How to Avoid #Hashtag Hazards

The hashtag, when used correctly, can reach a broader group of people than those who follow you on Twitter or connect with you on LinkedIn. It facilitates branding and allows companies to create catchy slogans motivating audiences to remember and to respond.

However, the hashtag is more complicated than just throwing a few words together. Here are a few basic tips to consider when using the #.

At READY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA, we coach:

#KnowYourMarket

Charmin hashtag #TweetFromTheSeat

#TweetFromTheSeat, Charmin’s irreverent hashtag is often talked about in marketing circles for one very good reason. It successfully makes something as unglamorous as toilet paper fun, approachable, and appealing to young people. Not an easy feat.

Here’s how it works. The company’s official Twitter account posts funny quips with the hashtag, and encourages users to do the same. Research shows that 40% of people aged 18-24 use social media in the bathroom, giving them a reason to engage with an otherwise strictly utilitarian product.

It’s working too – how else would you explain a toilet paper brand having over 68 thousand followers on Twitter?

#RememberThatCapitalizationMatters

A hash-tagged phrase that lacks capital letters allows the reader to misinterpret your meaning,

#Nowthatcherisdead was mistakenly interpreted by many who began to eulogize Cher.

#ImagineTheResponses

Social media, particularly Twitter, is a platform for users to speak their minds. Before you choose your hashtag, think about the positive and negative responses that will be sparked. If a hashtag is too broad or controversial, your message may be mocked.

#QantasLuxury. Not widely known for its great customer service or luxuriousness, Aussie airline Qantas’ social media team made a big mistake. They asked customers to enter a competition by sharing their experiences just one day after the airline grounded their fleet and locked out staff for 48 hours over a union dispute about pay. Disgruntled staff and customers took to Twitter in full irony mode!

#KeepItRelevant

Every brand, team, or company has a mission. Whether it is to sell products, win games, or recruit followers. It’s important to align the # with your product or service. Even though something may be a good cause, it may not directly apply to your purpose or product.

#RaceTogether. Starbucks launched this hashtag in an effort to raise awareness for the country’s racial divide. They printed the new hashtag on every cup of joe. Unfortunately, this # message did not apply to coffee. And while the brand’s intentions were clearly for justice, they missed the mark in getting involved.

Always remember to #Wisely.

Facebook’s Fireside Chat

It is often said that with great power comes great responsibility.

Returning from parental leave, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the 21st Century version of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chat.” Mr. Zuckerberg used his social media platform to announce that his company may have inadvertently participated in Russia’s tampering of the 2016 presidential election.

Photo Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

After hiring numerous investigators, Facebook discovered approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June 2015 to May 2017 associated with some 3,000 smear ads believed to be related to Russian ads during the election period.

In response to the findings, CNBC reports Mr. Zuckerberg’s stance as “bringing Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency.” The social media site will no longer allow their users to be fooled by ad companies and those working with them.

By strategically using his social media empire, Mr. Zuckerberg was able to inform the public on the developments and how the Facebook plans to combat them.

Initially, Mr. Zuckerberg was blind sided as well, pushing back on claims that viral fake news stories could have any sway on the election, calling the idea “crazy” and saying that critics lacked “empathy” for President Donald Trump’s supporters.

But pressure on Facebook has grown over time.

Some congressional investigators saw Russian activity on Facebook as key to understanding the extent of Moscow’s influence on the election. Before Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook video, Federal Election Commission member Ellen Weintraub called for an overhaul of disclaimer rules around political advertisements on the internet.

Followup interviews with Elliot Schrage, VP of Policy and Communications revealed that the vast majority of Facebook’s over 5 million advertisers use self-service tools. “This allows individuals or businesses to create a Facebook Page, attach a credit card or some other payment method and run ads promoting their posts.”

“We are committed to rising to the occasion, Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly. We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference.

Now, that’s a great way to use great power, responsibly.

In the Public Eye

It’s often said, the camera doesn’t lie. Nor or does it blink. The same can be said of social media.

Recently Mrs. Louise Linton Mnuchin, the new since-June wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin documented her posh summer lifestyle in Italy and France publicly on Instagram, complete with a parade of designer tags…”#TomFord,” “#Valenrinorockstudheels,” and #HermesScarf.” However, a brand spokesperson said these were not free products or compensation, The New York Times reported, for her “label-loving shoutout.”

