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When Hashtags Become a PR Disaster

When Hashtags Become a PR Disaster

By David Berezin, Intern


Trending hashtags are an opportunity to gain attention for your brand. If you include a popular hashtag in one of your brand’s tweets, that tweet could be seen by thousands – if not millions – of people. Before you use a trending hashtag in your tweet, you should research that hashtag to determine if it’s appropriate for your brand. Otherwise, you could seriously damage your brand’s reputation.

Take Entenmann’s: in 2011, the baked goods brand used the trending hashtag #notguilty in one of its tweets. The problem was that the hashtag referred to the not guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. As a result, Entenmann’s appeared to be capitalizing on a highly controversial court case about the murder of a two-year-old girl.

Entenmann’s wasn’t the only brand to make this kind of blunder. Last year, DiGiorno wrote a humorous tweet with the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed. DiGiorno’s social media manager didn’t realize that the hashtag was about women staying in abusive relationships. So, by not doing its research, DiGiorno made light of a very sensitive issue.

As you’d expect, both DiGiorno and Entenmann’s offered apology statements. But DiGiorno really went above and beyond: it tweeted personalized apologies to dozens of Twitter users who had expressed their outrage. By taking the time and effort to write so many personalized apologies, DiGiorno appeared genuinely sorry for its mistake, instead of just apologizing to save face.

When brands offend people on social media, a one-size-fits-all apology statement might come across as insincere. DiGiorno didn’t just send out a general apology: it went the extra mile to prove its remorse and restore trust in its brand. And, in doing so, DiGiorno turned an ill-conceived use of a trending hashtag into an effective way of handling a social media crisis.

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