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Hashtag #hashtag

NewsweekSo it’s official!  Hashtag has been voted ‘word of the year’ by the American Dialect Society.

While the word has been around for decades, hashtags initially became popular on Twitter, where users would put them within tweets to make a larger comment or joke.   From there, it spread onto Facebook and everyday speech and a tipping point came when the only three words used on the cover of Newsweek magazine’s final print issue were preceded by a hashtag, making the cross over from web to print complete.

Twitter hashtags are a great way to organize tweets for common subjects or events, but people also use them as a way to connect to others over a good laugh. Once the twitterverse starts putting in their two cents, you get crowd-sourced, viral comedy. I’ve put together what I think are five of the funniest hashtag PR disasters that I’m sure will make you laugh:

  1. #Susanalbumparty:  Susan Boyle’s PR people are probably wishing they had re-read their promotional hashtag after missing its alternative message to Twitter users.  Causing great mirth on the social network, the unfortunate hashtag spawned a deluge of mock invites to the party until it was hastily renamed #SusanBoylesAlbumParty.
  2. #McDStories: Back in January, McDonald’s #McDStories hashtag backfired when instead of offering “good news stories” about the fast-food chain, users began flooding the tag with claims of fingernails in burgers and other nasties.
  3.  #WaitroseReasons: When the supermarket asked shoppers to complete the sentence: “I shop at Waitrose because …” using the hashtag #WaitroseReasons in September, it perhaps should have expected the subsequent tirade of jokes about the brand’s posh image – though many have said the way Waitrose responded turned the campaign from disaster to success.
  4. #MadeMeSmile: Vodafone was left bemused when Twitter users redeployed the PR #mademesmile tag to publish tax avoidance allegations directly to the company’s website.
  5. #QantasLuxury: Airline Qantas won the accolade of PR disaster of the year at the end of 2011 after opening up their promotional hashtag #QantasLuxury at a time when thousands of passengers were stranded overseas.hashtag

Purists will of course say that hashtag isn’t in fact a word but a symbol (like exclamation mark or question mark) and that the real name for this symbol is octothorpe – not quite as catchy though is it?

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Holy hashtag!

The big news of the day seems to be the fact that Pope Benedict XVI has joined Twitter, although he won’t be sending his first tweet until 12th December – just in time for the Christmas messages I presume?!

Using the handle @pontifex, I am sure he won’t be sending the tweets himself [there’ll be a man for that in his entourage of course] but I’m probably not the only person who’d really enjoy seeing him bring out his Blackberry or iPad from underneath his cassock during an open air Mass!

Pope on Twitter

#ridiculous

The world really has gone mad!    We read today about another poor baby being given THE most ridiculous name I’ve heard of to date!  Crazy baby names are nothing new, in fact they seem to be almost de rigueur in some circles but Hashtag?  As in, well, #hashtag?  Really?

“Hashtag Jameson was born at 10 o’clock  last nite,” the proud parent announced on Facebook  last Saturday night. “She weys 8pounds and i luv her so much!!!!!!”  Spelling-challenged friends started leaving equally creative congratulations in the comments.  “Aww babes you finally had youre Tweetybird xxx,” one wrote.

Now this could of course be just another poorly executed viral marketing campaign but it’s well within the realms of possibility – if Frank Zappa can call his offspring Moon Unit and Gwyneth Paltrow call hers Apple, why can’t a non-celebrity chose an equally ridiculous moniker?

The internet has of course been awash with some slightly cruel hashtags of their own, including #Foolishparents,  #YourParentsHateYou, #StupidestNameEver but despite the initial shock of this most recent naming debacle, parents have always named their kids after things that are important to them, whether it’s a beloved relative, a hot celebrity or, today, social media.  In 2011 a couple in Egypt named their daughter Facebook, while in Israel another was named Like.  Now that little Hashtag has arrived, all we need is a tiny Twitter, a sweet little YouTube and a delightful Digg and the social media baby name trend will be properly established!

Let us hope that little Hashtag will find a way to avoid problems in the playground that will surely happen when you carry such a mighty burden, but you can’t help but wonder what it will be like for her in 20 years time when she has to explain what a hashtag is!

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