A Crash Course in Hashtags

 

Hashtags are the ties that bind us on social media, that is. If the online social sphere were a library, hashtags would be the card catalog. With so many conversations going on at any given moment, search functions simply don’t cut it when trying to narrow discussions on a single topic. Enter hashtags to save you the headache!

In geek speak, the hashtag is basically a metadata tag used to help create searchable topics that can connect more people to specific subject matters and conversations. When used correctly, hashtags have the power intensify your brand reach.

Let’s break them down!

 

Brand Hashtags

Brand hashtags are created to identify brands and reflect your overall message. They are used to cut through the noise and isolate conversations surrounding your brand or product. While larger brands may be able to get away with simply using their name as a brand hashtag, they are far more likely to catch on if they are more meaningful.

First and foremost, brand hashtags need to be simple and catchy. A tagline, for example, could be an effective way to engage your audience. In addition to creating a memorable brand hashtag, you must also give people a reason to use it. Particularly successful hashtags will stick and become a lofty asset to your brand identity across the web.

 Example:

One great use of the brand hashtag is the official tourism account for Atlantic City, NJ. The #DOAC hashtag has become instrumental in tying together branded and user-generated content. Visitors to the popular NJ shore town regularly post photos and details of their AC adventures using the hashtag, while also being able to find out what else is going on throughout the city whether it be entertainment, dining, shopping, gambling by simply searching the #DOAC hashtag.

See also: Kit Kat’s #HaveABreak and Charmin’s #TweetfromtheSeat

 

Campaign Hashtags

Businesses also have success at using hashtags to spark interest and engagement surrounding social media campaigns or promotions. These handy hashtags will be temporarily pushed to spread the word through the duration of a particular campaign.

While many campaign hashtags are widely used to promote or participate in offers, giveaways, or events; campaign hashtags can also be used for the general purposes of stirring up fan participation. The rules are the same. Keep them short and sweet (and it always helps to have an incentive to participate.)

Example:

The #EsuranceSave30 hashtag was wildly successful when promoted just after the 2013 Superbowl. Just how successful? It was tweeted of 5.4 million times. It shouldn’t come as much of a shock, as one lucky tweeter would eventually win 1.5 million dollars simply by using the hashtag. Beyond that though, the hashtag was clear, the rules were simple and it garnered over one billion impressions. The lesson remains the same even if you aren’t giving away millions. 

 

Discovery/Reach

Hashtags, in their most organic form, are be used to discover and explore content. Brands can use this for data and insight into their particular niche. They can find and participate in conversations or simply listen to see what their target audience is talking about. A coffee shop may stay tuned to the #latte hashtag to see what kind of content the coffee drinking public is most likely to discuss and share. This information can be integrated in new social media and promotional initiatives.

In turn, adding these hashtags to your own content can extend your reach and attract new fans. For instance, someone with interest in starting their own blog may be perusing the #blogging hashtag for tips and advice. If you are sharing credible information on the topic along with the hashtag, they may now turn to you as a valuable source of information on the topic. 

Example:

 

CONVERSATIONAL/Commentary

Perhaps the most frowned upon, they deviate most from the traditional use of the hashtag. While many are quick to label these hashtags as abuse, they serve a mighty purpose in the land of social. Most often used as a sidenote or an after thought, these conversational hashtags provide extra real estate for further thought without diminishing the original message. (Also, they can be really, really funny.)

The hashtag gives the writer the opportunity to comment on his own emotional state, to sarcastically undercut his own tweet, to construct an extra layer of irony, to offer a flash of evocative imagery or to deliver metaphors with striking economy.
— Julia Turner, NY Times

 

While we condone this form of hashtagging, it is also most susceptible to abuse.  #pleaserefrainfrombeingthisguy

 Perhaps no better example:

 

No matter what your goal, your hashtags must have a clear purpose. It is important to research and take extreme care and consideration when crafting your hashtags. After all. nobody wants to be the butt of all of jokes. (Here’s looking at you “susanalbumparty.”)