More Hijacked Hashtags

Sure, social media is all about engaging your audience, but companies might stop trying to do so with Twitter hashtags. Two more companies' campaigns fell prey to hijacking: SeaWorld (again) and Mall of America.

Ask SeaWorldIn yet another attempt to improve its image, SeaWorld started #AskSeaWorld. Maybe the company should have known better: the promotional tweet, "Love #dolphins?" turned into an opportunity for people to bash SeaWorld's treatment of orca whales. 

#AskSeaWorld also created a chance for people and organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, to criticize the company. Slate called the campaign "a terrible idea":

"Let's be honest: This is all a very bad idea. The 'haters gonna hate strategy' is never particularly effective when you're a brand under fire, and while puppies might help, weird GIFs don't do much for the cause. So maybe SeaWorld's social and PR folks just really have no idea what they're doing. Even so, you'd think they'd have learned from the corporate failures before them. Twitter Q&As are a terrible idea. A well-meaning hashtag gives critics an easy way to assemble and voice their complaints in a public forum. Why companies still try them is a great mystery. Maybe they'll all finally learn from SeaWorld and give this one horrible PR trick up for good." 

Also this week, Mall of America in Minnesota started #It'sMyMall for people to post "moments and memories" about their experiences. But the group Black Lives Matter overtook the hashtag to recount a protest on December 20 when police charged people with trespassing.  


Discussion Starters: 

  • Do you agree with Slate's summary of social and PR staff at SeaWorld? 
  • When, if ever, should companies use a Twitter hashtag? What are the risks to consider?