Lessons from a hashtag (or, why #sy is now sy)

sy social media consultancy

The biggest lesson for any marketer – or any leader, for that matter – is that we no longer have control. We demonstrated this in a very radical way when we launched our current brand.

The reasoning was sound: by choosing a catchy, short phrase and putting a # in front of it, we instantly turned it into a search term in Twitter that others could tap into.

Our research was pretty easy: see what was already happening on the #sy hashtag. Not much, as it turned out – and we were monitoring it for about a month. The only common thread was references to Sonic Youth … not a bad brand association.

Then, about two days before launch, we started getting the weather report from Damascus. Why? Damascus is the capital of Syria … or for short, #SY.

That’s okay. We can share the weather. We even tried to make conversation, but the weather forecaster wasn’t interested.

But as time has gone on, we have met some of the stupidest people I have ever come across. People who tweet foul jokes about sex, but can’t bring themselves to spell the word “pussy”. Instead … you guessed it, p##sy.

If you know me, you know I’m pretty easy going and will roll with the punches. But as the launch faded and we weren’t using the hashtag, and others were (to misspell “pussy”!) it was less and less a reflection of our brand, and more an embarrassment.

So without any fanfare, we’ve quietly dropped the # from sy. There are lessons for every brand here, we just made them very tangible. Here are some of those lessons:

  • Possession really is nine tenths of the law. Perhaps even 9.5. Trademarks and patents are okay, but unless you’re actively using “your” IP, it’s up for grabs in the public perception.
  • Your brand is what others say it is (especially online). Even if they’re not referring to you! Google (and Twitter search) doesn’t yet know the difference between a social media consultancy and a middle eastern country.
  • Your brand is in many places. We’re still finding the # in places we didn’t expect. There are so many places to be listed, which is great for search engine optimisation, but no fun when you have to update everything.
  • Facebook doesn’t let you change your company name on your Facebook page. Which is really ridiculous.

5 thoughts on “Lessons from a hashtag (or, why #sy is now sy)

  • Thomas Beagle

    The bit where you suggested that the weather people shouldn't use their own two-letter SY country code *was* kind of funny.

  • Simon Young

    It's hilarious in retrospect, and seemed like a good idea at the time 'cos no-one else was using the hashtag to refer to the country. Hey, if you don't ask, you don't get, right? 😉

  • Catey Potaty

    I hate that FB doesn't let you change page names or vanity URLs. Twitter wins, again 🙂

  • Catey Potaty

    I hate that you can't change page names or vanity URLs. Twitter wins again 🙂

  • @Mr_Madness

    Tip to put Twitter to better use –

    If you're looking for info on something popular (aka a trending topic in Twitter lingo) – be it breaking news, a major incident, celebrity goss or a public event (eg. Social Media Club Auckland), the first thing is to identify the assigned hashtag – protocol sign-off used by all tweeting on the topic (#SMCakl, in this case) – via Twitter feeds or a simple organic search on Google.

    Now, for all those who cannot make it to the event (and this to my mind, is the true beauty of collaboration), just Twitter Search the hashtag and all the tweets related to SMCakl appear. You could follow the feed in real time and thus 'attend the event' remotely; engage directly with attendees via tweets/ RTs; or tune in for a listen later.


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