Who knew that the humble hashtag would one day become such an important symbol?
Hashtags are one of the key cornerstones of Twitter. Such a simple concept that has revolutionised social media.
The genius of hashtags is how easy they are to use, and also how easy they make it for users to find content that they’re interested in.
Take me for example, after the crazy winds that have been blowing through Melbourne all last night and this morning, I went straight to Twitter to get an update on what was happening:
Even though most news sites will offer the same information with a search, Twitter often has the jump on breaking news and gives you access to multiple sources.
The speed with which information is updated is a key reason behind why more people are turning to social media sites like Twitter to stay on top of what is happening.
Hashtags are an important component for this; by searching for topics and seeing ‘what’s trending’, brands can see what consumers are interested in and talking about at that moment.
When hashtags are used in the right way, they can expose brands and branded content to potential new followers, consumers, and loyal fans.
Many brands have even created their own hashtags and used this to generate exposure, run competitions and increase consumer engagement.
However, this deceptively simple symbol can wreak havoc if misused.
Enter trending hashtags.
Hashtags that are trending on twitter are those that a lot of people are talking about at that particular moment.
Because these hashtags are the ones getting a lot of attention, the appeal for brands to jump on board and chip in with a self-promotional tweet is high.
And this is where brands go wrong.
Because sometimes, the context qualifier (the hashtag) isn’t clarified by the brand until after they have acted, as you can see here:
Sadly Celeb Boutique was grossly mistaken; Aurora was trending that day because of the Dark Knight Rises movie theatre shooting.
Kenneth Cole made a similar mistake in early 2011, when the brand issued a tweet making light of the very serious situation in Cairo.
Needless to say, the follow up clarification would have felt a lot more sincere had the brand not first attempted to make light of the situation.
Jumping on a hashtag bandwagon without knowing the context is a dangerous move for any brand.
The destruction done here can have lasting after effects; including damaging brand health and equity, as well as generating widespread negative word of mouth.
These are effects that you don’t want from your social media efforts.
This is not to say that brands shouldn’t make use of hashtags, but if you are looking at the trending topics, remember the golden rule:
Check the context first.
If it’s highly sensitive, leave it alone. If you still want to get involved, ditch the sales pitch. A genuine message that portrays a brand caring about a serious event will be far better received:
Remember, social media platforms are about personifying your brand – don’t turn them into a jerk.
Personally I think brands should be more careful about their use of hashtags – and to always check the context before jumping on any trend.
Let me know in the comments –
- Do you think brands should get involved with trending hashtags?
- What is the worst hashtag or context fail you’ve seen by a brand on social media?
- Would an insensitive tweet make you think twice about buying that brand’s products/ services?
Until next time,