Be careful what you #hashtag, or else you could wind up opening up the floodgates and find out that some of your customers don't really have the highest opinion of you. That's what Starbucks learned recently after a campaign to get folks to use the hashtag #SpreadTheCheer became a PR nightmare. Tweeters didn't use the hashtag to sing the coffee company's praises. They started bashing Starbucks instead for how it treats its workers.
And what's worse, the tweets were broadcast on the big screen at London's Natural History museum, where Starbucks sponsors the ice rink. Oops!
Starbucks offered an apology and said that the "inappropriate messages" were caused by a "temporary malfunction" in their screening system, allowing the negative tweets to go live.
But it isn't the only company that's gotten into some trouble trying to manipulate the art of the hashtag. BlackBerry-maker RIM tried to get people to tweet using the #BeBold hashtag and wound up being twitter-bashed. "R.I.P. RIM" and other harsh tweets went live.
Australian airline Qantas was also slammed over a Twitter campaign gone wrong. It asked users to tweet about #QantasLuxury the day after it broke off negotiations with its labor unions and Twitter ripped the company a new one.
Companies should really think before they ask people to weigh in on Twitter, because you never know what kind of backlash you're going to get. The Internet isn't known for its touchy-feely kindness when it comes to the corporate world. It's like the Wild West.
When you put yourself out there on Twitter, you've got to be ready to take some knocks.
Do you think companies are treated unfairly on Twitter?
Image via Starbucks