Social Media Marketing with Hashtags

by Wesley Farnam - Jun 26, 2014

As a business ventures into social media marketing and creates a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Google + account, you open the door to a myriad of acronyms and jargon, like hashtags. "One of the most frequently asked questions we get when we work with companies that have a limited social media background is about hashtags," said Jay Joyce, president of The Idea People. "Hashtags are essentially labels for content. Marketers have, of course, found some innovative ways to use hashtags as a way to drive conversation, drum up public support and drive attention to their brands."

A hashtag consists of a word or phrase (with no spaces), preceded by the  pound sign (i.g. #WorldCup2014 or #GameOfThrones). "Hashtags are used to tie various social media posts together and relate them to a topic," adds Joyce.  "These topics are often connected to a television show, upcoming film, sporting event or world event happening in realtime. By clicking on a hashtag in a social post, that social network will automatically curate and display a feed of other messages incorporating the same hashtag."

A Brief History of Hashing It Out

On July 2, 2009, Twitter officially embraced hashtags and hyperlinked them to search results. On March 30, 2010, Twitter moved Trending Topics to its homepage, formalizing hashtags as a conversation driver on the social media platform.

As Twitter users adopted hashtags as a normal part of the conversation, hashtags starred in popular culture like TV shows and national news outlets. Now you can find hashtags on every major social media site, allowing for both brands and consumers to track topics and participate in discussions in realtime. One big-time adopter of hashtags is Jimmy Fallon, current host of The Tonight Show. Check out the clip below to see how the hashtag has become as much a part of pop culture as 'LOL':

How to Use Hashtags in Social Media Marketing

Decide how you will be using the hashtag. Is it purely a listening tool? Is it a consumer content curating tool? What channels will it be promoting? How will your brand or company use this information? Take the time in the planning stages to consider all functional aspects to avoid issues later. If you want to incorporate your hashtag across multiple channels, you need to consider the character restrictions of those social networks.

Investigate. See if the hashtag has been used previously or is associated with something you don’t want related to your brand. Try to think of the worse case scenario of how it can be used or misinterpreted. Make sure your hashtag is void of any double meanings or unfortunate letter combinations.

A hashtag loses its effectiveness if it is too obscure. Remember, this is an opportunity to connect with consumers, not to confuse them. Your hashtag should be immediately recognizable as part of your brand. For example, McDonald's wouldn't use a hashtag like #KingSizeIt because consumers could connect the hashtag with a competitor like Burger King.

A generic hashtag is not beneficial when tracking a campaign. Pick something that speaks to your brand, but also isn’t so broad that messages are getting lost in a sea of unrelated posts. Make it unique to your campaign. And don't forget: keep your hashtag short and sweet, easy to spell and easy to remember.

Like any other important component of your marketing campaign, be sure that the hashtag is consistent with the campaign strategy and objective. Once you pick a hashtag for a campaign, stick with it.

By following these simple guidelines, you can successfully integrate a hashtag into your campaign to amplify your message and interact with consumers.

#TheGoogleEffect

Google recently added hashtag support to Google Search, but only for Google+ content. When you search on Google for a hashtag, say #NBADraft2014 or #Transformers, a set of relevant Google+ posts will appear in addition to regular results. If you click on any of these posts you’ll go to Google+, where you’ll see the full set of relevant posts. You’ll also see links to search for these hashtags on other social media sites.

"The fact that Google is indexing hashtags shows that the future of content optimization and social media analytics could involve hashtags in addition to keywords," said Joyce. "Brands craft their Twitter and Facebook campaigns just as they would have created direct mail, radio jingles or TV commercials decades ago. Social media sites like Twitter reflect a key demographic of the most active Internet users."

The Idea People's social media marketing team creates and manages your social media networks and messages to keep your brand relevant and connected to your customer base. Our goal is to build a relationship-based marketing strategy to connect with your customers and inspire them to get involved with your brand.

Interested in learning more about social media marketing? Call Jay Joyce at 704-398-4437 or email jay@theideapeople.com.

Wesley Farnam
The Idea PeopleThe Idea People