In this last article on the 7-part series on hashtags, we conclude our examination on how to effectively use hashtags to maximize engagement and reach.
Let us go over the basics. When the hash/pound symbol (#) is used before a relevant word or phrase (with no spaces in-between) a hashtag is create. Hashtags were first used Twitter. The hashtag has since been adopted on a number of social media platforms and share almost the same basic functions. Because of its ability to categorize content, the hashtag has become a valuable tool for marketing. The hashtag is thus more than a collection of characters – it is a tool which can be used to reach new audiences, connect like-minded people, and facilitate conversation.
When deciding which hashtags to use, or when finding hashtags related to conversations you wish to participate, a little bit of research is always prudent.
Let us first examine and draw some lessons from this case study of Nike’s #MakeItCount campaign.
“Nike’s #MakeItCount campaign started in 2012 as part an effort to publicize the release of the Fuel Band. It started with a viral YouTube effort, and then expanded to include Nike encouraging their fans and followers to tell them how they planned to “Make it Count” in 2012.
Nike promoted the hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (and set up their own accounts on the networks, which posted images and statements related to the campaign). Nike also incorporated the hashtag into print and television advertisements as well.
The campaign was so successful in 2012, Nike extended the campaign, incorporating the hashtag into in-store retail displays and continuing to push the message well into 2013.
In fact, the Nike store in London is now featuring several prominent posters, which show the athletes’ at the most intense (and at times painful-looking) moments during training. Each athlete’s pledge is then written on top of the image, with the athletes’ Twitter handles and the “#MakeItCount” hashtag.”
The first lesson we draw from this campaign is the use of the #MakeItCount tag across various social media channels. This is elaborated in point 1 of the best practices of using hashtags below.
- Use across your Social Media Channels
Generating conversation and interacting with others across the world on common topics is one of the best things about hashtags. Getting the conversation going on your branded hashtag can be a little challenging. One way to accomplish this goal is by cross-promotion. Cross-promotion entails using and promoting your branded hashtag across all your social media platforms. Cross-promoting your hashtag can help drive more awareness, and therefore more participation in conversations around your tag. Many social media users are familiar with the hashtag. In view of that, it is easy to share the hashtag with your users on other social media networks. In view of this, encouraging them to join the conversation is also simple.
Adopt an integrated approach and use your branded hashtag to unify cross-network activities. Cross-pollinating content can help increase brand awareness on supporting social media networks. You can tweet a message with a link to your Facebook page etc. In the case study above, Nike promoting #MakeItCount across its social media platforms is a good example of cross-pollinating hashtags.
Figure 1 – Samsung Ghana promotes their #KzoomSelfie tag across Twitter and Instagram. This post was mounted on Facebook!
- Do share other people’s content
Along with your branded hashtag, you can curate other peoples’ content and share in your posts provided they are relevant to your hashtag and brand ideals. Such a post can rein your audience in on the lines of common interest. Sharing other peoples content can also give additional value to your audience. It can be a quote from a thought leader or an amazing photograph by a local photographer. You could also recommend a remarkable new product/service you discovered. In the example below, I share (on Twitter) an inspirational quote I got from @marieforleo with my branded #BeInspiredGH tag. The #BeInspiredGH tag is meant to encourage Ghanaian people, businesses, brands etc to reach for greater heights.
Figure 2 – “the fear of initially sucking at something holds many of us back from expressing our highest potential” – @marieforleo – #BeInspiredGH we can!
- Do not latch on to a popular hashtag just for exposure.
In other words, do not hijack a popular or trending hashtag to get attention. Be relevant if you want to ride on the success of a popular hashtag. Do not post irrelevant content and expect positive feedback. Parents Magazine is an example worth citing when it comes to latching on popular hashtags. They incorporate popular holiday hashtags in America like St. Patricks Day and 4th July in their messages. On #StPatricksDay for instance they showed their knowledge of their target audience by posting on Twitter with the tag #StPatricksDay. The post contained a link to a video with instructions for making St. Patrick’s Day sugar cookies that look like rainbows. Figure 3 is a post they put up on 4th July (#July4th) linking to instructions on making twirly paper wind socks!
Figure 3 – Parents Magazine’s post #July4th on how to make twirly paper wind socks for the said celebration.
Do not spam. Spammers will use any trending hashtag in their post to try and get their message seen, even though the hashtag has nothing to do with their post. Make sure you are being relevant when joining a trending conversation. There are means of reporting spam and inappropriate posts. You stand the risk of your account being closed if you are reported.
- Be prepared for the worst.
A hashtag takes on a life of its own when others share it. Hashtag hijacking can happen anytime. It is best to be prepared for the worst. When you become the victim of an attack, you can
- wait until the buzz disappears
- or change the tone of the negative PR by providing unique and relevant content that people will appreciate.
Social media allows both happy and disgruntled customers to voice their opinions. Make sure your products and services are up to your customer’s expectations. Can you imagine if one of the major telco’s were to run a campaign with the tag #WhyILove(CompanyNamed)? This would be an excellent invitation for sarcasm and peeved customers to vent their frustrations. Do not put out very vague, open-ended questions in the copy of your branded hashtags. This can leave room for contortion and misappropriation. The elimination of ambiguity can reduce the chance of a hashtag being hijacked.
- Do give people a reason to connect
Give your audience a reason to connect with you and engage with the hashtag. Consider a post which will entertain, inform, analyze or/and assist them.You also have to let your audience knowwhat you want them to do with your hashtag or how you want them to use it. In other words, there must be a clear call to action in your post. Whether it is feedback on a product, or you want them to share your tag – ask! Remember to give value and then ask for action.It is recommended that you use keywords that will instantly define what the topic is all about. In figure 3, Citi FM engages their audience in a discussion with the Minister of Finance, Honourable Seth Tekper with the tag #AskTekper
Figure 4 – Followers of Citi FM had the opportunity to engage the Minister of Finance, Honorable Seth Tekper with the #AskTekper tag. The audience had the opportunity to ask questions about the supplementary budget with the Minister answering their questions in real time.
- Do give Close monitoring
Keep eyes on your branded hashtag or the one you are piggy backing on. It is important to monitor your hashtag and the conversation that revolves around it. By monitoring your hashtag, you can, measure customer feedback. Watching your hashtag also gives you an opportunity to understand how your audience are using your product or promoting your enterprise. Most importantly, monitoring allows you to make sure your hashtag is not being associated with something else or has not been hijacked. When monitoring your hashtag, listen, measure and engage in conversations and gain valuable insights for your industry, keyword, event, business, product service or blog. Always watch out for potential threats and attacks online.
- Do Provide support
Do not just use your branded hashtag on social media alone. Integrate them into all your marketing channels. From the case study above, Nikes incorporation of their #MakeItCount tag in their retail in-store displays and on other advertising material like posters is an example of providing support for a branded hashtag. Hashtags have now infiltrated contemporary culture and advertising campaigns. Another way of supporting your branded hashtag is to advertise them online (Exact Media provides such services, you can contact me anytime).
Below are a few quick links for finding trending topics and hashtags:
- For Google Plus Trends, see https://plus.google.com/explore
- Twitter, see https://twitter.com/search-home
- Pinterest, see http://www.pinterest.com/explore/