#MyHashtagHijack. A hashtag safety checklist

by Ioana Jelea

#LikeABoss. That’s a hashtag invented by my social media friends to describe situations in which one dared to push the limits of common sense/safety/polite manners&co and actually rise above a situation that would most probably have required some degree of embarrassment on the part of  its perpetrator.

Like all hashtags, it works as a label attached to some of the items published online and which helps us identify that item as belonging to a specific topic. It symbolically marks the creation of a venue of conversation – #whatever’sonyourmind hall – that aims to extract, from the permanent patchwork of Twitter conversations a stream that has its own logic. Pretty simple and clever, isn’t it?

That is, unless you get the hashtag hijack treatment that has turned many a social media soldier’s days to anguish-laden, insufferable hours of punishment speeding by at snail speed – oh, will this bitchin’ never end? ‘t’was just a conversation starter, dear Lord!

The recent #myNYPD incident  stands proof that hashtags are sensitive creatures of the social media universe that need to be tended to carefully before being sent out into the cruel, mad world of unfettered online conversations.

So, what to do so as to still drop it like it’s hot, but not get burnt in the process? A few things come to mind:

a)      Look for controversy. And when you’ve spotted it, try to figure out whether you have the resources to handle it. Do you have the court jester rocking your social media department? ‘cause then you’re all covered as it’s in his job description to be able to handle verbal duels and even win some.

The NYPD hijack should serve as a textbook example for this. It’s the police we’re talking about, not some kindergarten trying to boost its image. By definition, it’s a coercive force which will serve and protect some, while kicking others’ bums, to put it the dumbest possible way. Are you, then, willing to let the arrangement of the planets and the potentially good mood of your Twitter users dictate the direction of your Twitter campaign? Not really. To me, the #myNYPD move was a big, loud cry for a kick in the institution’s social media gut.

Then again, remember the “Shit product” coup against Zappos that bit Kanye in the rear end? All it took was a clever answer for the whole bubble to burst. Are the NYPD’s social media communication guidelines as permissive as that? My guess is that they’re not. Could, then, this controversy have been turned to their advantage? Unlikely. Could they have just said no to the impulse of playing it (too) cool? Definitely.

b)      Watch your spelling. A Mashable hashtag hijack wall of shame pointed out a hilarious example of what your oh, too clever! Twitter followers can do if you give them an A.N.A.L.B.U.M. No matter how you capitalize the hashtag, please take a look at all possible combinations that might result from it so your # does not get memorable for all the wrong reasons.

c)       Irony and Twitter glee/Live together in perfect har-mo-ny! They won’t mess with your hashtag. They’ll just attach it to whatever proves the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. As proven by the Obamacare hijacks, this is what you might get when you’re fishing for compliments in murky waters.


Or just….