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Hashtag marketing - how to avoid disaster

How, as a regular or local internet marketer, are you handling the hashtag revolution? Hashtags are an excellent way to create buzz and conversation about your brand over Twitter, and they've now extended into mainstream broadcasts of television shows.

For instance, the pound sign has been used in front of a variety of primetime shows such as #Revenge, #TopChef or #PanAm, explains Social Media Today. It's a way for networks to extend the reach of their marketing efforts by creating a buzz not only from those watching the show, but from others who are online and on Twitter.

As a marketer, you should determine how to integrate hashtags into broader media campaigns, being especially aware of the impact starting a hashtag campaign could have on your company's reputation.

For example, McDonalds recently attempted to open a communication platform on Twitter with the hashtag #mcdstories, encouraging followers to discuss their positive experiences with the company. However, "Within hours of the first tweet, consumers hijacked the hashtag and posted negative stories damaging the McDonald's brand," the news source notes.

In order to avoid such a PR nightmare, Mashable suggests that brand managers, agency account executives and other relevant parties become aware of the negative effects a hashtag campaign could inadvertently create.

Social Media Today notes that hashtags have also been used by shows such as Project Runway to create an interactive voting experience. Each contestant received their own hashtag, allowing fans to tweet their favorites during the show.

Awareness campaigns have also been attempted. For example, Audi's recent commercial for LED headlights that aired during the Super Bowl featured the hashtag #solongvampires, and depicted the company's lights evaporating vampires "because of their extreme brightness."

If you decide to begin a hashtag campaign, Mashable recommends that you "monitor it religiously." Everyone's role in the campaign should be clearly defined, and it should be determined that the hashtag hasn't been used before.

However, if you do encounter a scenario such as McDonald's in which a campaign goes horribly wrong, try to engage customers to revert the conversation back to the original idea or even acknowledge that the customers' complaints are valid. Most importantly, don't overreact to the potential negatives of starting a hashtag campaign - they're becoming a fundamental element of other popular social sites such as Tumblr and Instagram, and the positives that could result from such marketing efforts will usually outweigh the negatives. 

Content Writer: Mike Cook Mike Cook Senior Director of Sales Support & Marketing

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