Are Political Campaigns’ Twitter Hashtags Still Valuable, Even If They Can Go Awry?

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks to supporters during a rally on Nov. 2, 2015, in Tampa, Florida.

Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

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Answer by Carter Moore, senior policy adviser:

They’re still incredibly valuable as a way of organizing supporters across the platform and quickly pushing out information. The issue with #JebCanFixIt isn’t the abuse of a slogan or hashtag. It’s with the slogan itself; and the slogan just … sucks.

Seriously, I respect that it’s difficult to sell a candidate’s message in (ideally) four or fewer words, and no wordsmith should expect to capture the viral lightning of Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan. (Does anybody remember his 2012 one?) But at the very least slogans should aspire to instill prospective voters with some kind of enthusiasm for the candidate.

Jeb Bush’s first (and still current) branding—“Jeb!”—shouts at us to get excited about him. “Jeb Can Fix It” is a massive step down from that, and a terrible shift given his current campaign woes. I understand that the slogan is meant to invoke Bush’s experience, but could they actually not think of a better way to do that? “Proven Leadership for America,” perhaps? Or if they’re hellbent on the “fixing” theme, how about “Rebuilding America”?

Boom. Where’s my check?

“Jeb Can Fix It”? What the hell? Can he start by fixing his campaign and debate performances? How could his communications team not have envisioned ways that the phrase could have spiraled out of control? Do they even Internet, bro?

Going beyond the weakness of the slogan, the #JebCanFixIt episode plays into the larger narrative of Bush being an ineffective communicator. For all of his early front-runner hype, Bush has struggled from the get-go to connect with the electorate, and it appears that he still doesn’t have a strategy to overcome that problem.Case in point: this video his campaign released in conjunction with the relaunch tour. It’s polished, upbeat, and full of positive messaging. Its title? “Leadership.”

I get that Fiorina has already cornered the explicit use of “leadership” in a campaign slogan this cycle, but surely there are ways for the Bush team to make something fit. Instead, they put the video up on Twitter with no associated hashtag! Even the tweets announcing the tour were just tossed into the Twitter void.

It seems that they didn’t even try to come up with a slick social media campaign in association with the campaign’s relaunch—“No, the 730 page e-book will be enough”—so of course people were going to fill in the gap. That’s because one of the biggest rules of political messaging is that if you don’t provide the message, your opponents will provide it for you, and you won’t like it.

Oh, hey! “Service. Leadership. Conservatism.” Infinitely better than “Jeb Can Fix It.” #obvious

So getting back to the question: This debacle doesn’t mean the end of political hashtags and slogans. They’re always going to be prone to abuse. It just means the next time a campaign plans to launch a nifty new slogan, someone in the room should remark, “This isn’t going to turn into #JebCanFixIt, right?”

Are Twitter hashtags for political campaigns worth it after the #JebCanFixIt campaign? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora: