Obama tries a hashtag to avoid the fiscal cliff

The Obama administration is using #My2k to raise awareness about middle-class tax increases.

There used to be a time when you wanted to tell your congressperson something, you’d call or email or -- now how old-fashioned is this? -- mail a letter. Well today, President Obama held a press conference to talk about, can you guess? The fiscal cliff. The president took to the bully pulpit to urge Americans to tell Congress to keep middle class tax cuts intact. And he suggested that they tweet their opinions to lawmakers using the hashtag, #My2K.

A hashtag is a way to categorize conversations and pull them together inone place, but it can also be a handy branding tool, says Adrian Blake, the CEO of Social Media Contractors, a firm that runs social media campaigns for companies.

“The White House has taken a very complicated issue and turned it into a five-character hashtag that says it’s all about the impact on middle class families,” Blake said.

That message is #My2K, as in 'keep your hands off my $2,000,' which is about what families will have to pay in additional taxes if Congress doesn’t hammer out a deal.

Shirley Brady, the editor-in-chief of the website Brand Channel, says Obama is taking a page from business. “A lot of companies are using hashtags for marketing and branding purposes,” she said. Brady says the hashtag is a way to start a conversation around the brand.

When Nokia released its new Lumia smartphone, it used the hashtag #switch on Twitter -- as in switch your phone. But sometimes the conversation can backfire because hashtags can get hijacked, said Drew Olanoff, a writer at the website Techcrunch.

“Companies like McDonald's have tried to do this before," said Olanoff. "They did something with the hashtag #McDStories." The idea was to share fond memories of McDonald’s, only not everybody had nice things to say.

In Obama’s case, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation bought an ad, in the form of a tweet, that shows up when you look for the hashtag “My2K.” Type it in, and here’s what comes to the top of the list: “Must read four reasons why Warren Buffett is wrong on tax hikes.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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