CreativityStrategy & Marketing

How Social Media Hashtags Can Backfire

Social media “hashtags” have become a ubiquitous part of posting, since it expands our visibility and helps generate more viewers. They’re particularly helpful with generating momentum for a cause or campaign. But what many leaders don’t realize is the possibility that hashtags can backfire. Recently, American Airlines posted a campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #GoingForGreat. It’s purpose was to motivate followers to share on social media how they’re AA’s biggest fan. Here’s the exact post:

Show us how you’re American’s biggest fan using #GoingForGreat & you could be on the @NASDAQ Tower in #TimesSquare!

But once the campaign started, these responses immediately began:

How to keep your best customers away! Serve up Tarragon Chicken
#goingforgreat

@AmericanAir #goingforgreat #fail waiting 30 minutes for crew on top of a 5 hour delay, going to miss connection. Absolutely not acceptable!

@AmericanAir if you’re #goingforgreat, gate agents are failing you miserably. I’m going to burn my frequent flier card.

Flying Coach Is the New Hell: How Airlines Engineer Us Out of Room
@AmericanAir @AirlineReporter #GoingForGreat

This is not #GoingforGreat it’s #GoingforGreed

Still waiting on our bags day4 of bagless vacation in paradise
#goingforgreat #americanairlines

@AmericanAir 5 delays, 1 missed connection, no luggage – is this what you are striving for, if so, you’re batting 1000 #goingforgreat

I could go on, but you get the point.  In defense of American Airlines (which I fly a lot and have enjoyed a great deal) they had plenty of positive responses as well. But for anyone scrolling through the Twitter feed, these and others catch your eye.

You can control what you post on social media, but you can’t control how others respond.  Particularly when it comes to hashtags, be careful or you’ll end up looking worse.

#Backfire (Wait. I’d better check that hashtag…)

 

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3 Comments

  1. This is exactly how the Bill Cosby #CosbyMeme hashtag backfired immediately, with Twitter users subverting the meme to comment on the 2006 rape allegations against Cosby.

    How about the Dallas Cowboys trip to England, using #CowboysUK (“cowboys suck”)?

  2. Thanks for sharing, Phil!

    While a great hashtag can give a company a boost, like Poler Stuff with #campvibes or Sophia Amoruso’s choice to name her memoir #Girlboss as a way to get free marketing for the book, I find myself returning to Jonathan Hunt’s (Vox Media VP) opinion. “If you think you need a hashtag to make something a success, you’re in trouble.”

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