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Social Media: Death by Hashtag or Twittercide

What do #Ilovewalgreens, #susanalbumparty, #obamacareisworking, #lgbtfacts and #askjpm have in common?

Each hashtag went horribly wrong, as chronicled by Business2Community and The Telegraph. B2C provided details on seven hashtag fails and the lively British newspaper had great fun with #susanalbumparty.

The use of hashtags is also being questioned by traditional media and social media for the benefits, or not, in creating more engagement. Adweek cited an internal Twitter study covered by Recode, which showed that tags did not lead to more engagement in promotional campaigns.

Adweek noted that Twitter released the data to help its advertisers but the findings are insightful for the PR profession. When ads included a hashtag or mentioned another account, results dropped.

“For example, when you’re trying to drive visitors to your website, a tweet that doesn’t include a # or @ mention will generate 23 percent more clicks. When the tweet is focused on driving an app install, forgoing a # or @ mention increases clicks by 11 percent.”

While that may be the case on Twitter, NSTPR has found hashtags helpful for building followers on other platforms, such as Instagram.

Another area of concern for PR pros: the use of Twitter chat, which can backfire as evidenced most recently by E.L. James, author of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Ragan Daily, Adweek, Buzz Feed and others, covered the Twittercide arranged by her publicist. Most popular Tweet: “#AskELJames after the success of Grey, have you considered re-telling the story from the perspective of someone who can write — Andrew Vestal (@avestal) June 29, 2015

The Ragan piece cited other Twittercides: Robin Thicke, the NFL commissioner and R. Kelly. Jim Rome, syndicated sports talk radio host, counsels athletes to stay off Twitter. He says Twitter is a loaded gun in their hands, pointed at themselves. Since most have big egos, they get into Twitter wars with trolls and inflict multiple wounds.

The Daily Beast carried an in-depth feature on the psychology of engaging in social media flame wars. The driving factors are ego, arrogance and a need to be right. The Daily Beast went through different examples of people in high places who engaged online with the trolls, elevating the trolls while diminishing their images and reputations. The absurdity of this type of engagement: the troll and critic may be a fictional online character.

Bottom line on considering a program of active social media engagement on Twitter chat or with hashtags: check with your PR professionals. Analyze the risk and reward of using a certain hashtag or engaging in a Twitter chat, check for trending hashtags of a similar construct and be prepared for a social media conflagration should the subject be controversial in any way.

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