When you give the public freedom to interpret a hashtag and share visuals or stories, even with the best intentions, you risk receiving negative contributions. However, this isn’t always a bad thing.
For example: If you’re a city that wants to launch a campaign with your city name (or something similar) as the hashtag and the goal is to get citizens and tourists to partake and share what they love about your hometown, some negativity does two positive things for your campaign:
- It makes it genuine; and
- It provides you with an opportunity to hear complaints, address concerns and make your city even better.
So don’t nix your hashtag campaign idea just yet, but do pay it considerate thought and assess the risks accordingly.
How to safely and successfully launch a positive hashtag campaign
In order to increase your chances of launching a successful hashtag campaign, take the following precautions:
Assess the risk
Realize that there will probably be negative contributions, but assess the “worst case scenarios” and decide whether or not the campaign is too liberal or if those negative contributions can add value to the campaign’s mission.
Choose your hashtag carefully
Do you think that it’s possible that McDonald’s #McDstories could have played out differently had they chosen a more positive hashtag? Something like #HappyMcD? Since a hashtag campaign comes with little control once it’s launched, it’s important to start it off in the most positive direction. If your chosen hashtag is too neutral, you risk it going either way. However, if you suggest positivity within your hashtag, yes you can still get negative contributions, but the chances of the campaign having a positive impact and garnering positive contributions is stronger.
If you assess the risk and decide to launch your hashtag campaign anyway, have a plan in place. This should include:
- A triage chart
- A response flow chart with suggested responses outlined for your frontline
- Determine points of escalation: determine at what point a particular comment / submittal / situation needs to be escalated to the crisis team
- A crisis plan that outlines what to do if the campaign were to negatively spiral out of control
Do not leave a hashtag campaign unattended! For the duration of the campaign, make sure your team is monitoring the appropriate platforms and use of the hashtag in real-time, 24/7.
The final question: to hashtag campaign or not?
Hashtag campaigns can be a great way to engage with your audiences and share some great ideas and stories. However, they can be very risky as your team will have very little control over the direction that the public takes your campaign. For example, in the case of McDonald’s #McDstories hashtag campaign, this campaign was launched over a year ago and to this day this hashtag continues to be used in association with any negative experiences and stories being shared about the fast food franchise on Twitter.
For your own sake, plan your hashtag campaigns with care and don’t just assume that they will go the way you hope they will.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.