Whether you love them, hate them, or even understand them – they’re everywhere. Since their creation in 2007, hashtags have taken the internet by storm, and now appear on all forms of social media – even making their way into blogs and magazines geared towards millennials. One thing is for sure, it’s a marketing platform that has to be part of every company’s marketing mix.
A hashtag (expressed by the # sign) acts as a means of sorting content by a topic of conversation surrounding it. They originated on (and are most commonly associated with) Twitter to create open group discussion. You can often find them used to comment on news events, television shows, and celebrity gossip. For example, you may have noticed many #Election and #Debate tweets the other night when Trump and Clinton took the stage. People used these hashtags in their own tweets to share thoughts with others watching the debate, and also searched for these hashtags on Twitter to view the facts and opinions shared by others. Due to this very specific brand of news-sharing and interaction, hashtags can be very beneficial to a business when used correctly. Here are a few popular ways to use hashtags to your company’s advantage:
- brand hashtags – Imagine brand hashtags as an extension of brand slogans. Nike? #JustDoIt CMPB? #GotMilk The list goes on and on. It’s a natural way to transition your brand from print and TV to online advertising. While some brands are very Twitter-friendly, others don’t fare so well with the 140-character limit. This is when you see companies get creative, and use social media as an embodiment of their brand. For example, Kit-Kat took the famous “Give me a break on a Kit-Kat bar” and created #HaveABreak. #HaveABreak is used by the company to appeal to their consumers’ lifestyles, and drives engagement by prompting followers to share their “break” experiences. The same tactic can be carried over on to Instagram, which Coca Cola is excellent at. Recent hashtag campaigns involve #ShareaCoke and #CokeLife, where the brand shares pictures of people socializing and enjoying life with a Coke in hand. Using these hashtags across social media platforms not only increases brand awareness, it makes it feel personal.
- trending topics – A hashtag that becomes really popular amongst Twitter users is considered to be “trending”. These can be accessed by clicking on the app’s “Search” function, but not typing anything in. You can assume that there is a lot of conversation circulating around the topics that you see there, so they provide a great opportunity to reach people who are not already following you. One common trend on Twitter is quirky “holidays” – #NationalCoffeeDay and #NationalDogDay being a few favorites. This would be a great time to post if you happen to sell coffee, or are partnered with a local animal shelter! You automatically know that your audience is interested in what you have to say, and they give you an opportunity to showcase a lighthearted side of your business.
- live tweeting – Live tweeting gets back to what hashtags were originally created for – to have a conversation around a particular topic. Popular reality shows such as The Bachelor have a dedicated following of “live-tweeters”, or people who use Twitter to discuss their thoughts about the show while it is airing. While this is primarily a more social use of Twitter, it is a great opportunity for businesses to chime in with relevant posts to get noticed by that audience. In the instance of The Bachelor, Clorox chimes in during awkward scenes using the hashtag #BleachableMoments. It’s funny, it relates to their brand, and most of the show’s audience is thinking it anyways! So it serves as an effective way to connect with people real-time.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, worry not! Just try a couple tweets or instagrams here and there, and see what works for you. Eventually you will begin to notice patterns in the types of hashtags and content that appeals to your audience, and then you can focus on creating more of the same. So much of business and marketing is rigid – don’t be afraid to have more fun on social media! It’s a great opportunity to personalize your brand and relate to your audience on a whole new level, so take advantage of it! And be sure to check back for our upcoming blog on Twitter Analytics to learn how to track your #tweets and engagement over time.