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Corporate America’s Hashtag Frenzy

July 30, 2014

Companies may be going overboard with their use of hashtags. As The Wall Street Journal reports, brands are trying to engage customers by prominently displaying hashtags on advertisements, product packaging, storefronts and elsewhere. They hope that consumers who see the tagged messages will then post something about the topic for their own friends and followers, using the same hashtag to help spread the message.

Hashtags can “extend the conversation” online, said Alex Jacobs, director at digital marketing firm DigitasLBi. In its TV ads, Expedia is running a #throwmeback contest, asking people to tweet the best photos of their past trips, so that they can win free vacations to visit those destinations again.

But brands have to be prepared for possible “bashtags,” said Josh Crick, digital director at Los Angeles-based agency David & Goliath. In response to Neutrogena’s hashtag #unseenacne, one man tweeted, “How about #FreakingGross?”

Lack of authenticity can also be a problem. When companies promote a hashtag, a disproportionate number of responses often come from their own staff, promoters or celebrity endorsers. Twitter encourages marketers to “tap into organic trending topics,” but they’re not always welcome in the conversation. In a campaign for home appliances, for example, LG Electronics may have intruded by using the existing hashtag #momconfessions. — Greg Beaubien


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