You’ve poured heart and soul into spreading your hashtag and it’s finally taking off. People are loving your campaign and posting merrily away. Then, you spot the first negative post on your social media wall. Soon, another follows and then another. There’s a pit in your stomach as you realise you’re experiencing the social media marketer’s worst nightmare: the hashtag hijacking.
The Two Sides of Hashtag Marketing
Hashtag campaigns are a beautiful thing. They help spread your brand’s message to the networks of your brand evangelists and beyond. Hashtag marketing makes excellent use of user-generated content by incentivising users to post content relating to a brand.
But hashtag campaigns have an ugly side as well. Anyone can make sure their negative posts land on your social wall, by using your hashtag.
Here’s how you can deal with three different degrees of hijacking and how to keep problematic posts off your social wall. We’ll take a closer look at the following:
- How you can keep NSFW content off your wall
- How to deal with content criticising your brand
- How to deal with a straight-up hijacking of your hashtag
1. NSFW: How to Keep Inappropriate Posts off Your Social Wall
Keeping posts that aren’t safe for work on your social wall is a basic step on social media. It doesn’t mean you’re being paranoid. You’re simply protecting your brand image. Almost all social wall admins play it safe these days by blocking certain terms or hashtags used in NSFW content.
You can block racist, pornographic, and derogatory content by outfitting your social wall with a sturdy blacklist.
Set up your blacklist by going to Walls.io settings > moderation and entering words and hashtags you want to keep off your wall into your blacklist.
Ironically, by showing you how to keep NSFW content off your wall, my blog post would become NSFW 😉
To avoid this, I’d rather just refer you to this list of bad words and this list of ethnic slurs on Wikipedia. Please, be aware that it’s not much fun to go through these lists. The only reason you should put yourself through that is to make sure your social wall stays clean of those words.
Like for like and Other Spam
You can also use your blacklist to keep spammers off your wall. You might not immediately think of this type of user when setting up your blacklist. But, once you’re hashtag gains traction, they will com. And if your hashtag goes trending, they will virtually flock to your social wall.
To avoid users who are just trolling for followers and likes, block the following hashtags:
Keep adjusting your blacklist settings whenever you find unwanted content using specific words or hashtags.
2. How to Deal with Criticism about Your Brand
While it’s okay to outright block derogatory content from your social wall, negative comments and complaints about your brand are a more complicated issue.
Even if these complaints are using your hashtag to sneak onto your wall, they are, essentially, criticism and have to be dealt with. Don’t just remove the posts from your wall without trying to deal with the situation first. Users’ complaints might be legitimate, so you have to address them.
Don’t alienate people
Don’t procrastinate your reply, but deal with negative comments as quickly as possible. Customers on social media don’t like waiting long for a reply. Don’t get defensive or negative yourself. There no use in further alienating an irate user.
If you’re dealing with a specific complaint by a singular customer, address it. Make sure to deal with those comments on the network where they’re originating. If you get a complaint on Twitter, reply directly to the complaint so it will show up as a thread. Deal with comments on Facebook by commenting directly on them.
Address public complaints publicly. That’s the only way to make sure that people will see that you are not ignoring negative comments. Of course, you can always take the discussion to a private conversation with the unhappy user.
If you made a mistake, own up to it. And if you made a mistake that could affect other users as well, make sure you own up to it publicly.
Publish an apology addressing the issue and make sure it shows up on your social media wall. You can do this by using your own hashtag or adding your own profile to your channels.
You make your apology post sticky on the wall by starring the post and activating post rank sorting. It works with every Walls.io theme (except Billboard)
If you have to apologise publicly, star your own post in the moderate section in your Walls.io backend to make it sticky on your wall.
Get offending posts off your social wall
People might use your hashtag to make sure their negative content gets seen by a wider audience — especially if your hashtag has gotten some traction already. Of course, those posts will automatically show up on your social wall as well.
Once you have resolved an issue with a user, let them know that you’ll be taking their post off your social wall.
You can remove unwanted posts separately in your Walls.io moderate section.
Feel free to remove spam
If it’s genuine spam or you find yourself dealing with a troll, just remove the offending post and move on. Keep an eye open, though. If the troll keeps coming back, you can block their account or username by adding it to the blacklist.
