When and how to use hashtags

hashtagsInitially introduced to make content easier to follow on Twitter, the hashtag has become part of daily life; both for business and pleasure. Hashtags are short phrases that enable people to track and follow the people and topics that interest them. While most commonly used on social media (Twitter and Google+) they can be utilised in other marketing materials.

Whether you are organising a conference, promoting a brand, announcing a promotion or selling a specific product, hashtags can be very helpful in your marketing efforts. However, while many of us know what they are, not everyone is aware of how to use them properly or how dire the consequences of misuse can be.

DiGiorno Pizza’s are a prime example of how even an experienced company with great Twitter hashtag campaigns can get it very badly wrong. Known for their entertaining campaigns like the NFL #DiGiorNOYOUDIDNT, they found themselves on the wrong side of Twitter users and the press when they hijacked the hashtag WhyIStayed for a pizza campaign without realising it was part of a campaign against domestic violence.

Here are a few ways to ensure that you use hashtags to best effect while avoiding the common pitfalls:

Keep them short and sweet
Long, bumbling hashtags will eat up your character spaces on Twitter. It will also make it harder for those who view your tweets to read and share your hashtags. Make them as clear, relevant and memorable as possible.

Do your research
If you pick hashtags without checking whether they are already in use you may find that you are using the same hashtags as your competitors or that they are already overused. Worst of all, you could find yourself unwittingly endorsing a campaign that goes against your brand’s values. Find out who else is using prospective hashtags and whether this fits with your brand ethos. It is also worth considering whether your hashtag could be spun in a negative way by other social media users.

Be consistent
Hashtags aren’t just for Twitter or Google+. You can incorporate them into all your marketing materials – online and print – so that your hashtag becomes increasingly familiar and memorable across the board.

Don’t spam
Overusing hashtags or taking advantage of unrelated hashtags because they are trending is a bad idea. Twitter may take action and filter or even suspend you from the search. Furthermore, people will see through this technique. It’s much better to aim for meaningful interactions with people rather than jumping on the bandwagon.

Stick to one or two
A well-chosen hashtag is better than a series of irrelevant hashtags. Research suggests that tweets containing one or two hashtags are most likely to be retweeted.

When used properly, hashtags help to ensure that the content you produce reaches the right people, appealing to existing and prospective customers alike. Ideally, people will begin to associate a particular hashtag with your specific brand. It often takes time to do this and you may need to try a few options before you get it right.

Remember that your hashtag is only as good as your content. If your content doesn’t motivate or inspire your customers, it’s unlikely that your hashtags will.

If you need help to get your social media campaigns and hashtag off to a start for 2015, get in touch.

What’s the best or worst hashtag campaign you’ve seen?

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This entry was posted in Digital Marketing, Google+, Social Media, Twitter and tagged , , , by Rob Thomas. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rob Thomas

Rob lives and breathes Social Technology, Social Media & Mobile Marketing. He will show you how to use them to improve many areas of your bottom line, not just Marketing! He’ll show you how to enhance and protect your reputation, whilst generating increased sales, reduced costs and improved customer acquisition and retention. Recognised as an expert in reputation management, digital and mobile marketing, Rob is a professional speaker both in the U.S. and across Europe. In addition to consultation services, including the “12 step process to achieve Social Proficiency” programme, Rob also coaches, trains and provides implementation services to help business owners, organisational leaders and their teams. If you want/need Rob to speak at one of your events please email him rob.thomas@wsi-emarketing.com You can follow me on Google+