The rise in citizen journalism means that organisations need to constantly monitor what is being said about them on-line. Public relations professionals need to be the ‘ears’ and ‘eyes’ of an organisation and seek out what is being said about the brand.
And while it is possible to mostly control what appears on a company’s own social media news feeds using word filters and administrative pre-approval of comments, it is impossible to control hashtags associated with an organisation.
McDonalds learned this the hard way when in 2012 they created the hashtag #McDStories in the hope of inspiring people to share their memories and happy experiences associated with the fast food chain. The company soon discovered that it is the public who control the meaning of hashtags, and theirs was quickly hijacked to become the hashtag for horror stories involving McDonalds.
Burger King suffered a different kind of social media crisis when in 2013 its Twitter account with 82,000 followers was hacked. The hacker changed their logo and twitter handle to that of McDonalds and tweeted a huge number of tweets containing inappropriate contents and images. The hack went unnoticed for hours, by which time the incident had gone viral. The company not only learned an important lesson about password security and the need for moderators, it also experienced first-hand what happens when you are not constantly listening on-line. On the plus side, the food chain gained thousands of new followers because of the incident.
Despite often having ‘expert’ social media teams, some of the biggest and most tech-savvy organisations continue to suffer social media fails. Last year The Guardian published an article on The top five corporate Twitter fails and it makes for some very uncomfortable reading.
The moral of the story is, it’s no longer just your P’s and Q’s you need to mind, watch your Hashtags too…make sure your company is monitoring its online profile.