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Hashtag hijacking: What it is, why it happens and how to avoid it


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Hashtag hijacking is a form of cyber content attack that arises in modern social media microblogging platforms. It occurs when a hashtag is used for a different purpose than the one originally intended, such as tagging messages with undesirable content and surfacing this content to a target audience. In marketing campaigns, hashtag hijacking can have a significant impact on a company’s brand and/or the success of a marketing campaign. Despite the practical importance of hashtag hijacking and its numerous citations in the popular media, there has been little academic literature dealing with this emerging topic. This paper presents a first study of this phenomenon from a practical yet academically oriented perspective. Namely, it provides (1) a taxonomical classification of the different types of hashtag hijacking attacks; (2) a socio-technical data-mining methodology for detecting it at an early stage; and (3) a proposed response strategy informed by the traditional marketing literature.
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Keywords: Twitter; data mining; hashtag hijacking; marketing; social media

Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: February 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing is the essential peer-reviewed, professional journal for all those involved in the marketing of products or services using digital channels. Its overriding goal is to provide an authoritative, practitioner-focused forum to support the professional development of all those working in, or entering, the field. As such, the Journal's content is both of direct relevance to the practice of digital marketing and intellectually rigorous.

    Topics range from measuring and improving digital media effectiveness and ROI to search engine optimisation, from social media marketing to partner marketing, from mobile marketing to email marketing, website design, display advertising, pay per click and detailed marketing analytics. In short the Journal focuses on any of the established and emerging digital media, tools and practices requiring new approaches to marketing, branding and understanding customer behavior and attitudes.

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