Vodafone Twitter stunt hijacked by cuts protesters

Making a hash of it

Vodafone launched a PR stunt this weekend using social media marketing, which within hours was hijacked by anti-cuts group UK Uncut. The protesters, who accuse Vodafone and other large companies of tax evasion, have staged several demonstrations outside major stores, but have now turned their attentions online.

The Twitter campaign featured the hashtag #mademesmile, and asked users to tweet something that had made them smile recently. On each of the twelve days of Christmas, the author of the best tweet will receive a free handset, including the sought-after Nokia N8. Recent tweets are also published direct to the company website, with apparently no filter in place.

Online and offline

Within hours, the UK Uncut Twitter stream had retweeted the competition to its 10,000 followers, leading to a huge surge in interest. The #madmesmile hashtag was the number one trending topic, but unfortunately for Vodafone, most entries were allegations of tax evasion, published automatically to the company website.

UK Uncut accuses Vodafone of having a £6 billion unpaid tax bill, although the Twitter attack could be libellous as the company denies any wrongdoing. The protest group has staged multiple demonstrations over the past few months, including blockading shops. This weekend also saw them protest at the Manchester Arndale Topshop, as Arcadia group owner Sir Philip Green is also accused of dodging UK taxes.

Last week, the Treasury announced it was considering launching the general anti-avoidance rule (GAAR) which campaigners had been calling for.