Don't Just Jump On That Trending #Hashtag

Piggybacking a Trending Hashtag Can Be a Social Nightmare

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Ticking Social Time Bomb. GettyImages

Every day, there are trending hashtags.

For instance, at the time this article was written, the top five trending hashtags in the USA on Twitter were:

You don’t have to be a genius to know that some of those hashtags were instantly pounced upon by several brands. For Hershey’s, or any other chocolate bar manufacturer, #NationalSmoresDay makes perfect sense.

But you just know there are social media agencies out there who were bouncing off the walls trying to think of ways to capitalize on #MondayMotivation or #CalmYourselfIn4Words.

The problem with this “let’s jump on a trending hashtag” strategy (and it’s not much of a strategy at that) is that it has one of three results:

1) It makes sense and you get a little additional awareness on that particular day, IF the creative work was done well, and the Tweet or social media post was well written.

2) It feels completely forced, and you either get ignored by most people, or annoy the few people who dislike the way you have crowbarred yourself into the conversation.

3) It crashes and burns in spectacular fashion because you have completely misunderstood the intention of the hashtag, or blatantly abused it.

Jon Oliver covered the latter on his excellent show “Last Week Tonight,” and one that stood out, in particular, is the case of #WhyIStayed.

The tag is a powerful way to spread the word about domestic violence, letting the victims say why they took the mental and physical abuse for so long. Some of these powerful tweets include:

  • I stayed because my pastor told me that God hates divorce. It didn't cross my mind that God might hate abuse, too. #WhyIStayed - @bevtgooden
  • It’s not one day he hits you, it’s every day he works hard to make you smaller. #WhyIStayed - @feministabulous
  • He told me I would lose custody of my children. #WhyIStayed #WhyIDidntCallThePolice - @Psychtic

As you can see, this is no laughing matter. So what does domestic violence, and #WhyIStayed, have to do with DiGiorno Pizza? Nothing. Not one damned thing. There have been cases of abused women calling pizza delivery places in need of help, and those cases have been well documented. BUT, a frozen pizza from the grocery store is hardly the same thing. So what was DiGiorno thinking when tweeted this travesty?:

  • #WhyIStayed You had pizza. - @DiGiornoPizza

Clearly, this was a case of not understanding the trending hashtag, and simply jumping on it with an interpretation. But, that is no excuse; it all went terribly wrong. The rebukes came thick and fast, and the DiGiorno Pizza account went into major CYA mode. Clearly, this was the work of one individual, as the vast number of apologetic tweets that came after included phrases like “I truly feel horrible” and “I am so sorry about this.” This is the voice of the community manager, not DiGiorno, and this was obviously a mistake. A big mistake.

If the community manager was completely on top of the game, her or she would have researched the hashtag first, and realized it was not one to jump on. But, community managers don’t just manage one account. They work all hours of the day and night on numerous accounts, and are under constant pressure to get the client’s brand “trending” or in the public eye. These directives come from the top, and the community manager is tasked with making it happen.

So, when you have that kind of pressure, no time, and a list of trending hashtags, you jump on them when you see a connection…even if that connection is 1000 miles from the reality of the actual subject matter.

The simple solution to this is, don’t jump on hashtags. UNLESS, of course, the hashtag is completely appropriate to the brand. But you had better make completely sure it is before making a mistake that could result in serious backlash and job losses.