Promoted Tweets/Trends have been popping up quite regularly since Twitter has offered the service, but some companies have missed the boat when choosing their signature #hashtag that accompanies the buy.

How does it work? Companies can pay Twitter money to be included among the the trending topics list on Twitter. You can either pick your own branded hashtag or topic, or you could hand over the reigns and pick a #hashtag that has been made popular by Twitter users.

What are Trending Topics you ask? Trending Topics are a list of topics that are chosen by a fancy Twitter algorithm – I see them as here’s what people are talking about now. Many times people will click on the trending topic to see what others have to say about it, or use the trending topic in their own tweet if they want to join in on the conversation. Same goes for a promoted trend, people can click on your trending topic and when they do, they will automatically see your company’s promoted tweet at the top of the list. Can be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with Twitter. But for those who are, logic would tell us if you pick a trending phrase that is engaging and interesting to a wide audience, you’ll not only get a lot of participation but a lot of exposure.

Pillsbury did it well with their play off of  the already trending  #lemmeguess and Coke did it well when they picked the already trending #alliwant.

But when companies insist on including their own brand name like Pizza Hut’s #ReadySetHut or a car company who simply used the name of their new model as the hashtag, it turns out to be a pretty awkward experience for both the Twitter user and the brand. The point of the #hashtag is to pick something broad enough that everyone can participate in, and it should be something that can lead to a larger discussion. #ReadySetHut  is somewhat limiting when you compare it to #alliwant.

By not making the ad buy all about them, my guess is Coke and Pillsbury probably had much more participation. More participation probably lead to much more exposure, signaling a win-win for both brand and Twitter user.

There’s always something refreshing about a brand taking the back seat versus shoving itself down your throat, especially in social. #lookatmybrand.