Hashtags are an invaluable tool in marketing any business, both offline and online. It is easier for people to refer to and talk about your brand on a social network they frequent (that is on social media) rather than visit your website. Hashtags make it easier for a brand to be referenced on social media.
In last week’s article, we examined some challenges affecting the use of hashtags in online marketing. In this article we take a look at 10 things to consider when choosing a hashtag for marketing campaigns:
- Objective – what do you seek to achieve with your hashtag campaign? That should inform the word(s) or phrase(s) you choose to tag. For example,the #BringBackOurGirls tag has anobjective that is spelt out in the tagged phrase; it is a call for the release of the kidnapped Nigerian girls, hence – ‘bring back our girls’. The crusade to #OccupyFlagstaffHouse initially started as #OccupyGhana. Inmy opinion, the first hashtag (#OccupyGhana) was too vague since it did not spell out the campaign objective clearly. These examples serve to clarify how campaign objectives must inform the choice of words that you choose for your hashtag.
Figure 1 – The #OccupyFlagStaffHouse campaign on Instagram
- Your target audience – Consider your audience when you are choosing a hashtag. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who is your typical customer/audience?
- Who is the target of your message?
- Will your message appeal to your customer and prospects?
Figure 2– the benefits of this service MTN outdoored are spelt out in the hashtag #RoamLikeHome and will definitely appeal to the ‘traveling’ MTN user.
- Strategy – your objective(s) will inform the strategy you use for your hashtag campaign. Carefully plan where to use the hashtags, when and how to use them. Hashtags have a cross-channel nature. since most social media channels have adopted hashtags as an identifier, brands can now run cross-channel campaigns with one common identifier. When you are able to figure out what you are going to focus on (set your objective) you can then consistently leverage those across numerous campaigns. Consider your hashtag as the international connector of the social web and other advertising platforms.For example, in the 2013 #MakeItCount campaign, Nike used all forms of social media marketing, television advertising and massive offline advertisements throughout their stores and branches. Like Nike, use an across board marketing strategy for your hashtag and think about how your hashtag will look on all these avenues.
- Format – if you are tagging a phrase capitalize each word or use underscores (#TaggingAPhrase or #tagging_a_phrase). This will prevent difficulty in reading and understanding the phrase and also prevent mix-ups and ambiguity.
- Research – Research into what would sound with your audience. Talk to your customer service folks and others in constant contact with customers like your sales force. Additionally, follow online activities of your customers and competitors. After you come out with your hashtag, test the response of a few customers with the words and phrases you chose.
You would not want to end up like Blackberry when they sent out their #RIMjobs tweet. A few years ago, Blackberry used to run under the parent brand “Research In Motion (RIM)”. They decided to tweet about job openings in the company with the hashtag #RIMjobs. The obvious connotations related to this seemingly innocent hashtag set the pace for massive backlash and mockery from the social media community.
Make sure the word or phrase you want to tag is not being used by another brand. There are other cases where brands decide to go with a particular hashtag only to realise that another brand is also using it for a different purpose altogether.
In 2012, CelebBoutique, an online retailer based in the U.K., sent out a tweet using the trending hashtag #Aurora. #Aurora was trending due to the tragic movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado. However, they used it to promote their Kim Kardashian Aurora dress. CelebBoutique said, “We didn’t check what the trend was about hence the confusion, again we do apologize.” See figure 3. Source: http://www.hotpotatosocialmedia.com/social-media-gone-wrong-twitter-hashtags
Figure 3 – A snapshot of the tweet Celeb Boutique sent out. The lesson here is to always do due diligence before joining in on a trending conversation and using a trending hashtag.
- Punctuations and Spaces – Always remember that punctuations don’t work in hashtags. The hashtag will end when punctuations are used. Tagging #Don’tEatThat would end up as ‘#Don t Eat That’. We see an example of punctuations and spaces breaking an intended tag in Figure 4. This is a post on Facebook celebrating the work of a Ghanaian fashion designer. The person posting attempts to tag the designer’s name but ends up with just the first word being tagged (hyper-linked).
