Hashtag #generation: using hashtags to market your business on social media
Social media platforms have revolutionised marketing in the digital age and businesses are now encouraged to have a ‘social’ side, offering endless opportunities for public exposure.
Where traditional forms of marketing focused on one-way monologues with their audiences, social media marketing presents the opportunity to engage in two-way dialogues, breaking the barriers in business/consumer relationships.
While there are a variety of different social media marketing tools aimed at boosting public exposure and engagement organically, today we are focusing on hashtag marketing strategies.
Hashtags are essentially trending topics represented through a word or group of words placed after the hashtag (#) sign (for example, #winning, #secretsanta, #DiscoverTasmania). When using a hashtag sign before a word, that word becomes hyperlinked, creating a gateway to a page featuring other posts that have used that word.
For some, the hashtag is quite elusive. So if you fall under the category #confused when it comes to hashtag use, fear not, after reading this you will be an #expert.
Hashtags first became prominent on Twitter where they were initially used for ‘tweet chats’ as a means of opening, accessing and contributing to group discussions around a particular topic.
Today, hashtags have given people the ability to access and contribute topic-relevant material across multiple social media platforms.
So how can you use hashtags effectively in a marketing strategy?
As the lines between social and business networking continue to blur, you can tackle hashtag marketing from several different angles.
A trending hashtag is essentially a topic that has become very popular on social media. If you have ever watched The Project on channel 10 or Q and A on ABC and wondered what they mean by “what’s trending now”, they’re referring to trending hashtag topics.
Using a currently ‘trending’ hashtag that may be relevant to your business is a great way to increase brand exposure.
When you see a trending hashtag that relates to your business, participate in the trend by using the hashtag. Using a popular hashtag has the potential to expose your business brand to a larger demographic or, in other words, allows your content to be exposed to an audience beyond your immediate followers.
For example, a carpet cleaning business might tweet the following:
“Getting on with business on a Tuesday morning so all of us at Johnson’s Carpet Cleaning can enjoy the race that stops the nation this afternoon! #MelbourneCup #raceday”.
So that’s trending hashtags explained, now onto a more strategic hashtag method.
If you’re trying to increase brand awareness for your organisation, using hashtags in brand and campaign marketing can be very effective.
In making a ‘brand specific’ hashtag, make sure it’s something unique to your business and brand. However, avoid popular terms and already used hashtags (you can check if they’re used by searching for them on your social media platform) as this might confuse your message.
For example, last year popular frozen pizza brand, Di Giorno Pizza, made a tragic campaign mistake when they began using the hashtag #WhyIStayed in a campaign suggesting reasons to ‘stay in’ and enjoy pizza. Unfortunately for them, trending at the same time around the world was a social media discussion around why survivors of domestic violence stayed with their partners, using the hashtag #WhyIStayed. Di Giorno Pizza quickly become an internet hit, but for all the wrong reasons, being labelled as supporters of domestic violence – ouch!
Therefore, it is important to pick an original word or phrase that defines your business and your message. Try to go for something catchy, something that will encourage your audiences to get on board and use it – something that you will be proud to call your own.
Brand and campaign specific hashtags are also highly effective when running prize campaigns, as this gives your audience an incentive to share your hashtag.
For example, imagine you represent a travel agency called ‘Jetters’ and you’re giving away a Valentine’s Day holiday for two to Bali. You could run a social media campaign asking people to enter the competition by liking a Facebook page, sharing an Instagram post, or writing a post on Twitter. In addition, you could ask participants to feature the hashtag #JetterslovesBali in their public entries. This allows you to keep track of who’s entering the competition and how effective the campaign is in generating participation.
Hashtags can also create user-led publicity. For example, once someone publicly shares a hashtag unique to your brand or campaign, they are voluntarily exposing your brand to everyone on their network, and if there is an incentive to using that hashtag, they are also encouraging other people to use it as well. When implemented and executed successfully, brand and campaign hashtags can create a domino effect and endless possibilities for generating brand exposure.
If your brand or campaign hashtag is successful, you should notice an increase in engagement with your social media pages and overall business engagement.
For example, if a florist wanted to submit a Facebook post about a new batch of lilies arriving at their store, they might post:
“Wow we just received a beautiful delivery of locally grown #lilies! Come and see them for yourself and let a special someone know how you feel! #freshflowers #florist”.
Content hashtags are great for their versatility, and ability to connect like-minded people and industries together in the one portal.
Hashtag portals are the modern search engines and access points for people who engage in social media commentary and networking. They allow you to reach global audiences and demographics, as well as encouraging audience engagement and participation. So next time you plan your social media strategy, don’t forgot your good friend Mr hashtag and #sharethelove!