When a #Hashtag Becomes Illegal

The infamous pound sign, now known as the “hashtag.” Originally used to preceding numbers, it had seen resurgence in the recent years thanks to social media, mainly with the birth of Twitter and Instagram. Marketing and advertising executives jumped on this band wagon early on. Not only is it not always appropriate, sometimes it use is downright illegal. That’s where things get scary.

You read that right .. illegal.

Hashtagging a brand may be completely legal for your common citizen, but when you are in the industry and use it with a competitors brand; you may be breaking the law.

For example: If you are marketing for Coca-Cola and coin the slogan: “Have a Coke and a smile, the others will make you frown #Pepsi 🙁 “ You could be unknowingly invading a risky territory. Pepsi is a brand name and when you are a professional in the industry, the law prohibits you from using other brands.

So, how do we know when and how to use the hashtag? Here are 4 rules to follow.

1) Never use in a marketing campaign. Unless you own the trademark, it is a big no-no. If you are promoting Delta Airlines from their official account, you cannot hashtag American Airlines.

I know what you’re thinking .. what about my clients? As a virtual assistant, you can educate your clients about proper hashtagging and encourage them to trademark their catch phrases and any respective branding.

Go through their respective hashtags and make sure no one is using them improperly or illegally, on a regular basis and notify your client if someone is doing something they shouldn’t be.

On the flipside, monitor your clients’ hashtag use and make sure they are on the straight and narrow.

2) Do not use during a promotional event. Hijacking another brands trademark may not be illegal during a twitter conversation but it is considered rude and very bad manners.

Example: Don’t use #VMAs2016 to promote the dress you designed for an artist. Trust me, that’s presumptuous and that sort of info gets around quickly.

3) Do not use when they have nothing to do with the topic. I would not use #DIY on this article when it clearly has nothing to do with “do it yourself” projects. That is not only misleading, it is annoying to readers.

Annoying = Followers leaving in droves.

4) Do not use in Twitter wars. It would be ideal if you could refrain from these wars completely, but we have all felt the need to engage in some type of heated discussion on social media at some point in our lives. However, keep it somewhat cordial and leave the hashtags involving brand names at the door.

Bottom line, use common sense and courtesy. It is certainly ok to use these in your personal life, but keep the hashtags there. #HaveFunWithThem but #KeepItProfessional.

About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:

Since 2006, Out of the Office has offered ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, content writing and offering creative solutions for your business success.