Figure 4 – ‘#Kurvs n Stitches’should have been #KurvsnStitches
In figure 5 the host of a popular radio uses two hashtags on twitter to post about his show. Tagging both words results in two separate links. instead of #Ekwanso #Dwoodwoo, #EkwansoDwoodwoo would have been a great way to gather all content and conversations relating to this show.
Figure 5 – ‘#Ekwanso #Dwoodwoo’ should have been #EkwansoDwoodwoo
- Be clear and concise – The word or phrase you pick to tag should immediately let others know what the conversation will be about. Your hashtag should be short and to the point. Apply the golden rule of communication by keeping it short and simple. Do not be vague and general, instead of #Floods use #AccraFloods (see figure 6). Make them mean something specific. In making sure that people remember your brand, selecting a hashtag that is more specific to your brand is essential.As in figure 6, Joy FM brands its news with the tag #JoyNews. This makes it easier for their audience to relate to the tag.
Figure 6 – The #JoyNews tag allows audiences to relate exclusively with the news on Joy FM.The #AccraFloods tag was also a simple and concise tag.
- Unique – create messages that hammer home your slogans, prompt calls-to-action and create excitement. Your hashtags can be statements about your brand and reflect your most current messaging. Being unique would mean that, your users get only related content when they search for your hashtag. A unique tag would prevent your audience from being bombarded with off-topic content and spam. Additionally, the word or phrase you chose should not only be unique but should also be easy to remember.
Figure 7– NKACC uses its company tagline as a hashtag. Using your brands tagline or motto can be a way of getting a unique hashtag.
9. Conversational – Effective hashtags should have the power to ignite a conversation in the social world. Otherwise, the tagged word or phrase should have the ability to be the focus or the point of a topic.
After the Black Stars were eliminated from the World Cup with all the brouhaha that surrounded their exit, someone started #BlackStarsReasonsForStayingInBrazil (Figure 8)on Twitter and most people joined in with funny and witty contributions.
Figure 8– #BlackStarsReasonsForStayingInBrazil makes it easy for other people to join in the conversation. Some of the contributions included: “#BlackStarsReasonsForStayingInBrazil The management team has filled the plane and there’s nowhere for the playing body to sit”. “#BlackStarsReasonsForStayingInBrazil Samuel Inkoom is at a free WiFi zone uploading training pictures to Instagram”
Figure 9 – The Nike #makeitcount tag also makes it easy for Nike to reach out to their audience. It is also easier for people to incorporate this tag in their posts and join in the conversation with their contributions.
10. Popular words – The words you choose should be everyday words. That is, words and phrases which come up in ordinary or familiar conversation. This is evidenced in the annual Nike “#MakeItCount” campaign – the phrase is composed of everyday words. This makes it simpler for people to join in the conversation and to contribute to it. In the #MakeItCount campaign, athletes, including runners were asked to tell Nike and the rest of the world how they are going to “make 2013” count. Motivational images such as the ones in figures 10 and 11 led the movement to encourage athletes to sign up and connect with the rest of the world about their sporting goal for the next 12 months.
Figure 10 – “In 2013, I will complete a 10k. Join me and together we will #MakeItCount”.
Figure 11 – “In 2013, I will run a half marathon. Join me and together we will #MakeItCount”.
To recap, there are some factors you must consider when choosing a hashtag for a marketing campaign. The words chosen for the hashtag must be accepted, conversational, unique, clear and concise. Avoid punctuations and spaces. Research into what will sound with your audience too. Before you start any hashtag marketing campaign, have an objective in mind; this will inform the strategy you adopt. Be mindful of your target audience and environment within which the message would be consumed. Double check the word or phrase you want to tag to be sure it is appropriate before you outdoor your hashtag.
Next week we will continue looking at some factors to consider when marketing with hashtags.