#Hashtagging 101: The Best and Worst Examples

By: Alexis Santoro

Marketing trends are all about social media this, and hashtag that.  But what exactly is the infamous hashtag really about, and does it actually work?  Is the use of a hashtag a marketer’s goldmine, or just another trending buzzword?  We do know that social media has changed the landscape of marketing and communication, as well as consumer behaviors, so there’s gotta be something to it…right?

In searching for the truth behind the hashtag, I decided to look at some of the best and worst social media campaigns in hopes of becoming more #hashtagliterate.  For starters it’s good to know that the hashtag didn’t exist until 2009, yet has quickly become a marketing go to.  Most brands now utilize social media and a unique hashtag to support or drive a campaign, and it even has it’s own category within the AdWeek Shorty Awards (Monllos, 2015).

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.48.41 AMNotable brands who have used the #hashtag correctly include Redbull with
#PutACanOnIt, AT&T’s latest campaign bringing awareness to texting and driving with #X, and the popular TV show The Voice with #VoiceSave, to name a few (Monllos, 2015).  For me, the stand out #hashtag campaign was Always #LikeAGirl.  Not only did this campaign go viral and increase brand awareness, it is changing the perceptions and discussions around girls’ self-esteem.  The hashtag helped Always receive 76 Million video views on YouTube and 4.4 BILLION impressions from the hashtag (Monllos, 2015).  Ok ok, the hashtag thing had me at #billion, but are you bought in?

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.50.07 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.52.59 AM








Before we all start running to Twitter and Instagram to see what hashtags are trending or available, let’s take a moment to learn from some of the worst social hashtag campaigns.  McDonald’s #McDStories is one of the worst brand social hashtag failures, ever.  What was meant to be a positive place for customers to share their happy McDonald stories, turned into a PR nightmare in seconds.  Another epic failure was from the Canadian company, Research in Motion.  They failed to identify what their abbreviated hashtag would read to the public when promoting new jobs with #RIMjobs (yikes).  NYPD attempted to show good citizenship and openness with the community with #MyNYPD.  Timing and sensitivity to current events is everything when it comes to social media.  The NYPD did not take this into consideration when launching their campaign.

(BELOW EXAMPLES: From the #McDStories hashtag failure)
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So, what can we learn from the greats and not so greats?

Do:  Use engaging and actionable language in your hashtag. (Example: #tweetfromyourseat) (Kolowich, 2014)

Don’t: Launch a hashtag without getting other opinions and perceptions.

Do:  Use emotion. (Example: #LikeAGirl)

Don’t: Launch without checking to see if it’s already being used and trending.

Do: Show personality and keep it simple.

Don’t: Not listen and watch for negative use of the hashtag, and always have a plan in place for crisis management.

Happy #hashtaging!


Kolowich, L (2014, May 23). The Rules of Twitter Hashtags: Hits and Misses From 7          Big Brands. Hubspot [blog]. Retrieved from:          http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/twitter-hashtag-campaign-examples

Monllos, K. (2015, May 23). Check Out 2015’s Shorty Award Winners for the Best Use          of Social Media, Apps and Video A few big names and quite a few surprises. AdWeek. Retrieved from: http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/check-out-2015s-shorty-award-winners-best-use-social-media-apps-and-video-163627

Wagner, M. (2014, December 20). Corporate social media fails of 2014: big brands make         big mistakes.  NY Daily News.  Retrieved from:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/biggest-corporate-social-media-fails-         2014-article-1.2051168


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9 Responses to #Hashtagging 101: The Best and Worst Examples

  1. Lauren says:

    Ohh the #McDstories scandal…I remember that well! This was an interesting and educational tale of precaution before using social media without completely understanding its use. Hashtags like you said can be great but they have to be done correctly and with enough foresight not to turn into something else entirely. Twitter seems like such an easy way to promote and get conversations started with hashtags and live tweet conversations…because only fans would go and contribute, right?

    This reminds me of earlier in June this year when the new “Grey” book came out by the
    Fifty Shades author E.L. James and they decided to do a live tweet Q&A with Ms. James on Twitter using the hashtag #AskELJames. Oh boy…talk about a PR disaster. So many mean/funny/harsh responses came out of this one!

