A Hashtag is Worth a Thousand Words: An Empirical Investigation of Social Media Strategies in Trademarking Hashtags
Posted: 7 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 5, 2017
Firms of all sizes are trying to “join the conversation” on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, and are increasingly trademarking hashtags related to their products and brands. This new practice of trademarking hashtags has produced an important opportunity for empirical investigation. Trademarking hashtags can be a double-edged sword for firms that want their posts to go viral but also want to protect their brand reputation by restricting the use of their material. This study examines the impact of trademarking a hashtag on a firm’s social media audience engagement. By adopting multiple causal identification strategies to address the issues of self-selected trademarking, we find that trademarking hashtags plays a pivotal role in increasing social media audience engagement and information dissemination. More importantly, this positive effect is stronger for firms with fewer Twitter followers. We also dig deeper into the underlying mechanisms and find that trademarking hashtags makes writing tweets with certain linguistic styles more critical. More specifically, trademarking hashtags can amplify both the contemporaneous and lagged effects of writing tweets with desirable linguistic styles on social media audience engagement. Our findings have direct managerial implications: To maximize the effectiveness of trademarking hashtags, firms should develop the right social media engagement strategies by taking specific communication and linguistic styles into account.
Keywords: hashtag, trademark, social media, context-free linguistic features, information dissemination
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