The Best Ways to Use Hashtags as Your Next #MarketingTechnique

hashtags

The truth is, hashtags are a way of life now. That might have seemed weird a few years ago (back when it was simply known as the “pound” sign), but hashtags are a vital part of communication. Maybe too vital, as Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake so astutely—and hilariously—pointed out to us last fall.

Twitter stared the trend, but almost every other social network including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and other social media avenues have picked it up over the last few years. When it comes to whether or not hashtags should really have a place in the business world, the short answer is ‘yes.’ Hashtags can be a very effective way to bring value to your business by helping you gain followers, improve your reputation, and give customers an easy-access way to find information and filter responses.

Top Ways to Utilize Hashtags for Your Business

Whether you’re a startup company or your business was thriving long before social media, hashtags are quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of social media marketing. In fact, CoxBlue.com indicates tweets with hashtags get double the engagement rate of those without a hashtag. The best part is that this approach is free—all it takes is some creativity.

Below are a few different ways you can use hashtags to propel your business forward in 2014:

1.     Use a hashtag with contests.

If your company is doing a contest or giveaway on social media, a hashtag should be an essential part of that campaign. Hashtags will help people identify the contest immediately and can help the campaign pick up steam on social media channels and reach more people. Not only that, but it helps to get people engaged and participating with your campaign, which can help connect you to your audience (more on this later).

For example, Budweiser created a television commercial and asked people to submit ideas for their next advertisement using the hashtag #clydesdales. Whenever anyone participated on any social network, all of his/her connections are seeing that hashtag and hopefully clicking to see what it’s all about. In other words, the potential for visibility along with this engagement is huge.

2.     Use hashtags to connect with people.

If people are already taking part in a contest or even a simple hashtag campaign, you can leverage the social media interaction into more long-term relationships, asking people to sign up for email newsletters or follow you on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms. If people are using the hashtag, they are already interested in your product and what your company has to offer, so taking it a step further and building up a connection is a natural, easy way to increase your following.

You can also use hashtags to relate with people in real time. When a big event happens or a popular TV show is airing, people take to social media to respond and interact with others interested in the same event. By using a creative hashtag, companies can insert themselves into conversations about trending topics. Use an event that has a tie-in to your brand or find a natural way to bring your company/product up into the existing conversation.

3.     Give people a platform.

When people post to social media, they aren’t doing it just to see (or hear) themselves talk. They want people to read and respond to what they say. They want to increase their following so more and more eyes are on their content.

If you create a hashtag for your company and ask your followers to utilize it, you’d get plenty of responses if you offered a platform for people to be heard and seen. You can showcase people who use the hashtag on your social media channels, either by re-tweeting the message, promoting their comment on Facebook or even copying some of the best uses of the hashtags into a post on your website. It may be the only reward people need to join in on your company’s hashtag.

You can also take it a step further and re-purpose the hashtag-driven content. Create an album or gallery from all the photos, cut together a compilation from Vines or user-submitted videos, incorporate tweets into a blog post, include the best responses in a Facebook post. There are plenty of opportunities to turn the hashtag-driven content into even more content to help promote your brand. Don’t just create the hashtag and watch the reaction—use the reaction to lift your company to new heights.

4.     Use the hashtag to track reaction and feedback.

It’s a lot easier to follow a hashtag rather than trying to keep up with all the comments, responses or reactions from consumers. Rather than having people take a survey or asking them for a response on Twitter, you can simply use a hashtag to see how consumers feel about your company. Hashtags are a call to action and you can track so many more responses by clicking on the hashtag on social media. There’s no need to email people to find out their thoughts, no need to force people to answer questions or provide statements with their opinion. Social media is the best way to discover how people feel and what they’re thinking and hashtags can bring everything together.

5.     Use hashtags to educate.

You can also use hashtag campaigns to inform people about your company or product. As hashtags gain popularity around social media channels, it’s more eyes on your company and a good chance to reach people and showcase what you have to offer. For example, you could pose a question on your social media accounts and ask people to answer using a certain hashtag. Take the following example:

If you selling fishing equipment, you could ask the question “What type of fish swims upright? #fishfacts.” Then everyone who wants to answer would say “Seahorses of course! #fishfacts.” It’s gets the conversation going, it educates your audience, and it helps you find people interested in fishing.

The Takeaway

Hashtags should be short and sweet. You’re better served having a short, effective hashtag than a complicated one that takes up valuable space or time to read. Also, be sure every new word is capitalized in the hashtag. That should be a given, but it’s surprising how many campaigns use hashtags all in lowercase, which can look very confusing. You want your hashtag to be as easy to read as possible. Unique, creative hashtags go a long way.

People love to be a part of something and hashtags have a unifying effect while also serving as a creative, effective way to boost interest, spread the word and drive value for your company.

How have you utilized hashtags in the past? What successes or failures have you found with hashtag campaigns? Let us know in the comments section below.

Creative commons image by Anna Creech / Flickr