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

But the public arrogance begged for a defacing of her Wikipedia page, which can be edited by anyone. Following this criticism, Mrs. Mnuchin’s Instagram post featured herself as she and her husband and Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell disembarked from a government jet.

Commenting on the public posting, a 45-year-old mother of 3 from Oregon criticized her photo op, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable.”

Grammatical error

Mrs. Mnuchin fired back defensively without the benefit of a grammar check….

“Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” she wrote.

“I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day “trip” than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours.”

And finally, “You’re adorably out of touch.”

Touché.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. But until recently, the camera has always been in the hands of responsible and professional photographers, videographers and journalists. Not in the hands of passengers documenting airline brutality or murderers recording their own deeds as selfies.

cell phone picture

Photo courtesy of: Time.com

Now everyone with a cell phone, and that’s pretty much everyone, is a documentarian, taking cameras and matters into his or her own hands. And thanks to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, et al, there is no shortage of airtime.

Traditional print media like the New York TIMES, which narrowcasts to only those who choose to pay for it, advertises its policy of “all the news that’s fit to print.” But these social media publishers have yet to restrict the freedom of their presses.

According to Wikipedia, Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was one of the greatest and most influential Westerns of all time. But today’s citizens offer cowboy justice at its best and worst because there are no filters on these cameras.

In our Los Angeles media training and social media training world, this is the phenomena of loose cannons. Executives  must be Ready for them. It cannot be the “shoot from the hip” approach taken by United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz recently. There must be a sensible crisis plan, designed, prepared and practiced in advance.

Crisis training would have explored whether it is the best policy to boot paying customers to make way for employees.  Then, not defend employees’ actions in the face of excessive force without being aware of the details: a passenger being beaten seriously enough to cause a concussion, two broken teeth and a broken nose.

Then, after a deluge of negative traditional and social media not abjectly apologize saying Dr. David Dao “did nothing wrong.” A more appropriate response would have been, Dr. Dao was badly mistreated. But for the safety of all the passengers on my airline, everyone needs to follow the orders given by my people, even if you think those orders are stupid or unfair. And for that, I will not defend his actions either.

The cost to United Airlines in dollars and reputation is impossible to estimate. Each passenger on that flight is now being reimbursed for the price of his or her ticket, which may set a precedent that other companies will be forced to follow every time someone pictures and posts a misdeed. Finally, the passenger who was documented being dragged bloodied and broken down the aisle by countless cell phones is very likely to sue and is from Asia, an important market for the company.

The lesson, of course, is to get in front of a crisis, but to do it correctly. As the victimized doctor’s code would suggest, “First, do no harm.” And not respond impulsively without planning or design.

The world wide web offers the broadest of broadcasting possibilities to everyone who holds a cell phone. And that’s pretty much everyone.

 

Publicity Pitfalls

In today’s media climate, celebrity endorsements can be a slippery slope. Sloppy social media posts are one thing, but how do brands react when the public figures they sponsor receive bad publicity? Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte made international waves surrounding the scandal of the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which he accused Brazilian police of robbing him and two fellow swimmers at gunpoint. The allegations proved false, leaving Mr. Lochte in hot water with his sponsors!

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

But the choice to abandon an athlete is not as simple as it sounds. Internet analysis conducted by marketing technology company Amobee showed that social commentary on the incident was generally neutral and sometimes positive.

Depending on the misdemeanor, it can actually benefit a brand to maintain their sponsorship and support. Earlier this year, tennis player Maria Sharapova received a two-year suspension after failing a drug test, but major sponsors Nike, Head and Evian applauded her as a “role model and woman of integrity” after her public apology–and social media largely agreed.

Gold medal companies Speedo and Ralph Lauren quickly dropped their sponsorships of Mr. Lochte amounting to $1 million. Speedo made the statement: “We cannot condone behaviour that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.” But such brands must be careful, too, when making statements about actions “counter to the values” for which they stand. Speedo was also accused of “technological doping” with their performance-enhancing LZR Racer suits, banned from the Olympics in 2010.

Renowned swimming teammate Michael Phelps has shown support for Mr. Lochte, long after he was dropped from sponsorships himself amidst public scrutiny–most notably in 2009 from Kellogg’s for a controversial photo in which he was shown smoking marijuana. Mr. Phelps has since recovered his image and made his scandal a thing of the past.

