A now infamous DiGiorno tweet attempted to hijack the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed, which was intentionally created to bring awareness to domestic violence.
DiGiorno, the frozen pizza giant, has become well known for its active Twitter feed, which often borders on being irreverent but is always funny. Recently, the brand went too far when it failed to conduct due diligence when latching onto a hashtag conversation already in circulation.
Hashtag hijacking gone horribly wrong
“#WhyIStayed. You had pizza.” might seem innocent enough and perhaps even humorous on its own.
The problem is that DiGiorno jumped in on a conversation meant to bring attention to domestic abuse. Earlier, #WhyIStayed trended with the creation of a forum for women in abusive relationships who opted to stay with their partners. The discussion gained prominent attention following the release of a video depicting Ray Rice, a former running back for the Baltimore Ravens, punching his then-girlfriend Janay and dragging her, unconscious, from an elevator. Following the release of the video, the Ravens cut Rice from the team. He was later indefinitely suspended by the NFL. The release of the video showing Rice punching his fiancée, whom he later married inspired the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. Numerous women tweeted their own experiences with domestic violence in response.
And then, DiGiorno apologized…and apologized, and apologized
Within moments of DiGiorno jumping into the conversation with “#WhyIStayed. You Had Pizza.” the brand was met with a fierce backlash. DiGiorno quickly took down the tweet once they realized their error and issued an apology, stating “A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.” The brand later released a statement once again apologizing and indicating that the tweet was not a reflection of their values.
In addition to the formal apology, DiGiorno responded to many individuals on Twitter that rightfully called them out about the tweet.
While some of the apologies above seemed to have called the mistake “rare,” they at least owned up to their epic fail and managed to keep their once-successful twitter feed alive and kicking.
Some brands would have completely shut down or abandoned their Twitter feed for a few years, such as Entenmann’s did after hijacking the #notguilty hashtag…
…which was related to the Casey Anthony verdict, and not at all appropriate for advertising snack cakes.
‘Look before you leap’ seems a bit too obvious of a statement, but brands continue to make this easily avoidable mistake.
“Hijacking” a hashtag (exploiting the traffic that a trending topic already provides on Twitter) is a legitimate social media marketing practice. However, you must always check the context of the hashtag or trending topic before you enter the fray.
There are many trending topics where a brand’s commentary will not be welcome. Tread lightly and always consider how your followers may react. Not everyone that follows you loves you unconditionally, nor will they be particularly forgiving if you are seen as insensitive.
Creating a hashtag may result in a ‘bashtag’
If your brand is creating a new hashtag, spend a few moments researching first to make certain it is not already in use and ensure that you do not accidentally wander into an area that should be handled with caution. And remember the lesson that the NYPD learned with their #myNYPD hashtag campaign disaster. Just because you create a hashtag, doesn’t mean you own it.