During the past few weeks, we have been introduced to what hashtags are and their potential value to online marketing campaigns (when used properly). We have also discussed the key considerations to be given when choosing a hashtag. In this and the next week, we consider 14 best practices when marketing with hashtags.
As already established, research is very important before the start of any hashtag campaign. With some research, you can come up with a cost-effective campaign to help spread your message to a wider audience.
1. When do you tag? – Since a hashtag is a link in itself, it is not advisable to include a hashtag in a link. If you do this, you would be advertising two separate links. Your audience may be confused as to which link to click or focus on. According to Hubspot, hashtags are great for accessing conversations surrounding a specific topic, but may distract someone from clicking on a link.
2. Define your hashtag – before you start a hashtag campaign or start using a particular hashtag, it is advisable to define the hashtag to your audience. Your audience have to know what the hashtag is about and what you want them to do with it. When you are able to clearly define your hashtag, you can then get people talking about your brand – hashtags are a great way to get people talking. Your audience will jump into the discussion easily if they know what the discussion is about and are interested in the conversation or campaign.
New York University has a directory which defines all the hashtags the University uses. You can find this directory with this link: – http://www.nyu.edu/life/student-life/hashtagNYU/hashtag-directory.html
“Volvo actually launched a new community section on its homepage to help address the confusion that brands sometimes create when using multiple hashtags. The microsite is a hashtag legend of sorts, to help consumers follow the conversations Volvo is having. One of the main hashtags Volvo uses on a monthly basis is #SwedeSpeak. As it stands now, #SwedeSpeak is a branded Twitter chat by Volvo Cars of North America. It is a monthly chat designed to connect with fans and to educate them about Volvo’s new products, accessories and auto shows. Essentially, when consumers see the #SwedeSpeak hashtag, Volvo wants them to know that their questions, comments and conversations will be addressed by someone at the company. Their comments will be seen and answered by someone at headquarters, whether an engineer, designer or even the CEO.” – Source: http://digiday.com/brands/brands-adopt-hashtag-strategies/
3. How many? – The decision on whether to specialise in a particular hashtag or promote a range depends on the marketing strategy of your brand. You may create a campaign-specific hashtag to generate unique user content. You can also decide on a hashtag for each of your brands. TV3 uses different hashtags for its different news segments including #News360 and #NewsAt10. Citi FM tags the names of their various programmes to keep conversations going with their audiences. Some of the tags they use include #CitiCBS #BrunchInTheCiti, #TrafficAvenue and #CitiNews.
“Companies like Volvo have taken steps to use specific branded hashtags like #SwedeSpeak and #MyFirstVolvo to interact with specific consumers about particular topics. By doing so and educating their audience about how to use them and what to expect, they have been successful in transforming these conversations into engagement tools for existing consumers while driving awareness of that usually positive relationship to those consumers’ networks. In order to be successful with your hashtag strategy, limit the number of hashtags you use and keep it simple. Too many hashtags make it difficult to track and are confusing to consumers.”
4. Don’t overdo it – The quantity of hashtags used in a post is just as important as the type of hashtags used. Studies show that the more tags there are in a post, the less engagement the post gets. The message may be lost if a post becomes difficult to read due to the number of hashtags incorporated in it – it is difficult to follow a message that is peppered with # notations. Remember the rule of keeping communication simple and limit the number of hashtags you are using to avoid confusion and to communicate clearly with your audience. In the same vein, a post with too many tags may come across as spam. In order not to come across as a spammer, keep it to 3 tags or less per post on any given social platform. One to three is generally an acceptable range.
5. Use Acronyms only if they are popular – You can leave your audience in the dark if you choose to use lesser known acronyms in your hashtag marketing. If you have to use acronyms, use only extremely popular terms such as #TBT (for ‘throw back Thursday) and #TGIF (for ‘thank God it’s Friday). You would not want your audience to be as clueless as this mother from #momtexts (a stream of funny text messages moms who are new to Smartphone’s send) –
“My mom texted me, ‘Aunt Mary died. Lol.’ She thought Lol meant lots of love.”
