2013-10-07 19:57:59 - Public Relations Professionals should engage hashtag audiences early to avoid negative publicity.
Southampton, UK- A study of behaviour patterns in user-generated hashtags found follows power law distribution where the trending hashtag will out preform all other hashtags associated with an event.
In MSc student Laurel Lieb’s exploratory research, she looked at the performance of the top 10 hashtags associated with three different events. The findings show that the most used hashtag in an event has the early advantage of being created and used by early adopters.
“By looking at how a hashtag associated with an event preforms, we can develop strategies for public relations and crisis management professionals to incorporate into their toolkit for combating negative publicity,” explains Ms. Lieb, whose graduate work is in Marketing Analytics and also holds a bachelor’s
degree in Public Relations from California State University, Fresno. “Now that we see that an unflattering hashtag will likely not be replaced by a more desirable one, we can focus on taking on the conversations within that hashtags and address the topic head on.”
In her study, Ms. Lieb found that while the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour, #RoyalBaby was the most used from when social media and news organizations began coverage. Upon the announcement of his birth, #RoyalBaby grew exponentially, leaving all other tags far behind. #RoyalBaby also kept its most used status when the study looked at the amount of times the hashtag was collaborated with other hashtags.
“By taking proactive steps of monitoring and engaging with the audience that is using a hashtag, organizations can communicate with and ultimately correct any negative perceptions within that audience,” continues Ms. Lieb, “For instance, we saw with #McDStories, a hashtag was hijacked by negative and unflattering comments. Since we have seen that removing a negative hashtag, like McDonald’s did, and ignoring it, as in the case of #CNNfails both had a negative effect on the public image of a company, future research should look into the reverse, and see if by engaging with a negative hashtag early, public relations professionals can counter the negativity and ultimately stop any further use of the hashtag.”
Though further research is still needed, there are steps public relations professionals can take now, including utilizing software that searches Twitter for keywords and hashtags associated with their organization and industry, and use an authentic and human voice to communicate with social media users.
“Many companies have already begun to use social media to communicate with their customers, adding proactive measures like consistent monitoring of these networks, allows organizations to be aware of and possibly combat negative publicity.”