You don’t own your hashtag

November 28, 2012

Today the Obama administration unveiled a hashtag “#My2k” to push their “fiscal cliff” message that if middle-class tax cuts aren’t extended, middle-income families will lose $2,000 of income a year. Soon after, conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation purchased the following sponsored tweet that appears at the very top of any search for #My2K:

Below the sponsored tweet are people of all political affiliations and sides of the issue tossing in their two cents. Here’s a sample:

Some positive:

Some, not so much:

You can see more tweets referencing the #My2k hashtag here, where you’re bound to find many more opinions. The point is that by promoting a hashtag, you’re not creating a well controlled campaign for your message. You’re simply creating a higher profile platform to have a discussion about it, which I actually think is fantastic. The problem though is the discussion devolves into short 140 character quips which are high on snark and low on substance. Is it a jumping off point to more substantial conversations? Maybe. I did notice people interacting amongst each other from different sides of the debate, sparked by the hashtag.

This is one of those situations where Facebook would tend to be a better forum, where the length of posts are less restricted and people are forced to put their name behind their words instead of hiding behind the anonymity of Twitter. A service like Branch might be even better, where people are invited to participate in the discussion.

The other question is if the sponsored tweet by The Heritage Foundation is a smart buy? Jim Prosser at Twitter told me “we don’t share search numbers, but looks like the hashtag is at above 41,000 mentions for the day, which of course doesn’t include rises in discussions around the fiscal cliff or taxes.”

As far as where the promoted tweet appears, they appear at the top of search results. Prosser specified how these tweets are purchased and how their appearance occurs: “The Promoted Tweet that appears there is determined by a real-time auction where advertisers’ bids and the engagement level of their Tweets are used to determine a winnner (similar to AdWords, if you’re looking for an analogy — except in this case, there’s only one ad slot).”

It’s interesting that the White House may have indirectly helped to promote The Heritage Foundation by promoting the hashtag they’ve paid to sponsor.

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