HashtagsIt can’t be over-stated how important it is to research a hashtag before you use it and to give a little thought to what people may do with it once you unleash it on the world. Sometimes the best intentions can go stunningly awry.

Some lovely examples for your amusement are below. I stuck to Twitter posts simply because they’re easier to embed, but most or all of these hashtags appear across social platforms.

Probably the most recent oops was #AskThicke which was intended to be a Twitter style Q&A but quickly became a platform to call him out about misogyny, divorce, his hair and his music among other things.


The Chester Literary Festival came up with #ClitFest and they even created a username @clitfest which was then suspended by Twitter…

Quantas thought they’d get a great deal of love from their happy passengers on the hashtag #Quantas Luxury. Which resulted in this gem on Youtube and countless tweets and Facebook posts.

And of course there was the infamous #MyNYPD designed to allow New Yorkers to share how beloved their police force is.

Hashtags have become so popular that according to Charles Seife on NPR’s Science Friday show fake accounts can be flagged as bots because they frequently use the tag #Bacon in their bios.

It’s not all bad out there though, there are some really great uses of hashtags
Take Audi’s R8 campaign, #WantAnR8 which resulted in lots of drooling car buffs sharing their dream car as well as a lot of dealerships getting into the game and being retweeted.

Hashtags have saved lives too
A soldier just back from Afghanistan was ready to end it all when he received a Tweet from a random steanger through the hashtag #SOT (Support Our Troops) created by @ThankASoldier designed to thank soldiers for their service. The soldier responded and started a conversation with the woman who sent the tweet. Here’s the story.

In May the tag #SanDiegoOnFire helped people share photos, keep up to date on the danger zones, locate and warn friends in the area.

Causes we rally around are a great use of hashtags
Look at the #BringBackOurGirls cause which rallied the world to discuss and act to stop the kidnapping of girls and women in Nigeria.

Thousands of people joined the #ForgivenessChallenge with Desmond and Mpho Tutu to learn the power of forgiveness in our lives to change us and society.

The government uses them too
During the Obama State of the Union Address people shared their feedback live on #SOTU and talked with others in a carefully monitored conversation. See the stats from SimplyMeasured in this Search Engine watch post, and Twitter’s own evaluation of the buzz below.

So what?
Well, I do try to end my posts with a little lesson. Go here to learn the basics about hashtags. Hashtags are great tools to find conversations, participate in Twitter chats and learn about all the amazing resources available through Twitter. They can be powerful communication tools.

Take the time to go do a search on Twitter for your hashtag or proposed hashtag and see what comes up. Who’s using it already? How could it be misconstrued? Ask friends and associates to look at it to see if it reflects what you think it does.

OWN your hashtags, Don’t leave them hanging out out there without a plan, give them love and rally your supporters to help. Explore common hashtags at Hashtags.org to learn more.

(Disclosure, @TheDesmondTutuis a client)