Memo to brands of all shapes and sizes: do not jump onto hashtag bandwagons, especially ones that involve bloodshed, unless you want to purposefully incur the wrath of the outraged.

The latest example of what not to do as part of your social media strategy comes from fashion retailer Kenneth Cole, so called after the designer who established the company. What’s worse is that Cole himself appears to be personally responsible for this inappropriate tweet:

Kenneth Cole in ridiculous hashtag hijacking

Oh boy… haven’t we been here before?

If you cast your mind back you may remember that Habitat pulled a similar move in June 2009 when it used hashtags related to the protests in Iran as part of its promotional tweets. It then blamed and fired the intern, and duly killed its Twitter account.

No such luck for Kenneth Cole, as the designer himself appears to be at fault. The Twitter bio for the account states that: 

“Thoughts that end in -KC are from me personally; others are behind the seams insights from my inspiring associates.”

Cue the backlash

This is why you have to be more than a little careful about what you say, especially when you it in public. People are in the process of being killed and bloodied in Egypt. The violence has yet to cease, anybody tuned into Al Jazeera’s live stream will testify. It’s unpleasant, and brand marketers shouldn’t be going anywhere near this sort of thing. 

To his credit, Kenneth Cole issued a clarification within an hour or so, though it stops a little short of being an apology as such.

“Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment –KC”

Fair play, though Lord Manley, who alerted me this hashtag faux pas, replied:

“May I respectfully suggest that @KennethCole would have been better showing this by NOT making light of the serious situation?”

One of Econsultancy’s 10 social media guidelines is ‘Always pause for a moment in private before you reply in public’. Another should be ‘Don’t go hijacking revolutionary hashtags.’ It won’t help you sell any more products, but it will – in Cole’s case – generate around 1,500 negative retweets an hour, if the current run rate is anything to go by.

Word to the wise: think before you tweet.