The #hashtag plays an important part in the marketing mix on Twitter, but recently examples of misuse have crept into play.
The most recent example is Microsoft Bing, who had to apologise for its poorly timed and misplaced use of a Twitter hashtag. The hashtag in question was #SupportJapan which Bing used to offer a donation of $1 to Japanese earthquake victims each time their original post was RT. Nice idea, was the initial first thought by many, and the post was subsequently retweeted by many. A backlash then followed with the tweet #fuckbing surfacing, citing the suggestion that the search giants should just donate the money rather than try to gain publicity from the campaign. Bing later in the day apologised for its error with the following message: “We apologise the tweets was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated 100k.”
Further back we have the Habitat hashtag fiasco, in which it “cruised” on the back of trending topics, such as Iranian protests, including #Mousavi and #Iranelection, as well as #iPhone and #Apple in the wake of Apple’s iPhone 3GS anticipated release, all in the aid of sign-up for its free gift cards promotion.
Other more recent examples of “cruising” is the Kenneth Cole incident, where the American clothing designer tweeted: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo – KC.” This understandably caused uproar online, and was widely covered in a number of influential blogs.
Let’s not forget Charlie Sheen in all this, who has been used as a marketing tool by many brands as pointed out by Henry Ellis over at the Tamar blog. Unwittingly, Ellis wrote just before the Japanese earthquake disaster:
“With so many brands jumping on the band wagon, it seems that taking advantage of the media circus Sheen has created is now perfectly acceptable. But what does it do for a brand’s public image to associate themselves with such a controversial figure? Is there a new form of “bad taste #hashtag hijacking” going on here? People are always very quick to cry foul when brands jump mis-use hashtags relating to conflicts, uprisings, natural disasters or the like – is this much different from that?”
So my newly coined phrase is ‘hashtag cruising’, the definition of which currently stands as
“any brand or public figure using a trending topic, conflicts, uprisings or natural disasters as an unrelated hashtag, knowingly or unknowingly for self promotion and sales.”
Can you describe my newly coined phrase any better? Please leave any feedback or suggestions in the comments section of this blog.