Blog Post
August 24, 2020

When Hashtags Go Wrong

Social Media Management: When Hashtags Go Wrong

Here at Diplomatic Enterprises, LLC, Social Media Management is one of our core competencies. In a world driven by instant access to information, individuals and companies must have a strong social media presence in order to increase their visibility and viability. 

We believe that a successful social media strategy involves more than simply accumulating Likes, Followers, or Shares. A successful social media strategy must convey useful information, align with the tenets of your brand and provide consumers with a desire to learn more. While it sounds easy, accomplishing these goals can be quite daunting.

Our years of experience have made us experts in creating social media campaigns designed to increase visibility, promote brand awareness and foster authentic communications. Additionally, we skillfully develop and manage social media pages for clients, both individuals and companies, to ensure that they create and maintain a coordinated and uniformed strong social media presence in their community and industry.

What is Social Media?

Social media is a term used to collectively describe a set of tools that foster interaction, discussion and community, allowing people to build relationships and share information. In other words, it’s the process of using Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube to show the world who we are and find out more about others.

Number of Users on Each Major Service (October 2019)

Facebook: 2.4 billion 

YouTube: 2 billion

WhatsApp: 1.5 billion

Instagram: 1 billion 

LinkedIn: 560 million (registered users); 303 million (active users)

TikTok: 500 million 

Tumblr: 452 million

Reddit: 330 million

Twitter:  330 million

Snapchat: 301 million

Pinterest: 291 million

Bill Cosby’s #CosbyMeme

Earlier this month (11/10) Bill Cosby’s social media team decided to tweet this: 

@BillCosby: Go ahead. Meme me! #CosbyMeme

At the outset, this social media campaign seemed harmless. Before launching, the team had to believe that the worst case scenario was most of the memes would be good-natured ribbing about the legendary comedian’s sweaters and his love of Jell-O pudding pops. This was evidenced by the examples his team posted on his website:

Cosby Team’s Thoughts vs. Reality 

@DanBarker: If you're wondering how @BillCosby's team *thought* #CosbyMeme would go, these are the examples from his website. 

However, what started out with good intentions ended in a public relations and social media hashtag fail. This case study focuses on: What happened? Why? What you and your social media manager can learn from this and how to avoid this debacle? 

Cosby, “America’s Dad”

Since his groundbreaking show “The Cosby Show”, Bill Cosby has been less known for his comedy, jaunts at the Playboy Mansion and movie roles and more known as “America’s Dad.” The show was based on Cosby’s stand-up act, which in turn were based on his family life. The show starred Bill Cosby as the father of the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class Black family living in Brooklyn, New York. Its success helped make possible a larger variety of shows with a predominantly African-American cast, inspiring shows from “In Living Color”, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and the show’s spin-off “A Different World”.

Cosby’s Numerous Rape Allegations/Settlements

Over the past few decades, Bill Cosby has been no stranger to rape allegations. On 10/16, at a show in Philadelphia, comedian Hannibal Burress’ accused Cosby of being a rapist. The video attracted a lot of attention and went viral and led to several more women coming forward with accusations against Cosby.

While Cosby is facing some serious accusations, which he may escape having to deal with in a court of (criminal) law, he is most certainly being forced to deal with them in the court of public opinion, which can have long-last ramifications. 

Another Example of Hashtags Gone Wrong

Celebrity chef Paula Deen’s, admitted use of the N-word and other racist jokes in a videotaped deposition led to her fall from grace. The lowlight of Paula Deen’s descent came when Twitter users @jeffuhz and editor Tracy Clayton @BrokeyMcPoverty, launched the #PaulasBestDishes hashtag, which alludes to her show of the same name. This prompted a flurry of responses to the allegations against Deen, which made their way to the number one spot on Twitter's trending topics list on June 19, 2014. 

@DdotRock: Oh Lordy Pick A Bale o' Cotton Candy. #PaulasBestDishes

@DarthJaeda: Swing Low Sweet Chariot Cream Pie #PaulasBestDishes

@MyNameIsTawanda: KuKluxFlan #PaulasBestDishes


The moral of the story: Don’t be a racist or a rapist AND social media is a gift and a curse. The adage that all publicity is good publicity does not exist in the age of social media. Being a trending topic because you won an Academy Award is much different than being one for harmful, incendiary statements. Paula Deen’s social media fame nearly cost her—her television show, endorsements and dignity. Cosby’s has cost him cancelled performances, the pulling of the long-standing “Cosby Show” and may cost him millions and his legacy. 

Best Practices 

  • Gauge Public Sentiment About The Subject Before Posting

If it seems controversial. You may want to think twice about posting. 

  • Delete, Delete, Delete

If you ignored the first point, mitigate the public’s response by deleting it. Although with the advent of screenshots, it won’t make it go away, but it will make it less accessible. 

  • Not All Publicity is Good Publicity 

See #MyNYPD #RedskinsPride #RepublicansArePeopleToo

  • Be careful what you ask for on the internet

No comment necessary. 


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