Everybody uses hashtags these days, some more than others, and for all sorts of reasons. But the humble looking pound (#) sign can be a powerful tool in the hands of a marketing ninja. It’s not so much about the symbol itself, but the way it’s used in marketing communication which decides how much impact it can and will wield with your target audience.
Wait, I thought “#LoL #my #cat’s #so #cute” is all that there is to Hashtags!
Well, not really. Like the symbol itself, the hashtag had humble beginnings in the year 2007, and has come a long way since.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?The First Ever Hashtag Posted on Twitter
— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Its innate superpower to be so simple and yet to connect people in a way that was never possible before, led to its explosion on Twitterverse, and Twitter decided in Jul 2009 to allow its usage for categorizing Tweets and for searching them easily. Mass popularity followed (what with it being named the word of the year and babies being named Hashtag - because of its aforementioned superpower) and drove the hashtag to god-level on almost all popular social networks, with the most recent (and perhaps most debated) introduction on Facebook. Hashtags in essence, give context to content, and a great context+content combo is arguably the most effective tool in the hands of a seasoned marketer.
Er...so apart from “#LoL #my #cat’s #so #cute” what else can you use hashtags for?
Great marketers can think of almost any number of creative ways in which they wish to unleash the power of context+content. Here’s a small list of ways in which hashtags can be used in marketing:
- creating and maintaining a unified and consistent brand messaging across multiple social platforms
- driving engagement and participation across multiple networks by changing the way people discover content
- identifying in real-time what your audience is saying about your brand and engaging with them in live conversations
- increasing the reach for your brand outside of your established network, without even having to pay for sponsored content
- and very important, giving context to visual content, which needs it more as opposed to text which is easy to search, on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to enable users to find your content more easily
Owing to these great applications, hashtags, for most of the top brands, have already become an essential part of their social media repertoire and the trend is only going north from here.
Sooper! So how do I use these hashtags? Is this fine - “#LoL #my #cat’s #so #cute”?
NO. With great #power comes great #responsibility, so never overuse the hashtags. It looks like spam and desperate marketing, and is a sure-fire way to rapidly lose your fans & followers.
Aspiring marketing ninjas should consider the below things when using hashtags:
|That guy just wrote funny in 20 different ways!! He can do it, but strict no-no for marketers.|
- nothing works better than coming up with an original hashtag that’s relevant as well as unique to your brand
- the choice of hashtag is also important because it’s not only meant for your network, but also for others outside of it who’ll discover your content using that hashtag - don’t be too generic, or too obscure
- before implementing one, validate your hashtag - does it already exist, what other kind of content shows up with it, does it confuse/ turn-off your audience and waste their time?
- less is more, try not to use more than two hashtags per post - rotate them, space ‘em out in subsequent ones, but don’t overuse...ever.
- keep your hashtag simple and consistent across platforms
Hashtags are powerful tools that can lead to exponential increase in reach and generate massive impact for a brand. The key is to understand how they work and creating a unified social media strategy to be implemented across all the various platforms that allow the use of that humble-yet-powerful symbol.
© Jayant Rana, 2013
Images courtesy: misspixels / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND