Hashtag Fail and How it can be Avoided

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Recently, I wrote about what hashtags are and how they can be used. I also warned against potential backlash and how hashtags can be used against a company or organization. While hashtags can be a really fun way to engage fans, it can also turn into a disaster very quickly. Just this week, we got another example of a hashtag fail.

A well-intentioned tweet trying to unite the community with the NYPD turned into a huge hashtag fail, April 22, 2014

A well-intentioned tweet trying to unite the community with the NYPD turned into a huge hashtag fail, April 22, 2014

On April 22, a tweet from the NYPD official Twitter account encouraged tweeters to  tweet a photo with a member of the NYPD with the hashtag #myNYPD for a chance to be featured on the NYPD Facebook page. It’s probably safe to assume the public’s reaction was not at all what the NYPD expected. Instead of fun, friendly photos with officers, users shared hundreds of images of police brutality. (Click here to see what showed up)

While the original intent was probably to get more positive photos, NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton welcomed all photos, good or bad in a statement April 23, 2014. “The reality of policing is often times are lawful, but they look awful,” he said. “And that’s the reality. As I looked at a lot of those photos, those officers engaged lawfully in their activities.”

Photos like this are probably more of what the NYPD social media team was expecting, source: NYPD Facebook page

Photos like this are probably more of what the NYPD social media team was expecting. Source: NYPD Facebook page

How to Avoid a Hashtag Fail

Think about the worst possible scenario. It’s sad, but it’s a reality. Oftentimes, people are much less filtered online and will quickly jump on a fail bandwagon.

  • Review previous interactions to get a feel for how users could respond to your hashtag
  • Check to see if the hashtag has been used before and in what context it was used
  • Search for the phrase online to see what comes up
  • Think about the absolute worst thing people could possibly post
  • Ask others who are familiar with hashtags what possible fails could come from the hashtag
  • When in doubt, just don’t do it

If there’s a good chance your hashtag could be taken in the wrong context or make you look bad, it may be best to just skip that hashtag campaign.

Hate the New Twitter Profile Design? Use TweetDeck to Avoid it

Twitter rolled out a new profile design this month, starting with a few select accounts in early April then rolling it out worldwide starting April 22, 2014. Naturally, there were very mixed exmotions. Many loved it, many hated it and many compared it to Facebook.

If you recently updated to the new profile and hate it, unfortunately, there’s no way to change back your profile to the old version. There is, however, a workaround that you just may love if you’re looking for simplicity (and it’s FREE!). As an added bonus, this Twitter tool can help you maximize your tweet power for social media marketing through Twitter.

This amazing Twitter tool is TweetDeck. It’s a Twitter app that streams all your Twitter activity in one clean, organized interface. Signing up is easy, just use your Twitter account and it pulls all your Twitter activity in instantly.

If you can handle all the Tweets, notifications & DM's flying down the page, TweetDeck is an awesome way to view your Twitter account(s).

If you can handle all the Tweets, notifications & DM’s flying down the page, TweetDeck is an awesome way to view your Twitter account(s).

TweetDeck Offers:

  • Monitor multiple timelines in a single interface.
  • Schedule future Tweets.
  • Turn on emerging information alerts.
  • Filter searches based on criteria such as engagement, users and content type.
  • Build and export custom timelines to use on your website.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for quick navigation.
  • Ability to mute users or terms to eliminate unwanted noise.
  • Real-time streaming – never hit refresh again.
  • Ability to manage multiple accounts in one place.
  • Choose a light or dark theme based on your preference.
  • Desktop apps for Mac or Windows
  • iPhone and Android apps
  • Chrome extension for easy access
TweetDeck has a handy Chrome extension for quick access

TweetDeck has a handy Chrome extension for quick access

 Click here to check it out!

Twitter: Everyone Gets the New Profile Now & What to Do If You Don’t Like It


Twitter sent an email to (some? many?) users Thursday to announce the new profile.

Twitter sent an email to (some? many?) users Thursday to announce the new profile.

An email sent to some Twitter users Thursday morning announced the new Twitter profile and included a link to “get it now.” News about the new profile design broke earlier this month with a slow roll-out to all users, beginning with a select few and as well as any accounts created 4/8/14 or after. It was unclear when users would be able to update to the new profile design or whether Twitter would notify users.

Users logged into their accounts Tuesday April 22 may have noticed a link to update their profiles. According to the Official Twitter Blog, Tuesday was the day Twitter started rolling out the new design to all accounts worldwide.

How Do I Get the New Profile Design?

If you did not receive an email or see the option to update your profile, click here to get it.

Below is a handy video showing how to update your account:

What’s New on the Updated Twitter Profile?

Read about it here or check out the video below for an overview of what to expect.

Dimensions are: header (1500×500) and profile (400×400)

What if I Don’t Like the New Profile?

As far as I can tell, once you’ve switched over, there’s no going back. Here’s an article detailing potential third party apps to display Twitter more to your liking for desktop as well as mobile. One site they mention to use is MetroTwit, however they have discontinued their services.

Your best bet (also recommended by that article) is to use TweetDeck. It gives a no-nonsense interface that makes it super easy to see your Twitter feed, notifications, messages and activity all in one place. I will say it made me feel a bit like I was falling with all that information flying down the page, but it’s super clean and very easy to use. And it’s free, so that’s always a good thing!

If you can handle all the Tweets, notifications & DM's flying down the page, TweetDeck is an awesome way to view your Twitter account(s).

If you can handle all the Tweets, notifications & DM’s flying down the page, TweetDeck is an awesome way to view your Twitter account(s).

I Got the New Twitter Layout!!! (& how you can get it too!) [with video]

I was so excited to see this message today!

I was so excited to see this message today!

As you probably already know, Twitter started rolling out a new profile design in early April, 2014. Unless you were one of the select few who got it initially or a new Twitter user, chances are you’ve been patiently awaiting your chance at the new design. Well, today was my lucky day!

How You Are Notified

You’re not. I hadn’t seen anything online explaining how you find out if/when you get the new layout. So naturally, I’ve been checking my profile multiple times a day to see if they had changed over my account yet. Last week, I noticed an account that I set up several months ago to claim but don’t actively use had the option of switching over, but mine, which I use daily, didn’t have the option.

Based on my experience, Twitter will not email or notify you in any way other than show the message in the image above on your profile page. So if you’re not checking your profile page, you won’t not know that the new design is at your fingertips.

What Has Changed?

A lot of changes have been made and critics are saying it looks like Facebook now, but that’s not a problem in my opinion. Twitter has been known as more of a text version of Facebook, so this just allows a more attractive layout.

New Dimensions

The new 2014 Twitter dimensions are as follows:

  • Header image: 500 pixels high x 1500 pixels wide
  • Profile image: 400 pixels x 400 pixels
Here's a template for the new header and profile Twitter dimensions for the update starting April 8, 2014.

Here’s a template for the new header and profile Twitter dimensions for the update starting April 8, 2014.

How Do I Get the New Twitter Profile Design?

Want it now? You can get it now! Click here to get it. Check out the video to see how it’s done:

I Have the Message, Now What?

First, I would recommend preparing your header and profile images, but don’t upload them yet. Second, I click the “Turn it On” button to make the switch. Even if your profile looks terrible with your current header stretched out to fit the new dimensions, just go for it. Then, once you’ve made the switch, go ahead and update your header and profile images.

How to Design a New Twitter Header in Photoshop

How Do I Get My Old Profile Back?

Don’t like the new Twitter design and want your old profile back? I’ve been searching for a way to switch it back and have not had any luck yet, so if you’ve made the switch and don’t like it, you’re stuck, at least for now. The closest I’ve found is there may be some third-party apps that will feed your Twitter how you prefer. If I do find a way to switch it back, I will let you know and post a tutorial video to show you how. But it might be a good idea to just get used to it and hold tight until the next inevitable design change.

The Latest Teen Tweet Trend: Terrorist Threats

Ugh. I’m constantly reminded about how grateful I am that social media sites did not exist when I was a teen. The internet barely existed, at least for the general population. We paid for internet by the minute and what the heck is wi-fi?

