What AARP Learned From #ObamaIsNotSatan

Advice for Twitter marketers on avoiding real-time hell

On Monday, the AARP's Promoted Tweet buy for "Obama" turned awry when #ObamaIsNotSatan was a national trend on Twitter for several hours. The org was running ads (shown below) on the micro-blogging site to rally sentiment around protecting Social Security benefits that are being threatened by budget cuts in the nation's capital.

For the uninitiated, Twitter's ads platform allows brands to bid on keywords in a system that's akin to Google AdWords. Terms such as "Obama" can be purchased with an exact-match or a phrase-match feature. The AARP (which was gracious enough to share its experience with Adweek today) bought the president's last name via phrase match—and that's why its ads appeared for viewers who clicked on the #ObamaIsNotSatan hashtag. Marketers can also use a negative-match module to avoid their brand appearing side by side with controversial hashtags.

"We did that as soon as we saw this happening," said Tammy Gordon, vp of social strategy at Washington, D.C.-based AARP. "But the larger thing for brands is that you not only have to be tweeting and engaging during the day, you have to be constantly watching the trending topics. Who would have guessed that hashtag ObamaIsNotSatan was going to start trending?"

Indeed, brands may actually need so-called newsrooms in this social media day and age to avoid such bad luck. Though Gordon has an idea about what could make marketers' lives a little easier. 

"There should be an alert service for trending topics," she said. "So if you are buying a keyword on something that starts trending, there should be an alert system. There should be a Google Alerts for trending topics."

Sounds like a pretty decent business opportunity for an enterprising software developer, doesn't it?

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