NotguiltyThere aren’t too many rules governing the use of hash tags on Twitter – but there’s one pretty important one to pay attention to:  Never hijack sensitive, political or breaking-news issues to promote your brand or product – especially if it’s completely unrelated.

The latest example of social media failure – Entenmann’s trying to take advantage of the Casey Anthony ruling.  With #NotGuilty trending as one of the hottest topics on Twitter, Entenmann’s foolishly Tweeted: Who's #notguilty of eating all the tasty treats they want!?”

The hash tag certainly increased the company’s visibility, but the attention was all negative.  Entenmann’s was slammed on Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media world for their complete lack of discretion and sensitivity. The company later tried to clean up the mess, issuing a follow up Tweet claiming that they weren’t trying to take advantage of the Casey Anthony trial. I’m not buying it.

Another example: In the midst of the violent Egypt protests in February, Kenneth Cole hijacked the hash tag #Cairo.  Here’s what they Tweeted:  @KennethCole - "Millions are in an uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection.”  It was one of the worst Twitter fails of all time, and the company got flamed for it.

Here are some completely made up, just-for-fun Tweets that we could have seen if hash tag hijacking was actually an acceptable practice, and if Twitter were a little older:

Prozac: Are #UnemploymentRates, the #Recession and #StockMarketCrash getting you down? Talk to your doctor about #Prozac today.

StarBucks: Don’t fret about the #BostonTeaParty! The #BostonHarbor area may be short on tea, but our coffee has never been more #revered.  #RevolutionaryWar

Subway: Having a hunger #crisis? Go to #Subway today to get half off a large turkey, Italian or #Cuban #sub! ~ #CMC #Missile

Sports Authority:  Baseball season is around the corner. If your #GloveDon’tFit, be sure to stop by our store today for the best deals on mitts and #gloves. #Baseball #OJ

The bottom line: Hash tag hijacking is foolish and unacceptable in the social media world.  To hijack another phrase: Just don’t do it.

By: Greg Hakim
Twitter: @dreamhakim