Marketing Social Media

Viral Hashtags Like #SochiProblems Impact Brand Reputation

Seeing content go viral is a dream come true for content marketers, and viral hashtags can play a major role in this. However, just because something goes viral doesn’t mean it will paint a brand in a positive light. All too often, negative stories about organizations spread across the Web like wildfire and leave a negative reputation in their wake. Most recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been afflicted by its own viral trend issue. The hashtag #SochiProblems has amassed a large following on Twitter and throughout social media, leaving many people snickering about the IOC, Russia and the Olympics in general.

Olympic organizers have learned a very important lesson: They can’t control how their efforts will be perceived. The same goes for content marketers. Marketers can create fresh, original content, but once it’s picked up by social media, it’s out of their control. Unless there’s a solid content marketing strategy in place, that is. Being careful and measured in every phase of content development is essential, and crafting response strategies needs to be part of the planning process. Only then can a company prevent viral hashtags like #SochiProblems from being created or, at the very least, minimize such a hashtag’s potential damage.

This hashtag has been an outlet for frustrated journalists and athletes who were met with less-than-ideal accommodations when arriving in Sochi, Russia. From orange-brown water to missing doorknobs to nonexistent hotel lobbies, the hashtag has served as a means for interested parties to air their grievances. Some people are just chiming in on the fun from other countries. A college student even set up the popular @SochiProblems account to aggregate the best uses of the hashtag. According to Mashable, the #SochiProblems hashtag was more popular leading up to the Olympics opening ceremony than #TeamUSA or #Putin.

Unfortunately, Russian representatives haven’t been responsive to the complaints, and instead reiterated that conditions aren’t as bad as attendees are making them out to be. The IOC has taken some steps to encourage Russia to step up and fix the issues, according to NPR, but it may be too little too late.

The whole situation at the Olympics should act as a solemn reminder to content marketers everywhere: Viral content associated with a brand can be good, or it can be bad, it all depends on how the content is framed by those who share it. Planning ahead is key for a successful content marketing campaign. Without reputation considerations, marketers’ efforts could leave them with proverbial egg on their face. In short, it’s not enough to create good content, a brand has to be responsive and willing to make changes to accommodate the customers’ needs on the fly. That’s the world social media has brought and it’s only by engaging in it fully that a company can hope to prevent a #SochiProblems-level disaster.

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