Don’t Let Your Message Get Hijacked on Twitter

These two common mistakes could mean the mark of death for any Twitter campaign.

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A couple weeks ago, the NYPD launched an outreach campaign on Twitter. The goal was to get people to post happy pictures of themselves with NYPD officers using the #MyNYPD hashtag. Unfortunately, the whole thing backfired and the hashtag was hijacked by a vocal group of detractors.

This is sort of hijacking is a fairly common occurrence says Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting. Consider the recent #AskJPM fiasco, where a JP Morgan Chase executive decided to host a Q&A, only to cancel the session after being flooded with taunting questions.

In situations like this, DeBroff says the campaign is easily derailed because of two common mistakes:

  1. Failure to organize contributions from brand enthusiasts
  2. Failure to plan a response to potential negative engagement

While Twitter is a great way to amplify a message, it is also a platform on which people can say whatever they want. If you aren’t careful, your message can get derailed very easily. In the case of both the NYPD and JP Morgan Chase, Twitter turned out to be the social network of choice for some very organized protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement. In both cases, the protesters took over the hashtag, and the launching organization simply backed away quietly.

“Once someone jumps on the hashtag with very strong dissent, the enthusiasts are drowned out,” DeBroff says. “They don’t  want to get attacked personally or enter a highly controversial dialogue.”

In this way, Twitter’s amplification power can really backfire and brands need to think twice before launching a Twitter campaign. Once the campaign gets underway, you have very little control of the message. And in the case of the NYPD outreach effort, Twitter probably wasn’t the best strategy. DeBroff says brands need to consider which platform is best for the story they want to tell and the message they want to convey.

She says the Redwood California Police Pinterest lost-and-found project is a great example of a police using social media in a smart way. DeBroff says there’s no way such a campaign could go wrong. While the NYPD were essentially fishing for compliments, the Redwood PD were using to serve the community.

“There’s only one way to respond to that and it’s with a thank you,” says DeBroff.

RELATED: Lessons Learned from the #myNYPD Twitter Disaster