Hashtags are funny things. It’s easy to get so caught up in coming up with a few perfect words to sum up a new campaign that you completely overlook potential problems. Even breaking news stories and big brands fall prey to hashtag fails:
- #nowthatcherisdead was intended for mentions of Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher following her death. However, US audiences frequently misread it as NowThatCherIsDead, leading to false reports that the singer had passed away.
- When The Hobbit movie was released tweets promoting the movie in Switzerland included the movie title and the country code for Switzerland (CH), leading to…#hobbitch.
Even perfectly appropriate hashtags can fail due to bad timing. Local Kalahari Resort is located in Sandusky, Ohio and used the #sandusky hashtag to promote Father’s Day events in 2012. Probably not a good idea at a time when “Sandusky” was in the news for other (definitely not family-friendly) reasons.
With those warnings in mind, a few quick tips before you slap a hashtag on your next campaign:
- Google it – Is the term you’re considering already associated with something? Can it be connected to current events?
- Translate it – Does the term mean something negative in another language?
- Drop the capital letters – If you run the term together with no capitals, can it be misread? (For an epic fail on this one, just Google “susan album party.” Susan Boyle’s PR team wasn’t having their best day…)
- Research it some more – Run the term through tagdef.com to see if it’s already in use, and check UrbanDictionary.com for alternate meanings.
A little research now could save you from appearing in the next edition of “How Not to Twitter.”