When it comes to social media marketing the fact that hashtag use has only been around for just over a decade brings home how new this trend really is. Of course, we can’t really call it a trend any more, it’s at the core of billions of conversations happening digitally and underpins billions of pounds worth of social media marketing spend too. It gets Instagrammers to celebrity status, gets millions of people talking about the same #events and even gets brands fighting it out to own a conversation online. The hashtag is far from humble.
It all started when Chris Messina, a technology expert was looking for a way to designate an important word on Twitter that could successfully group a conversation. He’s credited to have come up with the very first hashtag on Twitter, posting about a #barcamp meetup in August 2007. It’s apt that the tweet was actually a question looking for a response from a group about meeting up as a group… the hashtag was social from the very beginning!
It swiftly evolved to a kind of tagging system that made Twitter the ultimate in ‘right now’ social conversation and though Twitter wasn’t born with it, networks such as Instagram were, forever changing how people communicate online.
It didn’t take long for social analytics tools to appear that could show how many impressions a hashtag is making online, who’s talking about it and what other hashtags are being used. For marketers looking to generate a buzz around a product line, the ability to mine social data using hashtags has shown to be one of the most useful features in bringing in relevant audiences that will help spread messages to millions more.
The #ShareaCoke hashtag appeared on custom bottles of Coca-Cola. This prompted consumers (overjoyed to purchase a product with their name on) to snap a picture of themselves with the bottle and share on social media.
How the hashtag has changed
Though it uses the simple pound, or hash symbol #, the hashtag has evolved beyond its origin as a designation of pounds in weight. It’s now a commodity being traded on for a slice of seriously lucrative audiences. None more so than the World Cup, which in 2014 became the first event to give us the branded hashtag emoji, or ‘hashflag’, a little icon that accompanied the correct use of a particular hashtag when a user entered it in Twitter’s tweet box. FIFA, Coca-Cola, Star Wars and Starbucks are all massive brands that have successfully turned the hashtag into a marketing juggernaut on a visual level as well as a conversational one through hashtag emojis. Emoji or not, the sponsored hashtag is a heavyweight option. You’re unlikely to have the mega bucks that drive such Twitter marketing, instead you need to find a way to ensure that your content uses the right hashtags and the ones you want to get trending don’t #flop!
Renault F1 dominated the conversation around the 2013 Italian Grand Prix at Monza with the delicious hashtag #Monzarella.
"If you’re not adding value to a conversation, you’re simply adding noise!"
How to make it work for you…
For B2B it’s been said that posts with hashtags get twice the engagement and posts that use two hashtags in them record the highest level of engagements – the inference being that too many hashtags is always a bad thing! Let’s take a look at some the key strategies to ensure hashtags work for your campaigns.
1: Know your audience (hashtag research)
Wanting to join in a conversation and get a share of the voice? First of all you need to understand what hashtags are being used, and how. Don’t try and put a positive tweet out there on a hashtag topic that’s primarily being used negatively. Sure, there’s a bit of manual research to be done but tools such as RiteTag and Hashtagify are useful in determining the popularity of hashtags and identifying ones that are also being used in conversations. In a B2B strategy, it’s not about trends that last a day, you’re trying to build and continue your relationship with prospects. Even if you didn’t come up with a particular hashtag yourself, try to make the most engaging and relevant ones to your business part of an on-going related stream of content.
2: Brand & Campaign hashtags
If you do kick off your own hashtags, make sure the content is there too, but make sure the hashtags you choose filter down into the visual collateral you produce too – it’s a great form of advertising in itself! Some of the hard work may have been done for you if you have a strong brand name or tagline (think KitKat’s #HaveABreak). But chances are you’ll need to be a bit clever to draw attention in the B2B space. On a campaign level, think about a hashtag that is unique to you but is sure to resound with your audience… a good play on words can stop it from being a mundane tag no one wants to use. Remember, if you’re not adding value to a conversation, you’re simply adding noise!
3: Content hashtags
Another strategy is the use of so-called content hashtags, which are not ones you try to brand but are commonly used and signify that your content should be categorized in a particular way. They get seen by those who follow you and help prompt them to join in. These could be product or event-based hashtags as well as trending content such as #socialmediamarketing or #AI.
4: ‘Hashjack’ – trending hashtags
Hashtags outside of your normal campaigns are also worth looking at. Whether it’s a trending piece of news or quirky hashtag inspiring a conversation online, you could be part of it by putting a good spin on it. The key to piggybacking on trending topics lies in providing something that is timely, relevant, eye-catching and funny. Lego’s Instagram post during #oscars2016 did just that, racking up more than 46,000 likes on the day!
Need to get your brand moving on social? Here at TBT we help big brands drive conversations with their customers through strategic analysis of the social landscape and executing a content plan that resonates with customers at the right stage of the buyer journey. Give us a call on +44 (0)1373 469270 or email us to see how we can help.