Block troll and spam accounts by adding their displayed account names or handles to your blacklist.
3. How to cope when you just got hijacked
It happens. Sometimes, hashtags get hijacked. I mean, it happened to McDonald’s!
One way to avoid hijacking as much as possible is by picking your hashtags carefully. Let’s be honest, the #susanalbumparty debacle could have easily been avoided if someone had just looked at the hashtag before publicising it.
If a hashtag gets completely hijacked, there’s not much that you can do other than trying to contain the PR disaster fallout.
You have no control over what others post, so you can’t do anything about their posts showing up on social media. The good news is that you can still keep the offensive posts off your social wall.
Step 1: Identify the perpetrators
If your hashtag is getting hijacked by a small group of people you have a chance to keep your social hub safe from them.
Find out which accounts are doing the most damage. If you don’t want to go through all posts manually, you can try searching for the offending words in the moderate section of your Walls.io settings. Jot down the account names that are doing the damage.
Step 2: Block the accounts doing the damage
Once you’ve identified the offensive accounts, you can block their Twitter and Instagram handles in the blacklist the same way you block hashtags or keywords. Simply add @ before their handle. Try the same thing for usernames on other channels.
To cover all your bases, blacklist the typical words your hijackers keep using as well. Delete specific posts that still sneak through using the moderate section in your Walls.io settings.
Your last hope: turn on “manual moderation”
If everything goes to hell in a handbasket, you can still switch to manual moderation in your Walls.io moderation settings. In this mode, you’ll have to approve each & every post manually before it can be displayed on your wall. But let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.
Don’t forget about customer service on social media
As you can see, a hijacked hashtag is not the end of the world. But hashtag hijackings are a good opportunity to think about how you generally handle negative reactions on social media. Ultimately, social media opens up another way for people to complain, and companies need to be aware that customer service extends to Twitter, Facebook & Co. Granted, things rarely get so badly out of hand, but it’s generally smart to be prepared.
So here are some general tips on how to deal with customer feedback on Twitter.
Twitter is a fast tool, so monitor your hashtag, your Replies and your Mentions diligently and answer any questions or complaints asap. No one expects you to be on social media 24/7 but make sure you check in more frequently when you have a campaign going.
Don’t be rude
Take the complaints seriously, don’t downplay the Tweeters’ concerns. And if someone gives you positive feedback, it’s considered good form to thank them, maybe throw a favourite their way. You don’t have to retweet every single one of the praise tweets like a robot.
Speaking of robots: Don’t be a robot
Twitter is personal, so you’d do well to approach each complaint separately. You might be reading the same complaint for the nth time, but every one of those people has only sent it to you once. Don’t get annoyed. Reply to them all, separately, and with equal amounts of respect. Try not to copy/paste the same answer over and over again.
Claim your space
While you should listen and react to feedback in a timely manner, you are of course entitled to keep the tone positive on your own website. Using a hashtag aggregator like Walls.io will allow you to moderate abusive posts from your campaign’s microsite.
Keep your cool
Please, don’t lose your head like the SeaWorld guys did. Don’t take it personally. Instead, take a deep breath and think before you hit reply. If you feel like your head is in danger of exploding, have someone else take over for a while. They’ll come at it with a fresh brain and will be calmer in their responses.
Know when to let it go
Once you feel like someone is purposefully not accepting your reply/explanation/apology and they just keep coming back to bash you – step away. Don’t get into a Twitter war with anyone. It’s never worth it and usually does a lot more damage than good.
Make it fun
And keep in mind that even a complaint can turn into a great marketing opportunity. Just apply some humour where applicable, like Sainsbury’s did 😉
I tried to buy some battered fish from @sainsburys but it didn't have a bar cod!
— Marty Lawrence (@TeaAndCopy) January 10, 2014
.@sainsburys I tried dropping you a line but this whole situation is giving me a haddock. What are you going to do about it? Let minnow.
— Marty Lawrence (@TeaAndCopy) January 10, 2014
Now you know how to keep your social wall free from NSFW content and trolls, as well as how to deal with a full-blown hashtag hijacking. If you have any more questions about how to manage your social wall, just let us know and we’ll offer some suggestions.