Twitter is a truly remarkable resource for everyone who spends any time at all on the Internet. There are so many reasons to be using Twitter that to not do so is ignoring a powerful tool that could be added to your social networking arsenal.
Having said all of that, Twitter should be used with caution. Send a defamatory tweet and you could end up in court; say something outrageous and you could end up being publicly shamed. Hashtags are another source of possible faux pas, especially for brands using Twitter as a promotional platform.
What follows is a list of seven rather embarrassing hashtag fails that demonstrate how this rather simple shorthand can go horribly wrong. Thankfully, there are lessons to be learned here. These brands, PR companies, and individuals made the mistakes so that you can avoid doing them too.
The Intention: To tag positive stories about McDonald’s
The Outcome: Negative stories were posted instead
The Lesson: Realize that not everybody will follow the script
McDonald’s had the very noble idea of asking people to relate stories about the company, obviously thinking that the #McDstories hashtag would only be used by fans of the fast food restaurant. Sadly this wasn’t the case, and the hashtag was instead used by Internet trolls eager to bash the brand.
The Intention: Now Thatcher’s Dead
The Outcome: Now That Cher’s Dead
The Lesson: Use capital letters to separate words
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was loved and hated in equal measure in the U.K., so when she died people took to Twitter to either mourn or celebrate her passing depending on their politics. In the U.S. “thatcher” became “that cher,” leading to false reports that the singer Cher has passed away instead.
The Intention: An acronym for ‘What The French Fry’
The Outcome: An acronym for ‘What The F**king F**k’
The Lesson: Make sure not to piggyback on existing Internet slang
WTF is a well-known acronym for “What the f**k,” so WTFF, for those moments when one f**k just isn’t enough, means “What the f**king f**k.” Unless you’re Burger King trying to promote a new healthier menu. Then it means “What the French fry.” Because people will obviously change a term because a brand told them to do so. Not.
The Intention: Advertising The Hobbit movie in Switzerland
The Outcome: Implying female Hobbits aren’t very nice people
The Lesson: Proofread hashtags to ensure they can’t be misread
The ISO code for Switzerland is, rather bizarrely, CH, referring to Confoederatio Helvetica, the Latin name for that region of the world. So, when The Hobbit was advertised in Switzerland it was labelled with the #Hobbitch hashtag. As if the movie wasn’t testosterone-fueled enough.
The Intention: A simple shortening of Chester Literary Festival
The Outcome: Giving a wrong impression of what will take place at the festival
The Lesson: Shorter hashtags aren’t always better
When the people behind the Chester Literary Festival wanted to promote their event they could think of no better hashtag to do so than #Clitfest. Fair enough, it’s a grammatically correct and perfectly legitimate shortening of the name of the event, but you don’t have to be a gynecologist to know that it implies something altogether ruder.
The Intention: Advertising openings at Research in Motion
The Outcome: Advertising a niche sexual practice
The Lesson: Don’t be too literal with your hashtags
Research in Motion, now known simply as BlackBerry Limited, wanted to advertise some openings at the company. And what better way to do so than create a hashtag to apply to all tweets regarding job opportunities? Unfortunately Research in Motion is shortened to RiM, and rimjobs aren’t something most companies want to be associated. Unless they specialize in pornography.
The Intention: Susan Album Party
The Outcome: Su’s Anal Bum Party
The Lesson: Don’t use words which can be misappropriated
The Susan Boyle hashtag fail has to be the most comical of all the hashtag fails we’ve yet seen. Here is a woman who is proudly virginal and even once claimed to have never been kissed. In other words she’s the least likely person in the world to hold an “anal bum party,” if such a thing existed. Which I’m sure they don’t. Do they?!
There is a slight possibility that some of these hashtags aren’t fails at all. In fact, they could have been made the way they were intentionally, and therefore classed as huge success stories. After all, as the great Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Do you use hashtags, on Twitter, Facebook, or elsewhere? Do you see the sense in using them or do you think the whole idea is bunkum? Have you ever witnessed a bizarre or just plain wrong hashtag trending? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.