The Power Of A Hashtag: #Boycotttims Case Study

June 5, 2015

With over 350,000 tweets sent per minute worldwide (Internet Live Stats) it takes a quite a few people talking about the same thing to get a topic trending on Twitter. While you still get your fair share of selfies and cute animal photos, today’s “trending” posts showcase engagement and major public attention. Through hashtags, keywords and geographic tracking of tweets generates a large amount of data that can be analyzed. When hashtags and words start trending, it’s something that communicators and stakeholder engagement professionals must pay attention to!

Boycott Tims

3:00pm June 4, 2015 (image from

On June 4, after a decision by Tim Hortons to pull Enbridge advertisements from their in-store televisions, Tim Hortons sent a tweet at 9:10 am informing a concerned patron that the ads had been removed. Soon after, Twitter users took to the hashtag #BoycottTims to engage in conversation and express their opinions.

Beating out the #ThrowbackThursday trend, #BoycottTims became the number 1 trending topic in Canada three hours after Tim Hortons sent their tweet. While the potential to encourage action beyond the screen of our smartphones may not happen with every user of the hashtag, it provides a new tool to remotely monitor a conversation over time and place.

The hashtag had been used sparingly before in association with quality of product and working conditions. Through our social media analysis tools we saw the trend start at 12:30 pm PST on June 4 and significantly increased over night. The total in 24 hours between June 4 and June 5 was almost 6,000 mentions.

In tweets that contained the hashtag #BoycottTims the hashtags #cdnpoli, #SupportCanadianEnergy and #oilsands were the most mentioned in congruence with the hashtag. This demonstrates the context and reach of the topics being discussed around the grassroots hashtag.

Interestingly, #RightMoveTims which supports Tim Hortons decision to pull the Enbridge ads, is beginning to trend in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa, while #BoycottTims remains prominent in Alberta. Although, #RightMoveTims hashtag users do not currently match the volume of tweets that have gained traction overnight with #BoycottTims, it will be interesting to see if a new trend emerges.

#BoycottTims has some additional competition to maintain its top Canadian trend spot. June 5 is also #NationalDonutDay, which is trending worldwide. Even though these trends may just be a short blip in one’s overall social media newsfeed, they show increased engagement and importance of a particular conversation. Overall, Tim Hortons’ decision to pull the Enbridge advertisements has increased their public profile on Twitter and throughout news media immensely. As we watched this topic with interest yesterday, it reminded us of the importance of having well defined social media posting policies and practises within an organization. Social media should be incorporated into an organization’s overall communications strategy to ensure messaging is always reflective of the company’s values, brand, and relevant to your audience. It cannot be implemented ad hoc or separate from an encompassing strategy. Because as we have seen, one tweet goes a long way!

-Amanda Jarl