by Michael O'Neill
September 6th, 2012

Yesterday’s purchase of the trending topic (hashtag) #areyoubetteroff  by The Republican National Committee (RNC) has prompted some to argue the political organisation mishandled its paid Twitter debut. Weber Shandwick’s Jye Smith and Simon Dang have their say.

Social Media Fail — Simon Dang, vice-president of Inline Strategy, China

I wouldn’t recommend using an open hashtag when there’s millions of people who might bash it. It’s okay to use it for something that you might own and is not as controversial (for example: #WhoWillWinUSOpen, #ComeVisitChina). Use it as a conversation starter and then hijack with your content. If you are the Republican National Committee (RNC) and have lots of followers, wouldn’t it be better to let it trend naturally? Also, just forwarding the post with the open hashtag to Obama is asking for a response from his millions of supporters.

PR Fail —  Jye Smith, vice-president, digital, Asia Pacific

Everyone screamed ‘social media fail’ before the RNC could finish its 140th character in #areyoubetteroff. But I don’t agree. The reason for the failure of the hashtag was not social media itself but more the question posed, and the timing.  Why increase the risk profile of your reputation with such a question, only to make it worse by amplifying it to an even larger audience, the collective voice of Twitter? What was given away was not the control of content, but actually control of the audience (in terms of reach and frequency).

Anyone can tweet something from his Twitter account. Big deal. Yell it into the vacuum. But, once you kick off a hashtag about a subject people are so passionate about in a forum that is so widely used to express dismay at our first world problems, you allow anyone to join in on that hashtag, to follow that stream, and suddenly all opinions are heard by the widest possible audience.

Social needs media to go viral most of the time. But be careful.

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