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Social media is a dream come true for PR and marketing companies. Want to get some quick brand exposure out to the masses and consumer interaction for free? Easy! Come up with a quirky hashtag campaign and the world will be tagging their selfies, tweets and facebook posts before you know it.

However, before you rush to your phone and post that invitation to all of  your business’s social media followers to jump on board your new #jonsbusinessisthebest campaign, there are a few things to think about.We have picked a few hashtag fails as examples of when # campaigns don’t go exactly to plan and take a look at what we can learn from them.

1. #susanalbumparty

This was the talking (or rather laughing) point of 2012 when Sony’s PR didn’t think to take the time to read the end result of combining ‘Susan Album Party’ for the release of Susan Boyle’s new album. Money could not buy the amount of publicity this # received. The PR powers that be, quickly changed the campaigns hash tag to the more appropriate #susanboylealbumparty. The lesson we can learn from this is to make sure when the words combined in your campaign do not spell out something offensive and inappropriate. Whilst this may generate publicity, it could quite possibly be the wrong type of publicity. You can get clever with merging your words together, just ensure it is targeting the right market.

2. #doitonthebus   #doitonthebus

This campaign was obviously using a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour for a bit of publicity for the very un-exciting Canadian Metro Transit service. What the PR company did not anticipate was the parody twitter account which was created using the same hashtag encouraging people to showcase the downside of the Metro service, the calibre of passengers (and drug users) that use the bus service and just how generally incompetent the service was (“Want to get somewhere on time and in a cost efficient manner? You can’t #Doitonthebus”). Aside from the original campaigns cheeky implication on participating in certain activities on the bus, the actual purpose of the #doitonthebus campaign was to promote how much you can achieve with your spare time while sitting on the bus rather than having to drive. The lesson we can learn from this hash-up is to ensure all of your social media bases are covered. It doesn’t cost anything to set up a Twitter, Instagram or Facebook account, only time. And that time is a good investment to prevent parody accounts being created which can potentially tarnish your campaign, or even steal some free PR.

3. #hobbitch

This hashtag campaign was the brainchild of the firm responsible for promoting the release of the “Hobbit” film in Switzerland. The oversight occurred from grouping the movie title together with the country code for Switzerland which is in fact CH. Granted this was most probably an innocent mistake but given the fact that English is compulsory throughout your entire school life in Switzerland, one does have to wonder how the Swiss who are renowned for their intelligence, let this one through. The lesson we can learn from this,use your country codes wisely in hashtags.

4. #McDstories

Yes poor McDonald’s opened themselves wide up for this onslaught. The #McDstories was a feel good campaign encouraging all of McDonald’s happy patrons to share the McDonald’s love. Instead stories of fingernails in burgers, wrong orders and incompetent customer service flooded their social media stream. The lesson we can learn from this, hash browns don’t create happy hashtags. If you are going open the can of worms asking people ‘what they think’ be prepared for the negative to supersede (or super size) the positive.

5. #Qantasluxury

The timing of this 2011 campaign from our flying kangaroo pals at Qantas was launched at the worst possible time in Qantas PR history. The campaign was designed to encourage passengers to tweet and share how much they loved Qantas for the chance to receive a pair of PJ’s. The problem of this well thought out campaign (aside from the lesson we learned from the #McDstories campaign) was this was launched on the back of an industrial dispute which left 60,000 Qantas passengers stranded in airports around the world. No prizes for guessing the content of the hashtags coming through the #Qantasluxury gates. The lesson we can learn from this is timing is everything! If there is something negative happening in the news or media related to your campaign, negative publicity within your industry or an incident directly related to your business, it’s probably best to let the dust settle before you stick your hand up and draw attention to your business. Wait until your campaign can steal the limelight for the right reasons.

Need some pointers for your next big social media campaign? Give us a call or pop in for a coffee at our Gold Coast office at the Runaway Bay Marina and we’ll help you hash it up the right way.

Hashtags do's and don'ts