    If I stalk a girl and GPS her car, does that mean it’s true love? #AskELJames

    Did you write intentionally badly so people would suffer pain, but discover they enjoy it? #AskELJames

    Which do you hate more, women or the English language? #AskELJames

    The worst part might’ve been when they decided to block certain tweets and some of them were legit abuse victims. AND THEY CALLED HER OUT. Needless to say I don’t think her next book will be coming with any kind of hashtag on Twitter.

  2. Marnae says:

    Hi Alexis,

    This is such a great post. It’s so interesting how a simple hashtag can become a PR nightmare. I wonder if the companies who received the hashtag backlash tried to gain control over the conversation in the end. Overall, these are great tips to keep in mind for the final project. You definitely gave me some great pointers.


  3. Brittani says:

    It’s always an interesting when brands attempt to implement a brand social media hashtag, especially when they don’t quite due their due diligence. This will definitely always be an issue if companies continue to dismiss not only the influence of social media, but the lack of control. Companies need to remember that social media is best used for engagement purposes to targeted audiences and avoid hashtags that invite unwanted feedback.

    One of my favorites, other than the aforementioned ones, include:

    JP Morgan, business guru / giant, made the fatal mistake of opening up a question and answer forum when the company was on shaky ground with the public. It was such a disaster that the PR crew pulled the plug six hours in. YIKES


  4. Christin says:

    Hi Alexis,

    I was very interested in your post! I would almost call myself an avid hashtagger. While I sometimes use hashtags, like #LAA, #MLB, #AngelsBaseball if I’m at an Angels game to get others fans to see the photo. One time my hashtagging achieved my ultimate goal, Mike Trout, two-time All-Star MVP and the star player of the Angels (my favorite) liked my photo. I was on cloud nine! I also like using hashtags for humorous reasonings, or relaying a message that wasn’t received through my normal caption or the photo itself.

    When it comes to companies, everyone is trying to create a unique hashtag that it is almost not unique anymore. What is unique about them are the unsuccessful stories. They earn a company the lime light, even if it is negative. Very interesting! Thanks of sharing!


  5. Leyla says:

    Hi Alexis!
    What a simple guide to the world of hashtags! Easy to remember dos and donts. Indeed rather than building some rocket science behind hashtags better to use such checklist which will provide much more.
    As for the general position I agree with your post, hashtag is a new and very cool marketing tool if used in a right way. It helps to promote big idea very fast if designed well. Also #hashtagging became a trend and way to express one’s personality I would say which could be also effectively used by marketers. Some people add their own hashtags to each and every post and that’s how become popular if the content is interesting to others.

  6. Jessica says:

    #RIMjobs–So funny! It amazes me when professional ad agencies or the organizations they work for fail at things like this. Almost as if they just accepted their first drafts and never revised it. Or everyone at the organization is just really old and unaware of social media.

    Although I know what hashtags are and how they can be super effective, it kills me when I see a post with 50 hashtags and out of those 48 are irrelevant. I think people just cut and paste hashtags sometimes. This is a great guide to using hashtags properly! Especially after the yikes one above! Great post!

  7. Nicholas says:

    Hi Alexis,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog! I am of an older generation and not technologically savvy. I find your post very educational as you highlighted the Do’s and Don’ts when coming up with a hashtag. Recently, we studied the Always campaign and how it generated so many hits as the campaign and it’s hashtag of #LikeAGirl resonated with so many people.


  8. Ryan says:

    This reminds me of a story a friend told me this other day:

    His daughter was cleaning up the house and found their old house phone from the early 90’s. Her question to her father: “why did they have a hashtag button on phones before the Internet existed?”

    It’s amazing how quickly something like hash tagging becomes so ingrained in our culture in the first place, much less one so ill understood and poorly used. In my own hometown our water agency uses the hashtag #h2onoyoudidnt to spread the word about irresponsible water usage – a hot topic considering the State’s current drought conditions.While widely panned in the area, the hashtag nonetheless has sparked conversation about water consumption and continues to be used despite the silliness and pervasive hatred of the tag itself. Sometimes the bad hashtags can prove effective, and laughable all at once.


  9. Jessica says:

    Hi Alexis,

    I really liked the dos and don’ts that you listed out for hashtagging. I think so many companies go out there with an idea they think is great, only to have it backfire. I think your point about having a game plan if the campaign turns negative is a great point. So much of the crisis can be avoided or at least turned around quickly with a game plan.

    During the Superbowl Jaguar promoted the hashtag #GoodtoBeBad which their competitors took over to show all the negative things about the Jaguar brand. Having a plan in place would have saved a big headache for Jaguar.