The reason I’m grateful for this lack of social media when I was a kid is also the absence of over-sharing and the glorification of stupidity. I may have done some dumb things as a kid, but there was an incredibly slim chance I’d end up as a hot news topic for anything I did. We didn’t want proof of our bad decisions and we certainly did not want anyone else having evidence, especially parents, teachers or future employers.

I also don’t envy the social media staff for airlines right now with the latest teen trend of tweeting threats to airlines. What was originally set up as an additional form of customer service for travelers has become a playground for mischievous teens trying to be funny and having no idea what problems they’re causing by tweeting terrorist threats to airlines.

Quite possibly the dumbest decision of Sarah's life, on display for the world to see.

Quite possibly the dumbest decision of Sarah’s life so far, on display for the world to see.

It started with a Dutch teen named “Sarah” tweeting a threat to American Airlines and the airline taking it seriously. Because it was a threat. The tweet hit the news and Sarah’s twitter account blew up with re-tweets and thousands of new followers. Perhaps other teens saw the instant celebrity status and followed suit, also throwing out threats to airlines.

Either way, this is not funny and needs to stop because it’s taking time and resources needed for actual emergencies and threats. Imagine if while authorities were investigating a fake threat that a real threat slipped by. Just like 911 shouldn’t be pranked, threats to any business also should not be pranked.

The Teens Are Probably Thinking:

  • They won’t seriously take what I say seriously
  • If I do this, I will be on the news around the world
  • OMG it’s obvs that I’m just a kid and not a terrorist
  • There’s no way I can get in trouble for this because I’m obviously joking. Obviously.
  • What are they going to do, arrest me?

The Reality

  • Yes, they will take it seriously.
  • Yes, you will be on the news around the world (the more people to help turn you in to authorities, my dear).
  • No, it’s not obviously you’re not a terrorist – anyone can create a Twitter account and steal a photo off the internet to assume another identity. No one has any idea whether you are who you say you are.
  • Yes, you can get in trouble for it because it it a terrorist threat and the government takes those seriously
  • Yes, they will arrest you. Just like they arrested the first girl who got famous for tweeting terrorist tweets to an airline.

Oh yeah, within days of her joking terrorist threat to an airline, aspiring celebrity Dutch teen “Sarah” aka @queendemetriax_ aka “Ibrahim” was arrested.

When the news first broke, American Airlines responded that they had Sarah’s information and were turning it in to the proper authorities. Many responded that Twitter would not release that information, but law enforcement can request account information if a threat has been made, according to their help center: “If there is an exigent emergency that involves the danger of death or serious physical injury to a person that Twitter may have information necessary to prevent, law enforcement officers can submit an emergency disclosure request through our web form.”

Learning From Another’s Mistake

While it’s not unusual for teens to build their celebrity through social media (i.e. Justin Bieber was discovered through YouTube) this isn’t the way you want to do it. Imagine a few years from now when Sarah is applying to colleges or for jobs and they recognize her appearance or name. Then they realize she’s the teen who tweeted a terrorist threat to an airline. If up against equally qualified candidates, would they want to hire her? What will her children and grandchildren think?

When you’re young, it’s hard to imagine all the repercussions of our actions, so on one hand, situations like this help demonstrate “what’s the worst that could possibly happen?” Situations like these show what not to do and should not be seen as ideas of things to do. Make sure the young people in your life understand the difference.

What the Heck is a Hashtag?

When I was your age, that was called a pound sign.

“When I was your age, we called that a pound sign.”

Hashtags. There’s no escaping them, even if you’re watching TV. But what are they, why are they important and what are we supposed to do with them?

What are Hashtags?

Hashtags are keywords, created by placing the pound (or hash) sign in front of a word or words without any spaces. On social media sites, when you create a hashtag, it becomes a link to all the other mentions of that hashtag.

For example, on “throwback Thursday,” the day of the week dedicated to sharing childhood and historical photos, you’ll probably notice a ton of #TBT hashtags accompanying these photos. If you click on the hashtag, you will see all the images and posts including that hashtag.

What is the Purpose of Hashtags?

