Guest Columnists

Industry figures share their views on the latest issues. If you have an idea for a guest column, email

| posted by

Susan Boyle's #hashtagfail: Sus anal bum party and beyond...

Claire Foss, PR and marketing manager at social media agency Yomego, discusses the importance of checking hashtags and lessons to be learnt.

Yesterday, the official hashtag for Susan Boyle’s new album launch event was announced. You might have seen it – and if you did, you’ll certainly remember it for its unfortunate, titter-inducing juxtaposition of hilariously naughty words (#susanalbumparty).

As soon as the hashtag was revealed, Twitter lit up with appreciation for this mistake and simultaneous cries of “hoax” and “marketing genius”.

Regarding the latter, I'm not so sure. After all, it’s doubtful that potential purchasers of the album will also be racing to the shops on the ‘success’ of this hashtag. And having these terms trending on Twitter wouldn’t be a key aim of a marketer looking to reach SuBo’s ‘mums and grans’ demographic. Though very funny, this one seems fairly certainly in the realm of a mistake – or even more likely – a hoax.

Main Content: 

But whether it was intentional or a hoax is almost irrelevant, because the lesson is the same. Something was published that didn’t help a brand. People ‘engaged with this content’ for all the wrong reasons. So it’s essential to remember that if you’re writing something on social media on behalf of a company, then you are still copywriting. And as such, you will almost certainly need a system of checks – just like subeditors on a newspaper or approvals on a press ad.

It feels almost too obvious to say – but with social media still often fairly low down a brand’s priority list – and as such, left in the hands of those slightly more junior in a team, it is worth reiterating.

Of course, not every tweet should be passing through a slow, clunky approval system. It needs to be fast and effective and appropriate to the organisation. Whether you’re a small business – and the approval system involves leaning over to a senior colleague to check spelling – up to a big organisation, where there will be several pairs of eyes quickly checking each tweet before it goes. And with something like a hashtag, you make doubly sure it’s appropriate – because you are asking others to broadcast it too.

But as anyone who’s ever worked on a newspaper or in an agency will tell you, even with every process in place, sometimes dumb mistakes still happen. Pictures are badly sited next to inappropriate headlines. Ads are placed badly. Typos make it onto the front page or into print. As any newspaper ‘corrections and clarifications’ column will confirm – mistakes are as close to inevitable as anything can ever be. But Twitter has no polite ‘letters to the editor’ – just an eager public, hungry for the next hilarious fail.

Humans write, humans proof-read, and humans are fallible. And should you find the mob at your door, then it comes down to how you deal with it. At this point, it’s a PR and reputation issue, and about having an appropriate crisis management plan in place, should the worst happen.

And if what happens isn’t the worst thing ever (and though funny, rude words in a hashtag certainly isn’t), then make sure that plan allows you to take things in your stride and respond without rising to baiters – and maybe even with a spot of humour too. For an example of how that looks, Co-op’s response to a cross-post yesterday was fairly decent, typo aside – and very human.

Have your say

Do you have a strong opinion on a topical industry issue? To submit a comment piece, please send a short summary of your idea to Views of writers are not necessarily those of The Drum.