Tagging keywords is hardly a new phenomenon in the digital age. And it’s hard to imagine a world without hashtags, which was essentially inspired by Flickr tags (FYI – it was circa 2009).
With the intention of them acting as meta data for tweets, the humble hashtag was a new concept seven years ago. While it was originally exclusive to Twitter, the trend soon caught on to other social platforms to take on a life of its own.
Originally crafted to make conversations and topics ‘discoverable’ by other users, they now go beyond the simple categorisation of information and discussion of events or topics. Today, hashtags also convey emotions, adding context to the image or statement they accompany. They are unavoidable parts of modern culture and are visible beyond the realms of social media, condensing an emotional or marketable idea into a shareable concept. The surge in popularity of Instagram, since its inception five years ago, has been paralleled by our adoption of hashtags.
Instagram has hit five million Australian users, meaning 21 per cent of Aussies are snapping away and deciding whether to use #nofilter, adjust the brightness or manipulate the saturation of an image. With the increased use of automated likes and comments (bots) becoming more apparent, it makes it harder for users to differentiate legit fans from those who are on the platform purely for self-promotion purposes.
A quick audit on Instagram found on a new profile (with no followers), that certain hashtags, such as #diet and #cleaneating, attracted auto-generated likes from personal trainers and gyms. In over 85 per cent of cases, these accounts were businesses looking to promote their own products.
But is there a difference between how individuals use hashtags on their personal accounts versus how a business should use them and incorporate them into its marketing strategy?
The answer is – absolutely!
Apart from including too many generic hashtags, you need to ask yourself, “How is this benefiting my business and my overall marketing objective? Are my target audience finding me from these hashtags and who exactly is searching for #skyporn, #love, #wow when my business is about organic wine?” There are over 300 million people worldwide who login to Instagram every month, and around 284 million who use Twitter.
With a little insight into how hashtags work, here are some simple rules to ensure your next campaign on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is a success. #winning.
1. Informative > abstract. There’s a reason why #LoveWins and #IceBucketChallenge took off and Burger King’s #WTFF (what the French fry) didn’t.
2. Bring your immaturity with you. The creative minds behind Penguin Books’ #YourMum hashstag, asking people what book they’d like their Mum to read this Mother’s Day, did not.
3. Always have a plan B. Victorian Taxi Association should have thought of this when they launched #YourTaxi and #taxiyourway. That escalated quickly!
4. Jump on the trend, if relevant. Kia, McDonald’s, Lego all championed #TheDress. Was it white and gold or black and blue?
5. Similarly, don’t hijack a hashtag with no relevance, creativity or sensitivity. A bit of research would have gone a long way for the community manager behind DiGiorno Pizza who hijacked #WhyIstayed to promote their product instead of joining the domestic violence conversation at the heart of the hashtag
6. Less is more. Don’t overdo the hashtags – it only dilutes your message and looks spammy.
7. Ask yourself again and again, “Is my target audience going to find me using generic hashtags, such as ‘#yum’ or are computer programs (bots) auto-liking my content and is this really valuable?”
Remember the reason why hashtags exist (for businesses) to be discoverable, shareable and localised. With this, go forth and create the most successful #marketingcampaign you’ve done to date.