Whether it benefitted Speedo and Ralph Lauren to leave Mr. Lochte or not, he seems to be moving forward as other brands are diving in. Most recently, he has teamed up with Robocopp, a company that produces personal alarms, and this is a commercial you’ll have to see to believe:

Video Courtesy News Views 88,70,423

Even Mr. Lochte must recognize how unbelievable the irony is.

Out of the mouth of babes

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message,” which could not be more true in today’s modern age. The internet and social media have given voice to so many who would be otherwise unheard. Perhaps the most fascinating voices are those that have a better grasp of the new media than its predecessors — those under the age of 18. Watch this impassioned video of 16-year-old environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.

Video Courtesy Earth Guardians

Youth speaking out on societal issues is not a new phenomenon, Severn Cullis-Suzuki gave a similarly fervent speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. But only with the recent advent of social media have their shots been heard around the world.

Perhaps driven by an innocent naiveté, or perhaps by the honest, blunt nature of youth, but the youngest generation is not afraid to speak on controversial topics and to ask the questions many adults would not. Eleven-year-old Matthew Schricker did so recently when he questioned Mike Pence’s “softening” role in Donald Trump’s campaign:

Video Courtesy MiNews

When surrounded by media mistakes and poorly worded soundbites, it is comforting to hear such candidness, wit and substance from the future leaders of America.

Sloppy spokespeople

There’s a trend among the most recent spokespeople to simply copy, paste and post their sponsors’ social media directions.  In the past two months, Scott Disick of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, model Naomi Campbell, and Real Housewife Ramona Singer were all caught carelessly posting messages from their sponsors instead of their own endorsements. And all three have been victims of online ridicule from their own Instagram inattention.

Mr. Disick (see photo) who is no stranger to mockery as a consequence of the show that made him famous, was met with Tweets like “You know you failed at life when you can’t even copy x paste. @ScottDisick” from @AMstudiio and “Stop making stupid people famous! Scott Disick cut/pasted an email from a marketing team onto his Instagram caption from @loudspike.

scott disick

Photo Courtesy www.usmagazine.com

These sponsored posts typically earn the celebrity thousands of dollars, yet it seems that this is not enough to buy their effort and conscientiousness. At the end of the day, it is the celebrities themselves who lose credibility and are embarrassed by the public reaction, forcing them to correct the post–but not before it is screenshot and pasted all over Twitter.

Though it probably is no great loss to reputable companies like Adidas, they might think twice before continuing endorsement contracts with Ms. Campbell after she captioned her Instagram post,

“Naomi,

So nice to see you in good spirits!!! Could you put something like:

Thanks to my friend @gary.aspden and all at adidas – loving these adidas 350 SPZL from the adidas Spezial range. @adidasoriginals.”

Ms. Singer’s post for Rodan + Fields addressed her in the third person as she was advised:

“Here is the draft with some language for the post – if we could have Ramona add something personal in about why she feels confident going makeup free that would be great. Happy to make any changes you’d like. The link to R+F is linked to her personal page on their site and the Instagram is linked to her acct as well.’

In our Los Angeles media coaching, READY FOR MEDIA advises spokespeople to carefully review and prepare their messages for the most credible representation of themselves and their sponsors. The realm of social media is increasingly being utilized for endorsements to connect celebrities with a sponsors, products and their audiences. Because of the permanent nature of internet content (whether the original is deleted or not), these posts need to be prepared with as much diligence as live soundbites.

Only time will tell if these celebrities and their marketing teams will be asked to continue these sponsored endorsements, but hopefully it only takes once to learn this lesson. One would think that when the caption is already written word-for-word that the job of the poster is simple enough.

Down but not Out

Outnumbered but not outclassed, House Democrats fought for the right to be heard on gun control. A veteran civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) was the spokesperson for the 170 lawmakers who staged a 26-hour sit-in on the House floor before the 4th of July adjournment. He also tweeted this soundbite,

“We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.”

Photo Courtesy www.esquire.com

Photo Courtesy www.esquire.com

According to Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC),
“We are going back to our Congressional districts — we are going to engage our constituents on this subject, and we will not allow this body (Congress) to feel as comfortable as in the past. On July 5, we will return, and at that time we will be operating on a new sense of purpose.”

