Social Tuesday: The Year of the Hashtag, Part 2

Coupons are so yesterday. At least for American Express card owners, who can now load savings directly to their card by syncing it with Twitter. Instead of downloading or even printing and cutting out coupons, American Express Tweeps receive discounts for using special-offer hashtags. Offers are already available from a number of retailers, like Best Buy, Virgin America and Zappos.com (you can view current offers on the Favorites list on the American Express Twitter profile).

The biggest risk for the American Express Twitter campaign is that followers might get annoyed by too many promotional hashtags in their feeds. “Peanuts” for Mars, whose Snickers UK Twitter campaign was reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by British consumer groups for being deceptive. The campaign had the same concept as the Snickers Super Bowl commercial “Logging:” Participating celebrities sent four uncharacteristic tweets, followed by a fifth tweet explaining “You’re not you when you’re hungry @snickersUK #hungry #spon.” The problem: the first four tweets “were not marked as ads in any way.” ASA ruled that, since all tweets were part of a series, #spon (for “sponsored”) was enough, but @snickersUK never made it past the under 1,000 followers it had before the campaign (995 to date).

So what’s the lesson here? Hashtag marketing is coming, but appears to still be in it’s trial and error stage (see the cautionary Twitter tales created by McDonald’s or Qantas). Even a good idea can backfire. Before you launch a campaign, research, research, research. And don’t brainstorm hungry.

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