If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, hashtag use is an everyday way of life. We use these hashtags to reach a broader audience interested in the topic in which we are posting. These hashtags are typically relevant to our posts and relevant to our business.

However, businesses tend to get into a habit of using the same hashtags or trending hashtags without looking into what is going on surrounding these topics in the moment. Hashtags are changing daily and it’s good to be cautious about what you’re using to represent your brand online.

Recently, a tragedy struck downtown in Charleston, SC. There was a gunman and shots had been fired at a local restaurant. There were helicopters swarming around our office, so naturally, being a social media agency, we took to Twitter and other social media outlets to find live updates on what was happening in our city. We started following Charleston News hashtags, such as #CHSNews and were shocked to see businesses were still posting their everyday call-to-action tweets about their business offerings. They hadn’t done their research surrounding this hashtag or had their tweets scheduled and had not put them on pause.

It’s important to note that hashtags do not have to be news-related to get your brand into a pickle. Take Entenmann’s 2011 Twitter fail for example. What started as a simple tweet about not feeling guilty about eating their desserts turned into a mess for the brand. The hashtag in question, #notguilty, was being used and followed during the Casey Anthony case. After backlash ensued, they ended up deleting and having to apologize for the tweet.

Cluttering up a site such as Twitter with irrelevant tweets in the midst of a crisis or an important event when people are looking for real-time information on a potentially scary or sensitive situation can quickly give your business a bad reputation. On a local and national level, it’s best to use hashtags (especially news and trending hashtags) with caution and not preschedule these types of tweets. With so much happening around us, social media managers and business owners have to learn to dial it down in the midst of a crisis.

A hashtag strategy has to be ongoing, even daily. It’s easy to check what is happening before you post. Simply search the hashtag via Twitter or Instagram and click on the latest to see what is happening before you post. While it sounds simple, it’s so easy to forget in the day to day posts of social media. It’s a simple tip that can mean a lot to your business’s reputation in the long run.

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