The sit-in became a social media happening after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) banned cameras by labeling the sit-in as nothing more than a “publicity stunt.” Tweets sent by Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA) and periscope broadcasts by Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) were viewed on C-SPAN over 1 million times and the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor were tweeted over 1.4 million times, according to Twitter. The Republican’s response #StopTheStunt was tweeted about half as much.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), a prominent gun control advocate following the Sandy Hook grade school massacre in 2012 and who led a nearly 15-hour filibuster in the Senate last week asking lawmakers to vote on gun reform, walked over and joined the sit-in. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), llinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined the group, as well.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina acknowledged,

“Eventually we’ll find a compromise, because the need is too real.”

Democrats answered by breaking into a rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” changing the lines to “We shall pass a bill, someday.”

Controversy is one of the C’s of Communication we preach to clients at READY FOR MEDIA, along with clarity, candor and confidence. A sit-in is a peaceful yet powerful way to outcry societal issues. With the help of social media and this traditional form of protest, the Democrats gained public awareness on the importance of gun control and what needs to be done to bring about change.

Sometimes, you have to make your own news!

Dotting the i’s

Fortune 500 companies sometimes can’t resist the social media mistake of subtle commercialization, which usually backfires. Here, General Mills eulogized their hometown legend, Prince, by being too cute with a Cheerio dotting the i.

Photo Courtesy www.adage.com

Photo Courtesy www.adage.com

In another General Mills advertisement from the brand, Hamburger Helper, their “helping hand” mascot, “Lefty,” a four-fingered, left-hand white glove was pictured and referenced.

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

“Respect for the home team. A glove can only take so much sadness.”

The social media backlash was immediate and intense, criticizing the product-pushing cuteness and insensitivity of these brands as the world mourned an incredible talent’s untimely death. The “tributes” were cancelled.

 “Pay tribute to the man,” Ad Week admonished, “don’t make it about your brand.”

Social media does not call for advertising as usual. It is a game that many established corporations don’t yet know how to play. Big brands must not play cute to push product in tragedy. From September 11 memorials to domestic abuse awareness hashtags, companies have tweeted in bad taste, attempting to jump on the pop culture bandwagon.

In media coaching, we usually recommend branding. But not in response to tragic events. If companies are going to insert themselves into the conversation, it must be straightforward and commercial-free.

When the Media Makes the Mistakes

Recently, the magazine publications of Adweek and Glamour used the power of the press without permission. Adweek featured actress Kerry Washington on its April 2016 cover with her skin lightened and her face photo-shopped. Glamour implied that comedian Amy Schumer is plus size by including her name with actress Melissa McCarthy, singer Adele, and plus-size model Ashley Graham on its “Chic at Any Size” special issue.

The two women objected on social media, taking to their Instagram accounts to address the situations. As a matter of principle, each took a risk by confronting the medias’ mistakes. But both were courteous and polite in their responses, stressing appreciation and positivity above all.

Photo Courtesy www.popsugar.com

Photo Courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Washington wrote:

“I love ADWEEK. It’s a publication I appreciate. And learn from[. . .] I have had the opportunity to address the impact of my altered image in the past and I think it’s a valuable conversation. Yesterday, however, I just felt weary. It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror. It’s an unfortunate feeling. That being said. You all have been very kind and supportive. Also, as I’ve said, I’m very proud of the article[. . .] Grab this week’s ADWEEK. Read it. I hope you enjoy it. And thank you for being patient with me while I figured out how to post this in a way that felt both celebratory and honest.”

Adweek editorial director James Cooper replied, calling Ms. Washington “a class act” and clarifying, “We meant no disrespect, quite the opposite. We are glad she is enthusiastic about the piece and appreciate her honest comments.”

Ms. Schumer also posted to Instagram, remarking that her permission was never sought and that plus size in America is considered to be size 16, while she goes between sizes 6 and 8. Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive quickly responded in a series of Tweets:

“…her longtime message of body positivity—& talking back to body haters—IS inspiring. (To me, too!) To be clear, size 6-8 is not plus. (Even size 12—frequent size of “plus” models—is smaller than average American woman!)… But women of all sizes can be inspired by one another’s words. So sorry if implication was otherwise, Amy.”

The two women navigated the media mistakes in such a positive, yet honest manner that everyone seemed satisfied; their messages were heard, and they received the apologies they deserved.