It seems like the whole digital world is using hashtags, so how can you, as a marketer, use hashtags to make your brand message stand out from the sea of #?
The short answer to that is to consider the dictionary definition of a hashtag (added around 2007, when hashtags first became a ‘thing’): “hashtag / haʃtag: a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications… to identify messages on a specific topic.”.
The key words here are specific topic. You need to know what you want to say, and limit the amount of hashtags you use to convey that specific message, or you’ll be at risk of diluting your message.
Hashtags are key to communicating across social media, so it’s necessary to know the basics.
Here are a few quick dos and don’ts to consider when using hashtags:
Have a hashtag specific to your brand, product or marketing campaign (depending on how big your product or campaign are).
Make sure that this hashtag is unique, so it’s easier for you to track, collect data on, and analyse as a marketer.
For example, our hashtag for our nudenotes, sketchnotes and booknotes is #nudenotes, which wasn’t really used before we started posting about it, making it much easier to track.
Research popular relevant hashtags in your industry. Keep an eye on your competitors and your customers.
Use trending hashtags to join the conversation - where applicable (see below for more information).
Use the same hashtags across different platforms, especially if they are relating to your specific marketing message.
Over-use hashtags. It looks cheap and tacky when you see a company hashtagging every word. #Just #stop #it #now #please
Use popular, general hashtags that aren’t strictly relevant to your message, topic or brand. #Love and #happy are way too saturated, and could honestly mean anything.
When creating your own hashtags, don’t make them too long, or customers won’t be able to read them, won’t be bothered to type them, and therefore, they won’t be effective. #Justnotagoodideaokaypleasedontdoitalright
If you are piggy-backing on a trending hashtag, don’t just do it for the sake of it. Make it relevant.
How many brands have caused irreparable damage by jumping on board with irrelevant trending hashtags.
One notable screw-up was taxi firm Your Taxis tweeting: “#RememberanceDay 600,000 taxi trips are taken by war Veterans and widows for treatment purposes. Lest We Forget. #yourtaxis”.
Even looking beyond the misspelling of ‘remembrance’, this was a terrible tweet. Taxis have nothing to do with Remembrance Day, and this was just a heavy-handed, misguided attempt to promote a company.
Be aware of how your hashtags look, and what they actually spell. Anyone else remember #susanalbumparty?
Create too many hashtags unique to your brand.
A good example of this is RuPaul’s Drag Race. For each challenge, RuPaul used to provide a new hashtag early in each episode, but with 14 episodes per season, and now with (at the time of writing) 11 seasons, that’s a lot of hashtags to track.
Know your reason for creating a hashtag, and understand your ability to track it.
RuPaul now repeats just one hashtag at the beginning of each episode’s challenge: #DragRace - much easier to track (although it’s a fairly generic hashtag that may result in posts about actual drag racing instead of fierce queens.
Share your favourite uses of hashtags and your hashtag horror stories in the comments below.