If you’re a frequent user of social media, you’ll have probably seen this little guy – ‘#’, crop up a lot lately. The hashtag, actually came into common use on the public platform Twitter, around 2007. During a time of information overload and opinions being published by the second, it was truly a product of its time.
Its job was very simple – to help organise our conversations into common beliefs and sentiments. It also created places to debate and generate dialogue.
For marketers, hashtags provide a unique opportunity to generate awareness and engagement with their own brand in a more targeted way. By taking you directly to the right people, they can reduce some of the legwork that was needed previously.
4 Interesting ways to use hashtags
Here are some cases of how businesses and organisations have used hashtags (with a couple of cases of how not to use hashtags!). The following examples are from various social media outlets.
The White House started a twitter campaign inviting people to describe in a couple of lines what $40 dollars meant to them followed by the hashtag #40dollars. It encouraged more than 17,000 replies and sparked a debate about the impact of tax cuts on the average American. It showed us how hashtags could start conversations on a large scale and lead to increased trust between two parties, in this case the public and the government. Just make sure the conversation isn’t all about you!
Hashtags can also help us join discussions already in motion. This next example from Facebook, is a post that is specifically navigable for people interested in Facebook marketing and design. It’s an example of joining a topic or discussion that is much broader than the company itself, which in this case is a graphic design agency.
Users who are already looking for answers around this topic will value useful contributions such as this, and will subsequently trust Creative Orange the next time they speak. So by getting you in front of the right people hashtags can enhance content marketing efforts.
The specific nature of hashtags makes consumers feel more like they’re talking to a person and not a machine. This example from Instagram shows how Oreo took the power of hashtag engagement to a new height with their #cookiethis campaign. The idea was that users send them a photo with the said tag, and Oreo would replicate it entirely with cookies or cream. The picture below should clear up any confusion! They advertised this campaign during the super bowl in America and the result was 35,000 new followers by the end of the game.
There’s nothing people love more than discounts and/or free stuff. You can use hashtags to make these campaigns spread like wildfire, like Dominos UK showed us with their #letsdolunch twitter tag.
Hashtags can add some much needed structure to campaigns that spread quickly, making them much easier to share with others.
And what not to do
It’s not always plain sailing though, and no list would be complete without a word of caution. This company’s wildly inappropriate remark regarding the Arab spring brought them into international disrepute and hurt their brand irreversibly.
And finally, as McDonald’s found out, handing the mic entirely over to your consumers can be a dangerous approach if their comments aren’t moderated. The #McDStories campaign didn’t last for very long.
If you’re not using hashtags you most definitely should. It’s become a staple of social networking and will be increasingly used by marketers to track topics and social trends. One interesting place to start is www.hashtags.org that takes on the task of organising hashtag trends across the world, so making them easier to monitor for you and me.
Now that you’ve seen some examples of hashtags at work, leave a comment below composed entirely of hashtags that you think would best categorize this article. For example, #socialmediastrategy #onlinemarketing.