Love them or loathe them, the humble pound sign is a seminal part of our digital culture.
One of the greatest things about the hashtag is that it was not invented by a marketer or brand or agency, but a Twitter user! Brands quickly recognised the inherent value of the hashtag and sought to harness its capacity for making things “go viral”.
Some light trivia: one of the first brands to effectively use the hashtag was music conference, South by Southwest Conference & Festivals. In 2007, anyone on Twitter could search #SXSW to view trending events from the Austin-based event.
With so much noise across social platforms, how can we use branded hashtags to maximum effect?
Identify the “right” application
When all is said and done, a hashtag is made popular because of its subject matter, the brand associated with it, or the event it represents. So, it is worth considering whether or not the event/brand/subject you’re trying to promote even lends itself to going viral in the first place.
There are certain things that tend to work better than others when it comes to branded hashtags:
- Product/service launches
- Promotions and competitions
- Sponsored events
If the above things aren’t practical for your brand, it can be effective to strategically piggyback off trending conversations, where topically appropriate.
Be creative but focused
It is often helpful to consult listicles for inspiration, and be sure to review your brand’s existing metrics to remind yourself of what generally works and what doesn’t with your target audiences.
When developing a list of potential branded hashtags, ask yourself:
- Is this in line with our branding?
- Will it resonate with our target audience?
- Is it authentic?
Research, research, research
Once you’ve got a shortlist, do your research! Don’t get caught short; search each hashtag and variations of it across all platforms on which your brand is active.
If you are having trouble creating something that will cut through, consider localising your hashtag. For example, rather than #socialmedia2016 try #socialmediaperth2016.
What are you trying to achieve? Ensure your hashtag development is strategically aligned with all your broader marketing strategy. Also, ensure use of your hashtag is consistent across all channels, online and off.
Promote your branded hashtag wherever it makes sense. For example: event presentations, product labels, social media content across all active channels, social media bios; and hard copy marketing collateral.
Track your performance
As with everything in social media marketing, it is essential to track and measure your campaign to optimise performance. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to creating the perfect branded hashtag, so be sure to review your performance at the conclusion of the campaign to see where you can improve next time around.
History tells us the best branded hashtags don’t read like they were written by a marketing team. The branded hashtags that go viral are the ones that have palpable authenticity about them. Be true to the conversation you’re creating, don’t try to jam it down people’s throats!