As public relations students and practitioners, we all love a good hashtag or social media campaign. Often, hashtags and campaigns can enhance your voice on twitter, broaden your outreach and begin a discourse with your followers. All of which is great, but when you are a big corporation or a largely followed twitter account, you have to remember that your followers have as big of a voice as you do. Forget this component, and you’ve got a social media campaign gone wrong on your hands.
Here are a few examples:
#MyNYPD was a twitter campaign run by the New York Police Department that asked Twitter users to post a photo of themselves with police officers using the hashtag #MyNYPD. Expecting positive responses, this campaign went horribly wrong when people began using this hashtag to send in pictures of police brutality and other negative responses.
When JP Morgan asked twitter users to participate in a question-and-answer session with one of its executives using the hashtag #AskJPM, it seems as though they forgot to think about the level of distrust and anger people have over the role of big banks in the financial crisis. 7 hours later, JP Morgan canceled the campaign after questions like, “Did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?”
Back in 2012, a McDonald’s campaign backfired when the company used the hashtag #McDStories to geet their followers to draw attention to the brand’s use of fresh produce. Extremely vague, the hashtag brought back results of McDonald’s horror stories. McDonald’s quickly pulled the hashtag after being active for less than 2 hours.
The lesson to be learned from these social media campaigns gone wrong is to realize that social media makes it impossible to control where a conversation or a campaign will go. Before initiating a campaign, it is vital to go into pre-Crisis Communications mode and create a contingency plan just in case your campaign goes wrong; realize that some negative comments will arise and consider sticking to traditional uses of social media if your company or organization does not fit the potential for a positive campaign.

Source: #MyNYPD: Why It’s Impossible to Control Online Conversation

This guest blog was written by PRowl staff member Rute Barkai.

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