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.
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.
— C. S. Prakash (@AgBioWorld) November 20, 2017
— Eldon Klippenstein (@bsfarmzeldon) November 27, 2017
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
#Takeover. The power of hashtags to control the message for better or for worse. [http://bit.ly/2lDN4m5]
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]