Going viral is not always a good thing — as the New York Police Department painfully learned last month when its public relations office launched the now infamous #myNYPD hashtag.
The trend immediately took off, but not quite in the way the NYPD had hoped. Instead of tagging their gratitude to the police, social media users took to Twitter by the thousands to post their photos and anecdotes of police brutality and racism.
Lesson learned? Maybe for the NYPD, but definitely not for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) — which some have described as a British version of the US tea party. Commentators have regularly compared the two, saying the UK party shares its US counterpart’s demographics and social anxieties.
Why are you voting UKIP this year? Tell us, tell Twitter and let— UKIP Harrogate (@UKIPHarrogate) May 20, 2014
The UKIP embarked in a mission of social media suicide of its own when it launched the #WhyImVotingUkip hashtag. But if party strategists were hoping for an outpouring of support for the rightwing, Euroskeptic, and anti-immigration agenda of the party and populist leader Nigel Farage ahead of the European election that starts Thursday, they didn’t get it.
Twitter again had other ideas, and just as in the case with the NYPD, the hashtag campaign quickly went south.
I— CharmlessNurk (@CharmlessNurk) May 21, 2014
Twitter users took stabs at the party's homophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment.
The social media disaster was hardly the first public embarrassment for the party. Earlier this month, a protester in Nottingham egged Farage. The protester held a sign that read "UKIP: Sad, scared, old men."
The UKIP did not seem too concerned with the onslaught of hatred, and proudly tweeted that the campaign is “trending.” Which it certainly is.
Great to see #WhyImVotingUkip trending - let us know why you are!
— UKIP (@UKIP) May 21, 2014
The hashtags got 19,328 mentions in under two days, according to data provided to VICE News by social media monitoring company Brandwatch — with trending topics addressing the party's racism and homophobia.
Follow Alice Speri on Twitter:@alicesperi