3 Tips to Prevent Hashtag Hijacking

Erik Bernstein online reputation management Leave a Comment

Reduce the risk factors for online marketing

Creating your own hashtag for use on social media is a great way to connect discussions about a specific marketing campaign, product, or event. But, they’re also the perfect target for those looking to push their own agenda or simply cause you grief. “Hashtag hijacking” is when someone takes a hashtag you’ve intended for one purpose and turns it to their own. One recent example is the mid-election #HillaryBecause, intended to help users espouse the virtues of the candidate:

The hashtag was used as intended by some, but was also quickly seized upon by those with opposing views:

The potential dangers here were pretty obvious. After all, politics always create heated debate, and even more so in an anonymous online forum. But, if you think about it, most every organization is connected to someone (or a number of someones) with reason to be critical. And, with how quickly snide, snarky, and otherwise clever derogatory comments can go viral, it’s important to do what you can to prevent your own hashtags from being hijacked.

How do you reduce the likelihood someone is going to hijack your hashtag?

    1. Evaluate the situation. If you have a lot of opponents, if you’re frequently the target of negativity, maybe reconsider whether you should attempt a hashtag at all. One of the most famous examples of hashtag hijacking came when McDonald’s attempted to launch the tag #McDStories back 2012. As you likely guessed, stories of unsanitary experiences and descriptions of the unhealthy product outnumbered anything positive.
    2. Think like a troll. People inside your organization either aren’t going to think of or may be too worried about speaking up in regards to potential negative uses of your tag. You need outside eyes that aren’t scared to think like a troll. Meme-master teens or heavy internet users or your favorite source of sarcasm are the people you want taking a look.
    3. Remove room for misinterpretation. Cultural differences, translation issues, and any number of other factors can result in your campaign being interpreted far differently than anyone in your in-house brainstorming sessions imagined. Great example – when The Hobbit was released in Switzerland marketers used the tag #hobbitch. Now, CH is the country code for Switzerland, but we’re sure you can see how that tag caused a stir outside Swiss borders.

In the end, hashtags aren’t for everyone. Follow these steps, take an honest look at the risks you’re facing, and evaluate whether perhaps a different marketing angle is better for your organization. It may be tempted to try to hop on the “viral” train, but we see more harm than good come out of trying to force it.

Erik Bernstein



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