How to Avoid Hashtag Hijacking

January 25, 2013
A number of companies have been the target of hashtag hijacking. McDonald?s, in particular, was last year hijacked by a number of Twitter users with the goal to change the marketing messages into something funny or sarcastic. The hashtags can spread throughout the internet but companies might not accomplish what they had in mind after the twists were introduced by online users. Here are some experiences of major companies and the relative effects of viral messaging.

The Case of McDonald's

McDonald?s has created a reputation for being one of the friendliest companies for kids and families. They initially thought that it would be easy to start a hashtag then maintain the positive image for a long time. The hashtag #McDStories was created where people can supposedly share their happy moments, particularly focusing on the brand. The company used social media for purposes like positive PR, viral marketing, improving their social media status and befriending those who are still skeptical about their capabilities and offers. However, the public tends to use social media to scrutinize brands and companies, change the way people look at one's corporate image and share (truthful) horror stories that tend to sway customers away from the places and products that they?ve grown to love. Twitter hijacking is defined as the art of using a defined Twitter hashtag for the opposite purpose than what was originally intended by the author or creator. As a result, many companies experience negative publicity or put their brand in a bad light, after online users reveal the harsh truth about what they do and how they accomplish their marketing and sales goals. While we all know it's not all roses in the marketing and PR world and no brand is squeaky clean, there are things that correct PR strategies are able to control. Sometimes, hashtag hijacking highlights these, turning what could have been a positive campaign into a negative one.

When The Hijacking Happens

There are two general effects when online users start a controversy about companies and brands such as what happened to the hashtag #Qantasluxury. One instance involves the company creating a hashtag and then sensible individuals immediately ignoring the issues and details. The more radical effect is when a hashtag is hijacked by Twitter users and then it immediately goes viral with thousands following the next spiteful message that comes in. This often leads to a viral spread wherein the company has to suffer from having to chase after and quell bad PR for the next weeks, sometimes months. Major companies have to be careful when creating hashtags. It doesn?t mean that if you?re already established yourself well in the market, you can easily get away with poorly planned methods. Using social media can have huge consequences, especially for large groups if not plan carefully. You have to consider the details well and delve into the smallest specifications to guarantee that you won?t be the target of hashtag hijacking. Many online hijackers also tend to attack accounts that seem to be managed automatically and not by a real person. Be personal in your approach and you will notice how your relationships online will improve as well.

What You Can Do

Try to join other people?s hashtags and the successful hashtags created by other huge companies. Create a personality and give the impression that you are approachable by providing funny and casual tweets. This makes it seem as if a real person is handling the account. You will seem friendlier to your target customers and can significantly improve public relations by understanding the needs and wants of your target audience. It is equally important to be aware of the latest issues and developments in the industry. Also find out how you can stabilize your reputation online by providing updates and getting in touch with your target customers regularly. When creating a hashtag, you have to properly define it so that you can lead the right and relevant people to follow. Providing a generic description makes it vulnerable to adjustments and negative remarks that can be posted by those who simply wish to put your company or brand in a negative light. Be specific and direct when addressing your followers. Also avoid PR-speak when making the hashtag and avoid communicating to people in a corporate manner. It?s best to choose the right words for your hashtag as well. Experts recommend that you use keywords that will instantly define what the topic is all about. Invite the right people to join the conversation so they can spread positive news about it and eliminate those who have ill-intentions for your marketing efforts.

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