The hashtag is perhaps the most elusive part of social media marketing. If hashtags were a person, he would be the “most interesting man in the world”. The most interesting hashtag of the world doesn’t always confuse marketers, but when he does, he makes it almost impossible to properly market social media content. How do we, the desperate social media marketers of the internet, get around this potentially career-ending obstacle? The answer is complicated, just like the topic itself. Continue reading for a looking into the world of the hashtag!
What are Hashtags?
What started out as the pound sign found on your phone has since turned into social media’s most recognizable key: the hashtag. But what is a hashtag? What is this elusive little key that has taken over social media?
The origins of the hashtag trace back to things called Internet Relay Chat (a.k.a. IRC’s), methods of live chat and messaging similar to the social media networks we use today. However, they were made popular by Twitter to group tweets together in chats based on similar topics.
At the core, however, the hashtag is the new brilliant way to engage and reach out to your customers or audience. With how popular they have become, especially on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, it would be very wise to start using them in your social media marketing campaigns.
Use Brand and Campaign-Specific Hashtags
Hashtags may be a great way to insert yourself into the conversations of your audience, but they can also allow your brand to be the topic of those conversations, as well. By developing a brand-specific hashtag, the conversation now becomes about you. Your audience can talk about your brand with each other through the use of this hashtag, forming a whole database of your audience’s words specific to you and your brand. This is a great way to get feedback and see what your audience thinks of your business.
A good practice would be to develop a single hashtag specific to your business as a whole and then multiple hashtags in reference to each campaign you run. Always do multiple searches before choosing a hashtag to make sure it isn’t already trending or being used by another brand. Also, keep your hashtag short. After all, the point is to help your brand make its way into a conversation. If your audience can’t remember your hashtag or it takes up all of their character space in a tweet, it’s not likely to ever be used.
Insert Your Brand into Conversations
While hashtags can be used to let your customers talk about you, you can also use these great little tools to allow you to talk with your customers. The hashtags your audience uses are fair, open ground to be utilized to your advantage. By using trending hashtags, you can insert yourself into their conversations and increase customer engagement and brand exposure.
With that said, it is extremely important that you understand the trending conversations you are becoming a part of. Nobody wants to be DiGiorno, the pizza company who (accidentally?) claimed that pizza was the reason why they stayed in an abusive relationship. What DiGiorno failed to understand (or respect, possibly) in this situation was that the hashtag #WhyIStayed was being used as a conversation starter for people to talk about why they stayed in abusive relationships. That has nothing to do with pizza, and Twitter exploded with backlash for the company to deal with after.
Don’t let DiGiorno’s mistake scare you away. With a little research, hashtags can get your business a lot of good exposure and allow you to talk to your customers instead of the other way around.
Use them, but Don’t Use Too Many of Them
Although hashtags should definitely be utilized in your posts regardless of the social media platform you are posting on, you should also be careful, at the same time, not to use too many. While using hashtags could make your brand blow up overnight, they could also be the death of your brand, as well.
If you think back to our post about marketing your content toward Millennials, most of your audience doesn’t want to feel like they’re being sold to. With that said, the overuse of any hashtag could come across as fake and spam-y to your audience. In order to make sure your hashtags are being seen in the right light, only use a handful of them. If you make sure that the handful of hashtags you’re using are the most popular ones relevant to your content, then you won’t need to use more, anyway.