When Hacking Trending Hashtags Goes Wrong

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Trying to hack that popular hashtag for some more ❤️s  and follows? That’s an easy way to alienate your social media audience—and get marketers like me to call you out.

This is a tale of a brand abusing the wrong hashtag and tying me into their mishap.


Subscribe to KLWightman.com Blog Upper ButtonThose that know me know that I love collecting stamps. I’m a National Park stamp enthusiast, which basically means every vacation is planned around collecting at least three stamps. I even did some freelance work for the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail simply because I love the concept of collecting stamps.

I’m such a dork.

So when I moved to Columbus, I was over the moon that this city is all about collecting stamp. There’s a Columbus Ale Trail, a Columbus Coffee Trail, a Made in CBUS Trail and even Gahanna’s Herbal Cocktail Trail nearby (if drinking liquids isn’t your thing, this herbal capital of Ohio also features a Gahanna Herbal Trail for a more zen approach to herbs).

Who needs Pokemon Go when I have local stamps worth collecting?

Probably something you don’t need to know about if you don’t live in Ohio—or want to know more about me. Honestly, this blog post really isn’t about me but rather a company’s poor use of twitter hashtagging.

Here’s the Story

Unlike most ale trails, the Columbus Ale Trail passport book (where you collect the stamps, of course) expires every spring days before Columbus Craft Beer Week. That’s when the new volume of the passport is issued, featuring new (and even more) breweries, not to mention new prizes for hitting some or all the stops.

It’s a great marketing strategy. And I’m a sucker for it.

Being days away from this volume’s expiration date, I’ve doubled down on my brewery visits. One of those being Zaftig Brewing Company.

No, they are not the brand that failed on Twitter. Thank goodness because I really enjoyed my visit there. I sat at the bar alone and ended up having a great time hanging with the locals and getting behind-the-scenes stories from the brewers on their ales.

Being the marketer that I am, I couldn’t resist tweeting about my experience:

Naturally, the Columbus Ale Trail (Zaftig Brewing Company too!) liked the tweet. I’m always humbled by how often they feature my posts on their Twitter and Instagram account. Columbus Ale Trail has a pretty solid social media presence, so I have no qualms with this brand.

Then I saw that my tweet was also liked by Columbus Brew Adventures. They’re known for their major presence in the city so I was pretty stoked. Until I saw their reply to my tweet:

Let’s Play: What’s Wrong with This Tweet?

Is it because the brand included others that liked my post? It wasn’t necessary to include everyone, but it’s not a major faux-pas.

Is it because they told me I only had 18 days to get ten more stamps? It definitely put me (and my liver) in a panic, but it’s the truth. So no, the message was legit.

Is it because there’s no image, video or GIF attached? Not necessary for a reply tweet and I don’t mind straight-from-the-heart, old-school social posts.

Here’s what’s wrong with this tweet: The brand picked the wrong hashtag.

Some Hashtag History

This hashtag set Twitter afire a few months back from a late-night Senate session debating President Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general. Senator Elizabeth Warren spent her debate time reading a letter Coretta Scott King wrote to then-Senator Strom Thurmond dating back to 1986 regarding her concern about Sessions. Presiding Senate chair Steve Daines interrupted Elizabeth Warren while she was reading these words and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell tried to prevent her from finishing. A better explanation about the event can be read here.

It became a new rally cry for the women’s movement. Here’s just a sampling of the most recent, popular tweets using #shepersisted months after its initial popularity:

Still can’t see the problem with this brand’s use of the hashtag? I’ll spell it out for you: Their use of the hashtag has NOTHING to do with the hashtag.

And I said that in my reply:

I turned off my phone and went to sleep that night, thinking that the brand would quickly realize their mistake. I was wrong.

When I turned my phone back on in the morning, I found their foolish reply back:

Round 2: What’s Wrong with This Tweet?

So many things. Here’s the short list:

  1. It’s a run-on sentence that really should be a solid three.
  2. It doesn’t make much sense. What’s with the random “it” thrown in the mix?
  3. They intentionally used the hashtag—and now tweet a defense for it.

It was time to school this brand. I even included an informative article explaining the meaning of the hashtag, in case they didn’t believe me:

(Yes, I really was up that early. I’ve let my running schedule dictate my life.)

And just like that, no more replies. Not sure if they learned their lesson or simply saw that I wasn’t budging from my point of view.

Let Me Get One Thing Straight

This isn’t a political blog post. So don’t pin me as a Republican or a Democrat. And you’ll be wasting your time running through the list of third parties.

This has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with hacking trending hashtags in hopes for some popularity.

There’s nothing wrong including a trending hashtag in a tweet when that tweet is relevant. Sure, many of us check out what’s trending and see if we can contribute a 140-character thought to the dialogue.

What I’m talking about is hacking a trending hashtag. This means tweeting with that trending hashtag not to enhance the conversation but only to increase account exposure or chances for more social engagement.

It’s a false way of networking. But sadly, social media users do this all the time.

Just check out a hashtag recently trending. It won’t take long for you to scroll to find a post that has nothing to do with the discussion. Sometimes it’s fame-begging for likes or RTs. Sometimes it’s clickbait.

And all of it ruins the whole concept of online community.

So, What Can We Do About It?

If you’re hacking trending hashtags with irrelevant thoughts, stop it. JUST STOP.

There. One problem solved.

If someone misuses a popular hashtag within a social media conversation with you, call them out on it. Not meanly, of course, but straightforward enough that the message is clear. Don’t give them the false hope that their inclusion of a relevant hashtag won you over.

If you see someone intentionally hack a trending hashtag as an original post, you could reply to them with an explanation that it’s poor social media etiquette. But frankly, that’s probably not going to stop their behavior.

My solution? Do nothing.

I don’t mean ignore it. What I mean is to ignore these posts. Don’t give them the attention they’re seeking. No likes, shares or follows.

If we all do this, then they’ll stop. If this tactic isn’t working for the follow or engagement count they’re seeking, they’ll move on to another tactic that’s a better use of their time.

In the meanwhile, please hashtag wisely.

What do you think? Do you think hacking trending hashtags is an issue on social media? Share your stories in the comments section below.

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