After news spread about the death of Margaret Thatcher, the first female British prime minister, so did news about Cher. Odd? Yes. Why? Frenzy broke out on twitter after an anti-Thatcher group created the hashtag “nowthatchersdead.” Confusion was created by the misleading nature of words being strung together without capitalization or any consideration of how the hashtag would be naturally read. People misread #nowthatchersdead as “Now That Chers Dead,” creating unfathomable heartbreak among faithful Cher followers.
This miscommunication demonstrates the required strategy and care needed when creating social media marketing initiatives. Being mindful of simple elements, such as capitalizations, can be the breaking point of whether or not the twitter world thinks Cher is dead, or Margaret Thatcher. But on a larger scale, advertisers should consider how their social media marketing initiatives will be interpreted by their target audiences and attempt to foresee possible miscommunications.
Another example of social media marketing gone rogue occurred with McDonalds in January 2012. The fast food chain created the hashtag, “McDStories” to let consumers share their memories and experiences with McDonalds. Instead, negative tweets surfaced and the hashtag took a complete 180-degree turn from what McDonalds intended. Tweets such as, “I used to like McDonalds. I stopped eating McDonalds years ago because every time I ate it I felt like I was dying inside. #McDStories.” Or, “One time I walked into McDonalds and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up #McDStories,” were flooding twitter.
The dynamic nature of social media marketing presents challenges to advertisers because, unlike other channels, the consumer can directly respond with either positive or negative feedback—an element that brands can not always influence or control. While hashtags are an effective tool for businesses to promote conversations and create buzz about their brand, it can prove easy to lose control of the intended message. Advertisers should consider how their topic might produce undesirable tweets about lunch or who died.
The takeaway: Be aware, consider multiple contexts, and use capitalization when necessary!