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What to do when your campaign hashtag gets hijacked on Twitter

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Be thankful that at least you are not this train conductor. (Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery)

You’ve planned a Twitter campaign, and you’ve launched it. Now you’re monitoring the conversation. People are using the hashtag! But wait, they are not using it to talk about what you were hoping they would; they have run wild and taken your hashtag with them! We’ve seen it happen before.

So what can you do? Abandoning Twitter isn’t really an option.

Obviously it’s a social media best practice to have an emergency policy in place, but every situation is unique and entirely impossible to predict. So take a deep breath, and bookmark these tips for how to deal with this kind of situation on the Twitter battlegrounds:

1. Monitor the ongoing incident: ideally you will already have this set up to track how your campaign is doing, but it’s possible users will have altered your hashtag into something else that you should also be tracking. Check out this post we wrote on Using TweetReach to monitor a social media crisis.

2. To respond, or not to respond? This is tricky. If you have a corporate policy in place you’re expected to follow, obviously it’s in your best interest to do that. Call in everyone in your company who can help you, but start thinking about and answering these questions on your own:

- Will responding do any good? There is a big difference between someone reaching out with a genuine complaint that you’re able to help with, and people en masse trolling your account. In the first case you obviously want to respond and make it right as quickly as possible. In the second case it might be better not to respond at all. Individually replying to every hashtag joke skewering and mocking your campaign might only serve to keep the incident fresh in the eyes of the public and tech news. Sometimes silence is the best policy to let it blow over quickly. Other times approaching the situation with a good sense of humor can win over some (but never all) of the haters.

- Should we consider a Twitter sabbatical? It might be best to lay low for several days to a week or so.

- Should we apologize? This depends on the context of the highjacking of your hashtag: are people just trying to be funny, or are they using it as an opportunity to point out a practice about your company that they don’t like? Address it accordingly.

3. Learn from it: If you’ve set everything up to monitor it beforehand, plus made the necessary adjustments once the incident took off, you should have everything you need to learn from the situation. Did a bad sentiment toward your brand already exist that your PR team should have been aware of? Was it just a complete fluke? Use the experience to craft a more in-depth social media crisis policy.

Overall? Don’t panic too much. It will be yesterday’s news soon enough, and chances are a little controversy won’t be enough to shake your most loyal brand advocates.

Written by Sarah

August 6th, 2013 at 9:29 am