Hands off the hashtag, Jim


The old joke is that Jim Watson would go to the opening of an envelope.  The unveiling of a plaque marking a site of minor import, the pie-making contest at the local fair, the spaghetti-dinner fundraiser in the church hall. You can count on the mayor to be there.

You can count on the mayor to be there online, too, on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Twitter. He’s as savvy about the opportunities on social media as he is about the opportunities at the strawberry social. He’s so savvy, in fact, that in 2015 he was a guest speaker at a Third Tuesday Meetup, a monthly gathering of communications professionals and marketers interested in networking and learning about the use of social media in business and government.

The Mayor’s Three Tips


He gave them three tips, according to a report posted on Thornley Fallis Communications’ website: Join the conversation, make it personal, and keep it friendly.

But Watson failed to follow his own rules – in spirit if not in letter – recently when he tried to start a Twitter-storm using the hashtag #SaveConfedPark.

It’s a great hashtag, actually. It’s smart, it’s clear, and it’s to the point. You know, “Save Confederation Park,” it screams.


The only thing wrong with it is that Confederation Park doesn’t need saving. And by that measure alone it must be judged “unfriendly.”

The hashtag was a salvo in a battle that didn’t exist against a small – though vocal – minority of Ottawa citizens who didn’t like the location being recommended for a new public library main branch.

Just days before the Ottawa Public Library board was to vote on that new recommended location – chosen from a list of 12 that DID NOT include Confederation Park – the idea of locating it there turned up in a couple of spots, including in an Ottawa Citizen op-ed and in a YouTube video created by opponents of the recommended site, as Metro newspaper reported here.

Not conversational

So Watson used his considerable clout as a mayor — clout magnified by his more than 100,000 Twitter followers — to stir up opposition with this hashtag that suggests a fact the mayor knows not to be true. T

In using this strategy, Watson sowed confusion in the public conversation and left himself open to accusations of being a purveyor — or at least an instigator — of “fake news.”

This isn’t conversation, this is manipulation.

In the event, the hashtag didn’t get much traction. A few people retweeted the mayor’s tweet and a few more used the hashtag in their own tweets about not giving up the park to a  library, and there were a few, too, who pointed out the park wasn’t in need of saving.

Reputation at Risk

I get that the mayor was trying to head off what he saw as a potential threat to the park, but his hashtag strayed a little too far from reality and in doing so put his good name and his reputation at risk

What do you think? Did the mayor go too far with his hashtag? Do you think it will affect his reputation? What do you think about this kind of offensive play?


Facebook Post: Mayor Jim Watson’s trying to get people to stop the new public library being built in Confederation Park using the hashtag #SaveConfedPark. The problem is the park isn’t under threat – it’s not the recommended site and wasn’t even on the list for consideration. Did the mayor make a good offensive play or not? Do you think it will affect his reputation?


Twitter Post: Ottawa mayor’s offensive to stop library from being built in park goes too far. There’s no threat of that. #saveConfedPark #jimwatsonploy










Confederation Park: Robert Linsdell. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Jim Watson:QUOI Media Group. Cropped. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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