Hashtags are a way for people to quickly and easily connect based on interests rather than location, network or social circles. For companies, it’s a great way to share products with people who are interested in them, but not (yet) a fan or socially connected to the company.

One audience I market to is Ford Mustang enthusiasts. While I am also a Mustang fan, I really enjoy marketing to other Mustang fans because they are very enthusiastic and let’s face it, Mustangs are pretty sweet.

So I can post a photo of a Mustang on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, but if I use the hashtags #Mustang #FordMustang or #Pony, I can reach an audience much larger than my current fan/follower base because those who are interested in Mustangs are going to be looking for photos using those hashtags. They love sharing and they appreciate each others’ posts, so hashtags are a great way for Mustang fans to connect.

Creating Social Buzz

In addition to connecting with others through hashtags, they can also be used to create buzz. If you watch Survivor, you’ll probably notice all the hashtags they use. This is to encourage social buzz online to get fans talking about the show and connect with others to spread exposure.

Hashtags are exciting for reality shows, because the show can flash a hashtag on the screen during particular points to get fans to start posting about the show on social media. It’s a brilliant strategy and it works.

If you watch Survivor at all, you may notice at the beginning of the show, they’ll use #survivor to get fans to start posting about the show. In fact, if a fan was online and forgot the show was on, these hashtags could remind them to turn on the TV. This benefits the advertisers during the show as well. They could easily post about the show with hashtags as well to expand their exposure.

During key parts of the show, Survivor changes up their hashtags to let fans know what to tweet about. They’ll post #ImmunityChallenge or #TribalCouncil to get social conversations going.

Some shows will even show tweets online to encourage tweeting among fans. They can ask each other who they think will win, what they think about results or who the most talented contestant is this season.

The point is, hashtags can start conversations that otherwise would not be happening and turn fans into advocates, exploding exposure through simple keywords.

How Do I Write Hashtags?

Always start a hashtag with a # and remove any spaces between words you want to include in the tag.

You may notice I capitalize each word in my hashtag. That may not be standard practice, however I do it as a courtesy and to ensure anyone reading my post knows exactly what I’m trying to convey. You can imagine the disasters that could arise if your hashtag was misread, giving it unintended meanings.

When Should I Use Hashtags?

Hashtags should be used whenever relevant. if you post a photo of a car, hashtag it with the model and fan lingo. If you post a photo of a local landmark, hashtag the name of it along with the city or general location. If you’re posting about how great it is that it’s Friday, use #TGIF. You get the idea.

Where Should I Use Hashtags?

Hashtags should almost always be used on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and popularity is growing on Facebook as well. You can also use them in advertising to create a social buzz about your brand or company by encouraging fans to use them on social media. Try to limit hashtags to 3-4 relevant tags for each post so you’re not bombarding your fans with too many or irrelevant hashtags.

Should I Use Trending Hashtags?

Use as relevant to expand your audience.

Use as relevant to expand your audience.

Trending hashtags are a great way to expand your audience and join in on local and global trending topics. Here’s a screenshot of what’s trending right now on Twitter  in the U.S. so if any of those topics were relevant to my business, I could use them to join in the conversation. I could also tailor it more locally.

For example, it appears people are having problems with Instagram right now. This could be a prime opportunity for a competitor to post something like “Instagram not working? Try NotInstagram instead: #InstagramNotWorking” [fictional example]

So anyone looking at that would see this alternative option and the competitor could potentially get a lot of business because of a trending hashtag.

Keep in mind, however that tactics like this can backfire. In this example, tweeters could respond to that post with “NotInstagram sucks, I’d rather stare at my non-functioning Instagram. #instagramnotworking #NotInstagramIsLame”

Taking risks can lead to some of the most brilliant marketing successes, but can also lead to major PR disasters. Be cautious.

Best Practices:

  • Use hashtags when relevant
  • Limit hashtags to up to 3-4 per post
  • Capitalize each word of the hashtag to remove any confusion of what it’s meant to say
  • Think outside the box to get creative with hashtags
  • When in doubt, look up a hashtag online before using it to confirm its usage or don’t use it if you’re unsure
  • Encourage fans to use your hashtags to spread brand awareness and create social buzz