Initially, hashtags may seem like an insignificant part of a brand’s marketing plan. Some companies seem to choose one or two hashtags as a mere afterthought. However, as social media platforms like Twitter have taken off in recent years, it has become clear that a hashtag is much more than a means to to categorize content across the social web. When used correctly, hashtags can also strengthen your brand.
“You can use a hashtag to improve searchability, to tap into trends, to create a conversation around your brand, or to inject a bit of humor into your post (or of all of these at the same time!). It depends on your objective.” (Source: Socialbakers)
As Kevan Lee, of Buffer, explains, “The proliferation of hashtags is truly incredible. What began on Twitter has now spread to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Google search, and almost everywhere in between. (LinkedIn experimented with hashtags for awhile before giving up.) The widespread acceptance of hashtags should give you plenty of reason to consider using them.”
Here are four hashtag tips to keep in mind as you craft your social media and content marketing plans:
Don’t Use Too Many Hashtags
It’s usually best to take a “less is more” approach when it comes to using hashtags. You’ll often see multiple hashtags used throughout a social media post. In some cases, it can be effective, especially if you figure out ways to use hashtags that are already trending. However, using too many hashtags in a short post can serve as visual overkill, causing people to get fixated on the hashtags alone, rather than your message.
Create a Unique Brand Hashtag
Work on creating at least one hashtag that’s specific to your brand. It may be inspired by nothing more than the company name, or could come about by combining your company name with a product you sell. Whatever the case is, make sure your unique hashtag is as visible as possible.
Instead of just using it on social media, place it at the bottom of your business cards, on flyers about your company and even use the hashtag on window and door decals if you have a physical business location. The more people see your hashtag, the more likely it is they’ll want to use it, especially if they’re already loyal to your brand or on the verge of showing loyalty that lasts.
Encourage Use of Your Brand Hashtag
Some people don’t want to use hashtags until they’re given a compelling reason to do so. Representatives from VF Outlet, a clothing retail website, understood that reality well when they recently launched a contest asking participants to use the #vfotryiton hashtag. Taking part is easy, because people only have to use the hashtag on Instagram or Twitter in connection with a picture of themselves wearing a pair of jeans from the retailer.
Since reposting another person’s picture is not a sufficient way to enter, the contest was created so that anyone who’s interested in winning the grand prize (i.e., $1,000 gift card) must read the sweepstakes rules and create original submissions. It is easy to see how this type of social contest is an excellent way to build awareness of a brand’s hashtag, and help spread awareness through the Internet.
Host a Chat Using Your Hashtag
People who started using the Internet in the early ‘90s probably fondly remember chat rooms. Although perhaps they aren’t used as often today, people relied on them to come together with others from across the world who shared similar interests. Fortunately, chatrooms haven’t gone away completely, rather they have evolved.
Today, brands ranging from the Netflix series House of Cards to Random House Publishers have hosted massive chats across Twitter to get target audiences engaged and buzzing. These fast-moving online events are great ways for brand representatives to see what matters most to the people embracing a respective brand. They can also be great for testing out a few ideas before bringing them to a wider audience.
Hopefully these tips will help you get off to a good start, especially if you haven’t thought a lot about using hashtags for branding purposes in the past, but are now testing the waters. Hashtags can sometimes be just a few characters long, but when used correctly, are also extremely powerful.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Savannah Flynn is a public relations specialist for WebpageFX, a full-service Internet marketing, web design and web development agency offering integrated web solutions for medium to large sized businesses across the globe. She has a passion for online marketing and PR.