Twitter's super excited about Super Bowl Sunday, in part, because they've set up a number of forward-thinking social media marketing strategies with big companies like GE and Audi around sponsored hashtags. At the outset, it sounds like a real touchdown.(Pun unavoidable.) Twitter's so called "Ad Scrimmage" is a competition that pits big brands against each other to see who can generate the most tweets. Twitter gets traffic and engagement from advertisers trying hard to get their names out there, and advertisers, well, they just get their name out there. Take GE for example. In an interview with Fast Company's E.B. Boyd, GE's head of global digital marketing Linda Boff, said, "The more people know about GE, our technologies, their impact, and the people behind them, the more they want to partner with us, do business with us, and invest in us." With hasthtags everybody wins, right?
Not so fast. GE and others might might want to take a look at the recent fiasco McDonald's dealt with over its #McDStories social media marketing campaign. That one didn't go so well. Forbes' Kashmir Hill blogged about how the supposedly positive attempt to leverage a hashtag to start conversations about McDonald's ended up yielding quite a few nasty stories about the company's restaurants. Hill coined the term "bashtag" to describe the phenomenon. (One random example: "One time I walked into McDonalds and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDStories.") The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal called #bashtags "[A] very simple way to describe what advertisers don't want to happen" in a blog post. No we can't wait for Sunday, not because we like to drink beer and eat chicken wings while pretending to watch the game, but because we'll be reading Twitter to see what people do with those carefully selected corporate hashtags.