Do you include hashtags in your social media posts?
Want more traction from your hashtag campaigns?
Adding hashtags to your campaigns can drive engagement with fans and followers, as well as attract new and prospective customers.
In this article I'll share four ways to improve reach and engagement with hashtags.
Why Hashtags Matter
Since social media is social, it's important to participate in conversations on a variety of topics.
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However, the virtual world does not give us body language cues, and it may be difficult to keep track of everything that's going on. This is especially important when it comes to interacting with hundreds or even thousands of people on social media. Instead of pleasant and engaging conversation, all you hear is noise.
Hashtags help cut through all the noise. They connect your business with your audience and put it at the heart of conversations on social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Facebook.
#1: Align Hashtags With Your Brand
Use a hashtag that aligns with your brand to reinforce the message your social, digital and traditional marketing send to your customers.
Kit-Kat, the company behind the popular chocolate snack, does this particularly well. They use the hashtag #mybreak, which is in concert with their wider branding message, “Have a break, have a Kit-Kat.”
Kit-Kat's social media team reinforces the use of #mybreak. They favorite and retweet the social media posts of customers who use the hashtag.
This engagement not only helps develop the relationship between Kit-Kat and their customers, but also more broadly extends the reach of the hashtag and Kit-Kat's branding.
#2: Choose Hashtags Carefully
In social media and in life, there's always the chance things won't work out exactly as planned. Your hashtag could possibly be hijacked, either by another brand or by activists with an axe to grind.
Kit-Kat's #mybreak hashtag is unlikely to get hijacked. It's on-brand, and there's not a lot of online activism aimed at chocolate-wrapped wafers.
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When airline Qantas launched the hashtag #QantasLuxury, they hoped their business and first-class flyers would post about their dream luxury experience. Instead, the hashtag was hijacked by the far larger group of disgruntled Qantas passengers who fly economy class.
Give each hashtag strong consideration before deploying it in a tweet or a post. Reflect with your team and colleagues, and ask advice from friends active on social networks about potential hashtags.
While you can consider best-case scenarios (like Qantas envisioned), also be sure to consider potential worst-case situations. Choose a hashtag with the least risk of hijacking, so you can avoid a potential social media crisis.
#3: Take Your Hashtag Offline
Don't limit your business hashtags to only social media. It's important to use them as part of a wider branding strategy that includes offline and traditional media.
For Coca-Cola’s 2015 Super Bowl campaign, the company launched the related hashtag #MakeItHappy. The hashtag populated the company's social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Plus, it appeared in television and print advertising, as well as in earned media online.
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Increase traction for your hashtag by using it away from your social networks.
Small businesses can make it easy for their customers to share positive reviews and social comments about their experiences by encouraging the use of a hashtag.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, make sure your hashtag is displayed prominently near the point of sale, on your promotional flyers, print ads and every receipt. Online businesses should create clickable hashtags, encourage visitors to ‘click to tweet‘ text including the hashtag and prominently display the hashtag on the company home page.
Whether it's a physical or a digital business, the advice is the same. To gain hashtag traction and develop your brand, take your hashtag offline (or at least off of your social networks and onto your website). It can have real benefits for your business.
#4: Introduce Variety With Hashtags
While your brand or business name might not change, if you want to remain effective and relevant, the hashtags you use in your business must.
Social media conversations happen in real time, and what's trending today is likely to be forgotten tomorrow. While having a consistent hashtag for your business is a way to keep continuity in your branding, it's also important to assess and refresh your hashtags on a regular basis to maintain the interest of your followers.
IKEA USA’s Twitter feed is a great example of how to keep the hashtag balance. Some of the account's hashtags are standard company branding, such as #IKEA and #IKEAFamily. These help the company engage with followers about core brand issues.
In addition, tweets using the hashtag #IKEACatalog speak directly to the company's famous annual catalog.
However, IKEA USA mixes things up with a range of other hashtags to keep their social conversations fresh and interesting.
The IKEA USA Twitter feed regularly uses the hashtags #creative, #organized and #DIY to help connect their products with their audience. The company also uses temporal hashtags like #MotivationMonday, and gets involved in trending topics like #NationalEmojiDay and #NationalIceCreamDay.
The key is balance. Keep some core hashtags that don't change to maintain your brand's continuity. Plus, regularly incorporate new hashtags into your marketing campaigns to keep things fresh and stay on top of trending topics.
Hashtags are more than just markers for your tweets or a way to join a wider conversation. They're identifiers for your company branding that help you cut through the noise, curate conversations and engage your followers.
What do you think? Do you use hashtags in your marketing? What campaigns have been more successful? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments.
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