Why is hashtag hijacking a marketing gamble?

There are some good reasons why hashtag hijacking can be considered as a bad marketing move.  It’s not only unfortunate for those whose hashtags being hijacked but also harmful to those who want to use hashtag hijacking as a way to boost their online visibility. Having said that, many famous brands still embrace this tactic and some proved a success.

The secret is, hashtag hijacking needs to be either funny, significant and/or reactive to be a considered as a good marketing move.

Hashtag hijacking, if done right, can be an advantage to brands and at the same time a pure pleasure for users to see brands showing awareness of what’s happening in the moment.

But can this help you build customer trust? Unfortunately, as you may know, even there’s a positive correlation, it doesn’t mean causation. But from our experience of Twitter marketing, we can infer the following results of using hashtag hijacking in some particular contexts:

  • It can help you reach a particular demographic.
  • It can create new connections and more engagement.
  • It makes you an ingenious and creative brand to follow online.
  • Sometimes – not always – this can be a way to save some time and resource for marketers who need to create new content every day.

Know the risks.

This might sound self-contradictory but hashtags hijacking can either help you reach or lose customers. The key is that everything depends on the context. If you hijack a hashtag without assessing its scope and significance, then you will more likely to be seen as a brand with poor social media etiquette.

Take this one as an example:

Kenneth Cole, an American fashion brand, inappropriately tweeted this using #Cairo during the outbreak of the Arab Spring. It didn’t take long before they became an object of bashing.

BBC Three’s hijacking on #FiveWordsToRuinADate ended up sounding too desperate and irrelevant, not necessarily adding any value to anyone.

Brands hijacking other brands’ hashtags wrongly can easily be seen as an ‘‘attention-seeking troll’’. And the consequence of abusing and misusing hashtags? The answer is your brand being a constant annoyance on Twitter and/or Instagram users.

The consequences of incorrect hashtag hijacking

Your brand could be treated as a spam by continuously sending out ‘’unrelated hashtags’’ to users and signalling annoying sales-y appeals (like BBC’s example above). Finally, no one knows its precise impact. While Oreo’s tweet during the Super Bowl Blackout in 2013 quickly caused retweeting sensation, it’s hard to evaluate the real marketing impact.

To wrap it up

There are at least two significant factors to consider.

  1. Evaluate the scope

Whichever trending topic you’re choosing, it’s crucial to assess the impact – commercial, economic or even socio-political – and try to anticipate the unexpected consequences.

  1. Is it relevant?

Finding the relevance and the right timing will help you prevent your brand from being associated with spam. Does the topic contradict or support your unique brand identity?

  1. Do think twice before you hit the button.

Is it really necessary? Are you just doing for the sake of tweeting something up-to-date? Unless you came up with some really witty message, then perhaps hijacking a hashtag would add no marketing value to your brand, nor to the users.

Finally if you are not confident with hashtag hijacking, then why not focusing other aspects of Twitter marketing like real-time customer support?

What do you think?

Appnova is a digital agency specialising in web design, UX, eCommerce, branding, digital marketing and social media.

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