#Control: Shift the sentiment

When hashtags first exploded onto the Twitterverse back in 20121, it was a way for social media users to follow conversations about trending topics and events. As they have evolved, brands have begun to use hashtags as a way to encourage relevant users to join a targeted conversation.

Unfortunately for some more popular brands, the best of intentions don’t always turn out how they’d planned. Hashtag hijacking has become akin to a game on Twitter, where users take advantage of corporate hashtags for their amusement2.

ilovewalgreens-12  mcdstories-12
On the other end of the spectrum, hashtags are also an opportunity to take back control of a conversation that directly impacts a business. For example, #GMO has been used by anti-GMO (scientifically-bred, or genetically modified crops) and anti-Monsanto protesters to speak negatively about crop science and agriculture companies.

These corporations, with the assistance of the scientific community and supporters are attempting to reclaim this hashtag, attaching positive messaging to the negative sentiment. Now when curious users click the hashtag they will find a mix of negative propaganda with the factual messaging to counter it.

Whether it’s possible to completely shift the sentiment on a hashtag remains to be seen, as there is still triple the amount of negative posts compared to positive on the #GMO hashtag, but I think it’s a great example of corporate social media using hashtag hijacking against users that are attempting to control the conversation.

Is this an effective way to challenge negative sentiment or will the message be lost on those people most likely to explore that hashtag?

1. Lawler, R. (2012, June 10). Twitter’s Hashtag Pages Could Be The New AOL Keywords — But Better. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from https://techcrunch.com/2012/06/10/twitter-hashtag-pages-aol-keywords/
2. Roncero-Menendez, S. (2013, October 19). 8 Hijacked Hashtags Gone Horribly Wrong (or Right). Retrieved November 26, 2017, from http://mashable.com/2013/10/19/hijacked-hashtags/#leMUf.lH3sqo

Photo credit: Nevenova, K. (2014, August 15). The Power Of Hashtags Concept [File #68830229]. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from https://stock.adobe.com/stock-photo/the-power-of-hashtags-concept/68830229?prev_url=detail


twitter icon #Takeover. The power of hashtags to control the message for better or for worse. [http://bit.ly/2lDN4m5]

facebook In the battle for hashtag supremacy, who comes out on top? The corporations with the power to pay for trends or the users with strength in numbers? [http://bit.ly/2lDN4m5]

3 thoughts on “#Control: Shift the sentiment

  1. Interesting thoughts. I had always considered hashtags as a search feature, so if I wanted to get ideas on desserts for example I would search #desserts and see what came up. However to your point the use of hashtags has changed. I find that sometimes people use hashtags now with no rhyme or reason. They will put a hashtag in front of any word so the hashtag in itself is losing its #meaning. I think it will be #interesting to #see in the #future what #hashtags will evolve to.

  2. The rise of social media has meant corporations long ago lost the ability to control the conversation. I believe corporations and organizations have no choice but to engage in the conversation but they have to do so in a way that is authentic. Purchasing a hashtag in order to promote the topic isn’t authentic and runs the risk of backfiring. Positive or negative, corporations should engage in the conversation because it is happening whether they are there or not.

  3. I don’t think hashtags will be going away anytime soon as they’re a great tool for carrying on a conversation. Hashtag hijacking will also continue, in my opinion. It is a way to challenge negative sentiment, but it shouldn’t be your only way. Corporations need to be in on the discussion. But, for corporations to not get too bogged down with the negativity, they should be coming up with precise hashtags as opposed to ones that are very general as in this case of #GMO. Maybe they could have said #GMOresistdisease and started that conversation.

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