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#WhenHashtagsGoWrong #BetterLuckNextTimeNigel

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22 May 2014

The hashtag is the tool of choice for communication on Twitter and it's becoming a prominent feature on other social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

It helps create conversations, aids in the spread of news, and promotes events or organisations.

It's well known that use of social media can backfire dramatically (and quickly), especially when dealing with the sarcastic British public, and today Nigel Farage seems to be Twitter's unwitting victim...

Sometimes, when a hashtag is trending it isn't being used for the original Tweeter's intended purpose. This process is known as hashtag hijacking - or hashjacking - and it's common practice on Twitter.

When logging on to check my Twitter feed this lunchtime, I was surprised to find that #WhyImVotingUkip was a top UK trending topic and therefore one of the top 10 most Tweeted topics of the moment.

Wondering why the British public would be taking to their keyboards in their thousands to shout about why they were voting for one of the UK's most contentious political parties, I clicked to bring up the tweets and read on...

Upon closer inspection, the hashtag #WhyImVotingUkip was not as it seemed. British social media users weren't professing positive feelings and expressing their love for Ukip, but rather quite the opposite - #WhyImVotingUkip has been hashjacked!

It does appear the hashtag was intended to promote the party, with those posting early on keeping a more serious tone. Earlier on in the week, local Ukip branches were encouraging users to voice their voting preference, but it wasn't long before the hijacking began.

Despite the embarrassing backlash the official Ukip Twitter account seem to be oblivious (or at choosing to be...) to the content of the Tweets, sending a Tweet out saying "Great to see #WhyImVotingUkip is trending - let us know why you are”, desperately trying to claw back some credibility.

Ukip are not the first (and undoubtedly won't be the last) to see their social media campaign fail.

British Gas, McDonalds and even Gary Barlow are examples of recent campaigns that have started with the best intentions but ended up very differently. When promoting yourself or your organisation on Twitter, it's important to ensure that your chosen hashtag is used for promotion.

Consider all possible outcomes - and be prepared for a level of backlash.

One thing's for sure though; I bet Nigel is delighted that the whole of the UK Tweeting population is talking about Ukip and its policies on the day we take to the polls...even if it is for the wrong reasons!

Happy - and careful - Tweeting! Have a look at the feed for yourself on Twitter, conduct searches for hashtags before jumping on any bandwagons, and follow me whilst you are there... @amyjanebullock

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