5 Biggest Hashtag Fails of All Time

If you’re doing any sort of social media marketing for your business, a hashtag can make it easier for users to find your posts. By using hashtags, your business is saying that your post fits within a certain theme or list of themes. Additionally, Instagram now allows users to follow hashtags—meaning your posts can pop up in people’s feeds even if they don’t follow you.

Hashtags may seem simple enough, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen our fair share of fails. Just one simple oversight can lead to a lot of embarrassment for your company. What better way to learn what not to do than to learn from those who have made mistakes in the past? Here is our list of the 5 biggest hashtag fails of all time:

1. #Cairo

Want an easy way to get a lot of views and engagement on your social media posts? Check out what hashtags are currently trending, create a related post, and include the hashtag. Just be sure you understand the context behind the hashtag so you don’t take advantage of a poor situation.

Unfortunately for Kenneth Cole, their marketing team thought it was a good idea to post about the trending hashtag #Cairo regarding the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. The tweet was immediately deemed inappropriate, insensitive, and tasteless. Kenneth Cole immediately deleted the tweet and sent out an apology shortly after. Unfortunately for Kenneth Cole, however, the tweet was screenshot by those who saw it and will live on in infamy—and on our list of hashtag fails.

Kenneth Cole Hashtag Fail

2. #McDStories

While some companies hop on what’s currently trending, others will try to start new hashtags of their own. Starting your own hashtag campaign can be extremely profitable if done right. If your campaign does go viral, however, just be sure you aren’t leaving the door open for users to hijack your hashtag and turn it into something negative.

Back in 2012, McDonald’s wanted people to share their fondest memories of the fast-food chain using the hashtag #McDStories. But shortly after the campaign started, users immediately hijacked the hashtag and started sharing horror stories about McDonald’s. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, once the match was lit, it was impossible to put out the fire.

McDstories Hashtag Fails

3. #OzsInbox

Here’s an idea—use social media to allow your followers the chance to pick the focus of your next piece of content. To let the idea spread, try using a unique hashtag. This sounds like a fantastic idea, right? Well, it is, until it’s not.

In 2014, daytime talk show host Dr. Oz decided to ask Twitter for topics of conversation for his next episode using the hashtag #OzsInbox. Though there were a few serious tweets, the majority of responses were mean, rude, and inappropriate. I guess that’s one way to find out what your followers think about you.

ozsinbox hashtag fails

4. #ItsGoodToBeAGirl

On social media, marketing is less about fancy advertisements and more about building a tribe out of the members of your target demographic and creating content that resonates with them. Hashtags are a good way to spread your message and gather more tribe members. What better way to meet new followers and connect with your current ones than to start a new hashtag campaign? I mean, nothing could ever go wrong, right?

Vera Bradley, an American luggage and handbag design company, decided to try their hand at a social media campaign using the hashtag #ItsGoodToBeAGirl. Sadly, most of the content created for the campaign fell flat with their target demographic. The ad copy was seen as offensive and “out of touch.” The worse part is, this was not only a social media campaign, but the hashtag was plastered on Vera Bradley subway posters and bus wraps. Oops.

Vera Bradley Hashtag Fail

5. #WTFF

Promoting a new product or service with a hashtag can be effective if executed properly. As you’ve probably learned by this point, the key is making sure to research the hashtag you want to use. Have people already been using the hashtag for something else? What’s the meaning behind the hashtag if it has been used before? Do the research so that you don’t end up on a future list of hashtag fails.

Burger King decided to create their own hashtag to coincide with the launch of their new low-fat french fries. The hashtag #WTFF was supposed to stand for What The French Fry. Unbeknownst to them, people on Twitter were already using #WTFF with a different meaning (we’ll let you use your imagination). This was a major oversight by Burger King’s marketing team and led to some unflattering heckling from Twitter users.

Burger King Hashtag Fail

Hashtags are an important and valuable tool for promoting your brand on social media. If there’s one thing to learn from the 5 biggest hashtag fails of all time that we shared, it’s to do your research. In each of the five cases we mentioned, issues could have been avoided if the marketing team had taken the time to do some simple research into the past usage of hashtags and the context behind them. Our advice to you: use hashtags, but do your research and be tactful. If you need any help with your social media marketing, be sure to contact Set Fire Creative today!