The Power of the Hashtag
Hashtag: a word or sentence prefixed with the # symbol and used in social media to group messages or posts about the same topic, to update users in real time and to enable them to be part of a bigger conversation.
Essentially, hashtags are a tool to help users identify posts that have something in common.
Hashtags have migrated to Facebook from their origins on Twitter and are growing in use from Google+ to Tumblr as well. They have particularly benefited from the explosive growth of Instagram, where they make photos and videos easily categorized and searchable.
Now, hashtags have an increasing presence in online search, and brands are realizing the hashtag’s potential to be a link that unites messages in a fractured social-media landscape. While social networks will come and go, the hashtag is a tool that allows brands to identify conversations.
Gartner research shows that 74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide their purchasing decisions, but that influence is now divided across many social networks. Hashtags can unite and bolster that influence.
How and Why Marketers Should Use Hashtags.
As hashtags gain more momentum, they can help a brand expand their reach to people who are viewing posts in that topic. Hashtags are a great way to help people interested in niche topics find each other and find the conversation. By including a hashtag in a post, it can possibly get in front of people who may not have seen the post otherwise, making them aware of the brand or topic.
Amplify a brand.
By branding a post with a hashtag about a new product, information can be broken out into a separate stream of conversation and give people an easy way to share about a new product.
A great example of this is Nature’s Bounty Optimal Solutions use of the hashtag #NaturesBountyGummy to create awareness to consumers about their new Hair, Skin and Nails product. The hashtag gained global recognition trending as one of the top five topics in Twitter. They hosted a special Twitter party, an hour long chat led by a singular hashtag, and saw over 9,144 tweets.
There is little to be gained if the brand is the only entity using the hashtag though. Other people need to be encourage to use the hashtag if marketers wants cohesion around a conversation.
Cross social platforms.
Nearly 42% of those on social media have more than one social network account. Due to this, much time can be saved using a hashtag because you are able to post the same content across several platforms to gain the most reach.
Promote Specials and Events.
Running a promotion or a competition is a common way of using hashtags. People enjoy entering them and it is a good way to increase content about a brand. Many marketers have already employed this strategy by introducing hashtag competitions.
Another form to promote a brand using a hashtag is with a Twitter party. Any marketer would be filled with glee seeing their brand trending on a social network with millions of active users. Twitter parties will do just that. They are typically hour-long conversations managed by a brand and guided by specific hashtags. The party allows consumers to engage with brands and in turn, generate thousands of tweets in a short period of time.
In order to participate, consumers simply incorporate the specific hashtag in their tweet. Often times it is the name of the company or brand running the promotion, but can also be tied to a pop culture reference or a particular action.
Make sure to keep hashtags simple. Like links, hashtags look like spam if they are used too often. Three hashtags should be the maximum used in one post. Also, make sure to give context to a hashtag. A tweet that contains only hashtags is not only confusing, but is extremely boring. Being specific is important when joining or generating a conversation around a brand. A generic hashtag will prove to be ineffective.
This seems simple; but the key to using a hashtag is to think of one that is creative enough to grab the consumer’s attention while still giving them the ability to recognize the brand within the hashtag.
The ultimate goal for many brands is to get enough mentions to be listed as a trending topic on the Twitter search page.
By utilizing hashtags, marketers are creating an experience around a brand for consumers. Creating conversation around a particular brand is a simply way for marketers to market whatever they want, and by using a hashtag it makes it easier for products and brands to be discovered. Even though the symbol is so simple, the power of the hashtag is infinite.