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#WhyIStayed, Digiorno, and other corporate disasters

Every single Powerful Trending Hashtag has one thing in common: It offers a chance for a corporate Twitter account to stick its metaphorical foot in it and ruin everything.

#WhyIStayed was no exception.

“#WhyIStayed You had pizza,” tweeted Digiorno.

Nope, DiGiorno. Nope.

As my colleague Tim Herrera reminds us, Brands are People Too — and sometimes people make idiots of themselves.

Mortifying as the #WhyIStayed misstep was, it was just carelessness.

There’s been worse. December 7 will live in infamy — as, among other things, the day that Spaghetti-O’s tweeted a very mistaken brand tie-in in honor of Pearl Harbor. Spaghetti-O’s Pearl Harbor tweet was something that someone in marketing had clearly put actual thought into, giving the smiling Spaghetti-O a little flag to hold and everything.

And it’s not alone. As long as there are Powerful, Conversation-Igniting Hashtags, there will be Embarrassing Corporate Misappropriations of the Conversation. I’m amazed there haven’t been more like this.

“At @Hooters our waitress are #YesAllWomen”

“Halftime cheerleading over so soon? #BringBackOurGirls”

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

After Casey Anthony: “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!”

(And those last two were real, from Kenneth Cole and Entenmann’s respectively.)

The flip side of these moments is the fate that befalls many astroturf corporate brand conversations: When people take over a hashtag that was supposed to celebrate a corporate product by using it to amplify criticism instead, as happened with #CheersToSochi. The message to companies should be clear: don’t try to control the conversation, and when you contribute to one that’s already ongoing, your effort may not always be welcomed.

The Internet can be a firehose of indignation, when the mood strikes it.

On the one hand, I know that most Corporate Twitter feeds are manned by overworked interns who have their own grievances and are being presented with the usual impossible hampster-task of creating online: always more, always faster and always with no mistakes at all. It’s unsustainable. Some people are naturally hamsters and take to this mode of expression, rapid and relentless and always plugged in, but others just aren’t. Mistakes like this happen. goes a little far in its insistence that “brands should really just never ever tweet,” but it’s got a point. Brands should, I think, generally stay out of Powerful Trending Hashtags. The best-case scenario is you’ve showed a little oleaginous solidarity and gotten a follower or two hundred more. The worst-case is that you do something like this. It’s like showing up at a funeral to hand out deodorant samples. Even if they’re welcome, the whole thing’s a little gross.