We’ve been seeing an increase in a social media marketing tactic called hashtag hijacking. So, what is hashtag hijacking? Hashtag hijacking is a shady marketing strategy when a business owner or social media marketer uses a popular hashtag to gain attention for their product or brand.
This is often done without the permission of the hashtag’s creator or without disclosing that they are doing it for marketing purposes.
This article will explain some common ways businesses hashtag jack, why you should avoid this unethical social media marketing tactic and some alternatives.
Ready, let’s do this!
Examples of hashtag hijacking
Here are some of the most common ways businesses attempt to hashtag jack:
Using a popular hashtag without permission or disclosure
Now, technically, you can use any hashtag you want. However, if you’re using a hashtag without the permission of its creator or without disclosing that you’re using it for marketing purposes, you’re crossing a line.
This is especially true if the hashtag is being used to promote a cause or campaign that your business is not affiliated with.
For example, let’s say your local chamber of commerce is running a campaign to promote small businesses in your town.
As part of the campaign, they ask people to use the hashtag #shoplocal.
If you’re not a part of the chamber of commerce and start using the hashtag to promote your own business, you’re hashtag hijacking.
You’re trying to ride on the chamber’s campaign and get attention for your own business without permission or disclosure. This is not cool.
It’s offensive to businesses who pay to be a part of the organization, and it’s misleading to consumers who think they’re supporting a local business when they’re not.
Piggybacking on a trending hashtag
Another common way businesses attempt to hashtag jack is by piggybacking on a trending hashtag.
This is when a business uses a popular, trending hashtag in their social media posts without adding any value or context to the conversation.
They’re just trying to get attention for their own product or brand by riding on the coattails of a trending topic.
For example, let’s say there’s a trending hashtag about a natural disaster. If a business starts using the hashtag to promote its product, they are piggybacking on a trending hashtag.
Image Source: Verizon
This is not only unethical, but it’s also tone-deaf and insensitive. It shows a complete lack of understanding about what the hashtag is being used for and why people are using it.
It’s important to remember that when a natural disaster or other tragedy occurs, people use social media to connect with loved ones, share information, and offer support.
They are not looking to be marketed to.
If you use a trending hashtag to promote your business, you will not only anger and offend people, but you will also damage your brand’s reputation.
Branded Hashtag Hijacking
Another way businesses attempt to hashtag jack is by branded hashtag hijacking.
This is when a business uses a branded hashtag that belongs to another company in its social media posts.
Now when we say “belongs,” we don’t mean that the other business has trademarked the hashtag (although that would be an even bigger no-no).
Yes, you can actually trademark a hashtag. Read this article to learn how.
We simply mean that the other business uses the hashtag to promote their brand.
For example, let’s say you own a pet store and use the hashtag #petsmart in your social media posts.
This is branded hashtag hijacking because Petsmart is a nationwide pet store chain that has been using the hashtag to promote its brand long before you started using it.
Not only is this unethical, but it’s also confusing for consumers. They might see your posts and think you’re affiliated with Petsmart when you’re not.
This can damage your reputation and cost you customers. Or you could end up in court.
These are just a few of the ways businesses attempt to hashtag jack. As you can see, it’s a shady and unethical social media marketing tactic that can backfire.
Think twice if you’re tempted to use a hashtag without permission or disclosure. It’s not worth the risk.
How to avoid hashtag hijacking
Now that you know what hashtag hijacking is and why it’s a bad idea let’s talk about how you can avoid it.
The best way to avoid hashtag hijacking is to get permission before using someone else’s hashtag.
If you’re part of an organization or campaign that allows businesses to use their hashtag, make sure you follow the guidelines.
For example, if you’re part of a chamber of commerce, only use the hashtag when promoting your business to local customers.
If you’re not a member, quit being cheap and join the chamber.
It’s worth it.
The same goes for branded hashtags.
If you want to use a branded hashtag in your social media posts, reach out to the company and ask for permission.
Most companies are happy to let you use their branded hashtag as long as you’re not trying to sell them something.
However, it’s always best to get permission first.
Use Common Sense
If you’re ever unsure about whether or not you should use specific hashtags, err on the side of caution and don’t use it.
It’s not worth the risk of offending someone or damaging your brand’s reputation.
There are plenty of other hashtags out there.
Find one that you can use in your social media campaigns without causing any problems.
Speaking of which, by all means, give your hashtag a once-over. Sometimes they won’t be read like you think they will.
On this Nation Anal Bum Day #NationalAlbumDay we fondly remember one of the greatest viral marketing hashtag fails of all time, Susan Boyle’s Anal Bum Party #susanalbumparty pic.twitter.com/Wd8R9XYBuw— Derrick Graffius (@TK_Noodle) October 12, 2019
Hashtag jacking is a social media marketing tactic that business owners should avoid as it’s unethical, sneaky, and can backfire.
If you’re ever unsure about whether or not you should use a particular hashtag, err on the side of caution and don’t use it.
There are plenty of other hashtags out there. Find one that you can use without causing any problems.