6. Join conversations – it is a good idea to join conversations related/relevant to your enterprise. You create awareness about your brand in this way. Structure specific conversation topics and keywords across social media platforms to bring the conversation to your territory.
• Research –Before joining any conversation on social media however, Do your research, talk to the people in your business who deal with customers. Search for hashtags relevant to your product/service. We have already discussed Entenamms and Celeb Boutique’s examples of a poorly researched hashtag used in marketing a brand. Hashtags will help you filter conversations so as to find discussions you can add to. The keyword is adding to not spamming. Strategic eavesdropping involves researching into hashtags and topics related to your business. Find out what others are saying about issues relating to your brands environment. Use hashtags to research competitors and market leaders in your field.
• Value – A marketer wanting to start or join in a conversation should have something of value to share, secondly, the topic being discussed should be relevant to his/her brand. Always add value to a conversation. Rather than post messages with multiple hashtags and very little content, consider incorporating one or two relevant words alongside additional resource links. One way to do this is to point to resources. You can also share a link / particular blog post. Your audience will appreciate knowing where these helpful resources are, and they will remember that you helped them find those resources.
Hilton hotel has a programme on twitter called @hiltonsuggests. This account provides insider tips and advice for anyone exploring a new city. The account is manned by some staff of Hilton hotel.
Figure 1 – Snapshot of @HiltonSuggests conversation: “@LTHughston tweets: Good places to eat near the Manolia hotel, downtown Dallas for Saturday? Hilton Suggests replies: Wild Salsa on Main or Campisi’s on Elm are awesome! Both within walking distance of your hotel in #Dallas. Enjoy! “
Figure 2 – is an example of a brand adding value to a conversation. The Life Coach Bernard Kelvin Clive posts with the hashtag #Worldcup2014 and relates the ongoing with what he preaches about. “My question for you today is, are you coaching your own life, are you playing your game well enough? This post includes an image of his book and his website address. Anyone who was searching for the tag #worldcup2014 around the time he put up this post will see this motivational message. It is more likely that people will read this message compared to a blatant marketing message like “#worldcup2014 – Books for sale!”
Figure 2 – Bernard’s post on Facebook.
7. Piggyback – Another way to leverage hashtags in social media marketing is to tap into the success of trending hashtags. It is easier to utilize the power of a popular hashtag to start the foundation of building brand awareness. You can piggyback on already popular hashtags to build awareness about your brand. You can do this by adding to the conversation on a trending hashtag or by incorporating trending hashtags into your posts. Trending and popular hashtags can also be a source of inspiration when you are generating content for your audience. It is a good idea to always be abreast with trending and popular tags.
In the figure 3, a music video is released on the back of the #SomeWhereInGhana tag.
Figure 3 – “#SomeWhereInGhana Orakle Musik Is Out With A New Video. Watch With a Single Click”
You can get your brand noticed easily by making your content relevant to trending hashtags. There are some websites like hashtag.org, whose analytics can tell you which hashtags are trending. You can also view trending topics directly on your Twitter and Google plus feeds, tools like Google Trends allows you to see topics that are trending on the internet. Be extra cautious and extra vigilant when sponging off on successful and trending hashtags. The hashtag you pick should always be relevant to your industry. “You do not want to piggyback a trending topic that has nothing to do with your brand, particularly if it is a sensitive topic. American Designer Kenneth Cole learned this the hard way by hopping onto the Twitter hashtag being used by protestors in Cairo, using it to try to market clothes instead”.
Figure 4 – The tweet which got the internet world up in arms against Kenneth Cole! – Image source: http://mashable.com/2011/02/03/kenneth-cole-egypt/
In summary, a hashtag is a link or a sort and so it is not advisable to include a hashtag in a link post. You would need to define your hashtag for your audience to know what the conversation is about. The number of hashtags you decide to use for your campaign may depend on your marketing strategy. Limit the number of hashtags in a post to a maximum of three. Use acronyms which are extremely popular and add value to conversations you start or join. You can piggy back on successful hashtags but this is highly risky and you must thread with caution.
We end this series on hashtags next week with the rest of best practices when using hashtags in your marketing campaign. You can access all the previous articles on hashtags on this blog .