#Hashing it Out

Phil Lodico ⬥ 14 December

You’ve heard of brands buying their competitors’ brand names as keywords in Google’s AdWords program.  According to a recent TechCrunch article, the practice has spread to Twitter’s Promoted Tweets feature: HP has “bought” Apple’s hash tag.  In other words, HP has paid to have its promoted tweets appear when users search “#apple”, “#mac” and “#macbook”.

Of course, any Twitter user has the right to use any hash tag, and to make any word or phrase into a hash tag.  Hash tags are a community creation, not an official feature provided by Twitter.  For an overview of how they work, check out Twitter’s Help Center.

So what does it mean that HP “bought” Apple’s hash tags?  Basically it means that when users search for #apple or any of the other tags HP purchased, or click on them in other users’ tweets, the first tweet they see will be from HP.  This tweet will be clearly labeled as a promoted tweet, and from what I’ve observed, most are advertising deals on HP computers.

For many, Twitter is a great way to measure popular sentiment about a topic.  They search a term, then briefly scan through the first page or two of tweets in order to get a general feel for what people think about it.  Twitter actually just filed a UDRP against the owner of Twittersearch.com, (a play on twitter.com/search) where users can search for trends, based upon the value of these types of queries.

As with many IP issues in the social spaces, there is a lack of precedent on how to handle a situation like this.  Until that time, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of competitors paying Twitter handsomely for the opportunity to speak to each other’s consumers. 

Tags: AdWords program, Apple, brand names, Google, hash tag, HP, IP, promoted tweet, Social Media, TechCrunch, Twitter, UDRP

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