Oh, Robin Thicke—what were you thinking? In a growing trend of celebrities opening up their lives via social media for “fans” to ask them anything, Robin Thicke and television station VH1 teamed up to host a Twitter Q&A, in which Twitter users were encouraged to submit questions directly to the “Blurred Lines” singer using the hashtag #AskThicke. Not surprisingly, the Twittersphere asked him anything, and they weren’t blurring any lines when doing so. 

Inquiries about his recent infidelity, questionable song lyrics and why he is shamelessly trying to win his wife back through an album release flooded the hashtag. This isn’t the first time a hashtag has gone rogue in the hands of tweeters, and it definitely won’t be the last. Remember the #McDStories incident? I bet McDonald’s sure does. Or how about the #myNYPD conversation, which started with the best of intentions, but turned into a spotlight on accusations of police misconduct. These flaunted fails beg the question, though: what do you do if a hashtag that you or your company has started gets hijacked?

First, don’t panic. Any knee-jerk reactions will certainly lead to poor decisions. However, leaders within your organization (and if you’re an agency, within your client’s organization) need to know. You need to work with leaders on whether it is appropriate to make a statement or just let the conversation die down.

Second, monitor, monitor, monitor. You’ll want to identify any tweets that might raise more issues then when the hashtag hijacking started. Depending on the level of hijacking, sometimes responding with a good sense of humor is a route to consider; however, sometimes silence really is golden.

Finally, analyze the situation. Once the hijacking has died down, regroup to see what went wrong. Don’t let this scare you or the company away from managing Twitter chats and owning conversations. Instead, consider how the issue started, and think about whether it was the right conversation (or time) for engagement. For example, Qantas Airlines probably should have avoided starting the conversation of #QantasLuxury during a strike that caused thousands of passengers to be stranded around the world. Similarly, even though Robin Thicke was promoting his album, he should have known this might have not been the right time to open his life up for social scrutiny.

Twitter can, and should, be a great way to reach an audience. Just be sure to approach the management of a company’s handle, and any conversations in which the company engages, without a Thicke skull. 

 

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