Social media spotlight: Maldives tourism authority is the latest victim of hashtag hijacking
Getting the attention of potential travellers is a challenging job for tourism authorities, but there are good examples of campaigns blazing the trail: Love UK boasts impressive levels of fan engagement, There’s Nothing Like Australia’s campaign boosted fan numbers down under, and Tourism Ireland has recently picked up the Best Use of Social Media award at the Travel Marketing Awards.
Unfortunately for the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), similar success is likely a long way off thanks to a fairly disastrous first attempt at a social media campaign.
Tentatively dipping its toes into the waters of Twitter, the authority asked followers to tweet their experiences of the Maldives, with the view to getting hashtag #SunnySideofLife trending globally. However, anti-government activists were quick to hijack the hashtag with their own – far from idyllic – experiences, aimed at the current government which was installed after much-liked and respected former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed he was forced to resign at gunpoint.
Conde-Nast Traveller has branded the campaign a ‘travel-related farce’ while the Telegraph has published an article noting that the hashtag #SunnySideofLife has become a term “used by hundreds of people to highlight alleged human rights abuses carried out by the current government”.
Overall, tweets promoting the country in a positive way are thin on the ground, despite the MMPRC’s best efforts. But they do say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. At the very least the campaign is now (albeit inadvertently) raising awareness of issues that deserve global attention – addressing them might give the country’s residents a reason to embrace the #SunnySideofLife hashtag for positive dialogue, instead of capitalizing on one big social media #fail.