I was at PubCon last week which is a very good show. It’s a geeks’ geek show about SEO and social media and a great place to network for new ideas. That said, one presentation really took me aback. A representative of an agency (name intentionally left out) did a “best practice” type presentation on hash tag hijacking. I was appalled.
For those of you unfamiliar with some of the black hat social media tactics, hash tag hijacking is like a repeated photo-bomb on a twitter hash tag, usually associated with a company or brand event. In the example presented, the agency represented a company that competed with one of Salesforce.com’s products. Salesforce was having an event and of course, being very active in social media, the company had set up some hash tags so people could follow along in person or virtually. Hash tags for events are a common and very good tactic. The agency in question built a white paper on why their client’s product was better than Salesforce’s with a side by side comparison then proceeded to highly promote the download of the whitepaper by leveraging the hash tag from the event essentially hijacking the purpose and audience connected with the hash tag.
Did they get lots of impressions – yes.
Did they potentially get a lot of downloads – possibly yes.
Did they create a positive and lasting brand connection – doubtful.
Did the agency alienate some prospective clients – absolutely, me included.
Many forget that in social media the world is watching… always. There is no place to hide so HOW you engage is as important as WHAT you engage about. I’m a big advocate for organic social media growth because social media is about engagement, connections and conversations which are not quick hit things. If you want to buy impressions use more traditional media like TV, print or banner ads, not social media.
True there is a lot of debate about the time required to build organic growth in social media and the trade off of the stickiness of organic growth (usually stickier) vs the hit and miss of other tactics. If you want 10,000 Twitter followers very quickly, there are tools and services to do that but it’s a body count, not a quality community result. Like growth hormones in meat, you get nice fat chickens in a few days but the long term health effects of eating that chicken are not good. Black hat social media is the artificial growth hormone of communities and they won’t stay healthy very long. Do you really want your brand associated with that?
As a CMO and CEO it’s important to understand these tactics so you can ask good questions of your agencies and not end up in a situation you’ll later regret. Also, you’ll want to include guidance about hash tag hijacking in your employee social media policies so no one (with all good intentions for sure – people are proud of the products / services they make) decides to have some “fun” at the expense of your broader branding strategy.
So skip the hash tag hijack and earn your connections the old fashion way – by building value and connection. Your connections may be fewer in number, but they will be huge advocates for your brand and over time be some of your best customer recruiters possible.
Remember, the world is watching… always. Make sure you leave behind the brand impression you want.