image.
Back in 2009, Habitat UK, a furniture store in the United Kingdom, decided to hijack trending hashtags to increase the likelihood of their tweets getting noticed. They posted a series of tweets that had trending hashtags in the beginning that were completely unrelated to what they were posting about.
Don’t be spammy! Habitat UK’s tweets came off as spammy and the Twitter community was not happy. If you are going to use hashtags, make sure they are relevant to what you are posting about to avoid coming off as spammy. Best practices suggest using only 2 at most!
We think the following hashtag errors speak for themselves..
In preparation for Susan Boyle’s upcoming cd, the hashtag #susanalbumparty was selected to promote the release. After almost immediate ridicule, the hashtag was quickly changed to #SusanBoylesAlbumParty.
Research in Motion, RIM for short, is best known for developing the BlackBerry smartphone. RIM decided to tweet their job openings in an effort to recruit more people. They decided on the hashtag #rimjobs to promote their job openings. A logical combination of words, but not quite thought through all the way.. (http://bit.ly/Vebjof)
When creating a hashtag, use some common sense.
Twitter hashtags can be a powerful tool. They can make your tweets easier to find, be promotional, and the popularity of hashtags can be measured. However, using hashtags incorrectly can be not only embarrasing, but damaging to your brand as seen in the examples above. Always research what a hashtag is, avoid being spammy, and use some common sense when tweeting with hashtags. (Image sources: http://bit.ly/OSiuMt, http://huff.to/M0u4I8, http://bit.ly/gxbBkD, http://bit.ly/SSxaxh)
Stayed tuned for future posts on Social Media Gone Wrong from Rotten AuGratin and make sure to follow @Rotten_AuGratin on Twitter. There are many, many more examples of twitter gone wrong. Let us know your favorites in the comment box below and please share this post!