Five reasons why hashtag hijacking is bad marketing

Those of you who regularly use Twitter (or Instagram, or Pinterest, etc) will be familiar with hashtags. For those who aren’t, a hashtag is a way of grouping similar tweets or photos – like a tag. When enough of them happen in a short amount of time, that tag starts to trend.

Why anyone would choose to hijack a trending topic for their unrelated business is beyond me.

Reason 1: It’s not about reach anymore
If you’re going to market your company via Twitter, put your old rulebook away. It’s not all about reach and frequency on social media, it’s about finding the right audience and connecting with them in meaningful and helpful ways.

Reason 2: You look like you don’t understand hashtags/the platform/your audience
You know those #people #who #hashtag #every #word so the tags become nearly meaningless? Or those mindless bots who tweet rubbish just to get their URL onto the top trending topics? They’re pretty much the lowest rung of Twitter users, due to their abuse of tags, and if you do it, you’ll be right down there with them.

Reason 3: You’re being rude
If you don’t respect the community, it won’t respect you. Imagine a group of friends at a party. Rather than participating in the conversation, you interject and start talking about your company. That’s what you’re doing when you hijack a hashtag. It’s not cheeky, or funny, or cute… It’s rude.

Reason 4: Spam is spam
Sure, spam has a click through rate good enough to justify spammers going at it, but no respectable business should be spamming people on ANY platform. You’re sending unsolicited commercial messages in an electronic format to an unrelated hashtag where a group of people will be unable to avoid it; Sounds a lot like something that could be covered under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act of 2007, if you think about it.

Reason 5: It can damage your business
If you don’t know why the topic is trending, or abuse the tag regardless, you can irrevocably damage your business. There are heaps of examples of this floating around. Here’s one: Just after the Aurora shooting in the US, Celeb Boutique sent this out.

Celeb Boutique use "Aurora" to promote themselves


You can read more about it here.


As I said: Why would anyone would choose to hijack a trending topic for their unrelated business?

4 Replies to “Five reasons why hashtag hijacking is bad marketing”

  1. Hi Cate,
    I completely agree with these! I hate when I see someone post some unrelated hashtag on a tweet (and how awful was the Celeb Boutique example?! How tasteless!). Thanks for this post!

    When do you think is the best time for brands to use trending hashtags?

    1. If there’s something they can genuinely contribute to the conversation or meme – not just a hard plug for their brand or product – then anytime can be appropriate for brands to post to hashtags. I think it really depends on the brand, the hashtag, and who is using the tag.

  2. All good points. What do you think of McDonald’s grabbing the limelight off the Cleveland kidnappings by congratulating the girls’ rescuer? Good form – just being human or bad form – cynical social media marketing?

    1. I’m a bit cynical – that’s my nature. Part of me feels like that was a very personal moment for those women and corporates should give it some distance, but the other part of me recognises that was of significance, and all anyone was talking about.

      It comes back to the community. Was it the right thing for the fans of that page, in terms of building the community and reflecting their thoughts? Yes, it probably was.

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