Hashtags are a great way to get your content seen by more people on social media. But what happens when someone else hijacks your hashtag?
Hashtag hijacking is when someone uses your hashtag for their own purposes, often without your permission. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as to promote their own brand or product, to spread misinformation, or to troll you.
Why does hashtag hijacking happen?
There are a few reasons why hashtag hijacking happens:
- Hashtags are popular. The most popular hashtags are seen by millions of people every day. This makes them a prime target for hijackers.
- Hashtags are easy to use. Anyone can use a hashtag, even if they don’t own it. This makes it easy for hijackers to get their content seen by people who are interested in the same topics as your hashtag.
- Hashtags can be targeted. Hijackers can use hashtags to target specific audiences. For example, a hijacker might use a hashtag related to a current event to spread misinformation or to promote their own product.
How can you avoid hashtag hijacking?
There are a few things you can do to avoid hashtag hijacking:
- Monitor your hashtags. Use social media monitoring tools to track who is using your hashtags. This will help you to identify hijackers early on.
- Use branded hashtags. Branded hashtags are hashtags that are unique to your brand. This makes it more difficult for hijackers to use your hashtags.
- Create a hashtag policy. A hashtag policy is a document that outlines how you want your hashtags to be used. This policy should include information on who is allowed to use your hashtags and what type of content is allowed.
- Educate your audience. Let your audience know about your hashtag policy and encourage them to report any hijacking they see.
What to do if your hashtag is hijacked
If your hashtag is hijacked, there are a few things you can do:
- Respond quickly. The sooner you respond to a hashtag hijacking, the less damage it will do.
- Remove the hijacked content. If you are able to, remove the hijacked content from social media.
- Report the hijacking to the social media platform. Social media platforms have policies against hashtag hijacking. You can report hijackers to the platform and they may take action against them.
- Communicate with your audience. Let your audience know that your hashtag has been hijacked and what you are doing to address the issue.
Hashtag hijacking can be a nuisance, but it is something that can be avoided and managed. By following the tips above, you can protect your brand and your audience from hashtag hijackers.
Here are some examples and case studies of hashtag hijacking:
- McDonald’s #McDStories campaign
In 2012, McDonald’s launched a Twitter campaign called #McDStories, encouraging customers to share their favorite memories of the fast-food chain. However, instead of sharing positive stories, users flooded the hashtag with negative stories about food poisoning, unsanitary conditions, and poor customer service. The campaign was a public relations disaster for McDonald’s.
- #MeToo movement
The #MeToo movement is a social movement against sexual harassment and assault. The hashtag has been used by millions of people to share their stories and raise awareness of the issue. However, the hashtag has also been hijacked by some users to promote their own products or to troll the movement.
- #Veganuary campaign
Veganuary is a non-profit organization that encourages people to try a vegan diet for the month of January. In 2018, the British dairy industry launched a campaign called #Februdairy in response to Veganuary. The campaign was designed to promote meat and dairy consumption. Many vegans saw the #Februdairy campaign as an attempt to undermine the #Veganuary movement.
These are just a few examples of hashtag hijacking. It is important to be aware of the risks of hashtag hijacking and to take steps to protect your brand and your audience.
Case study: McDonald’s #McDStories campaign
The McDonald’s #McDStories campaign is a classic example of hashtag hijacking. McDonald’s launched the campaign in 2012, hoping to encourage customers to share their favorite memories of the fast-food chain. However, the campaign quickly backfired when users began flooding the hashtag with negative stories about food poisoning, unsanitary conditions, and poor customer service.
McDonald’s tried to control the narrative by removing negative tweets from the hashtag, but it was too late. The damage was already done. The #McDStories campaign was a public relations disaster for McDonald’s and it served as a cautionary tale for other brands.
Lessons learned from the McDonald’s #McDStories campaign
- Monitor your hashtags carefully. McDonald’s failed to monitor the #McDStories hashtag closely enough, which allowed negative tweets to go unnoticed. Brands should monitor their hashtags closely and respond to negative tweets quickly.
- Don’t be afraid to remove hijacked content. McDonald’s was reluctant to remove negative tweets from the #McDStories hashtag, but it should have done so. Brands should not hesitate to remove hijacked content from their hashtags.
- Have a crisis communication plan in place. McDonald’s did not have a crisis communication plan in place to deal with the #McDStories backlash. Brands should have a crisis communication plan in place to deal with negative PR.
By following these lessons, brands can avoid the same mistakes that McDonald’s made with the #McDStories campaign.