Used haphazardly, hashtags can offer very little. But, used strategically, hashtags become a powerful asset to your brand. Unless you’re a large brand such as Nike, you’re probably not going to start the next big trend or hashtag online. That’s okay. The social media game isn’t about creating waves; it’s about learning to spot the waves and riding them.
Let’s do a quick rundown of what a hashtag is to ensure we’re all on the same page before we move forward. In 2007, Twitter officially adopted use of the pound sign (#) after it was used in relation to the California wildfires as a way to group together relevant content. Hashtags are identifiers used to group content and make it easier to find similar content throughout the internet. There are three main strategic uses for hashtags: branded hashtags, trending hashtags and relevant hashtags.
With branded hashtags, the goal is to create a space for your audience to engage with your organization. With consistent use of a common phrase you can create a curated bank of content. As your audience engages with your channels and starts to use the hashtag themselves, this collection begins to grow. As prospects come into contact with your hashtag, either through you or your audience, they have an instant link back to a cache of information that opens the door to new conversations and potential sales.
When deciding on a branded hashtag, it’s important to choose something that is unique and own-able, but also short and easy to understand. Once you’ve chosen a hashtag you can kick start engagement with the tag by running a contest or hosting social media chats. Encourage your audience to use the hashtag as an entry into a contest or to communicate directly with you in a digital town hall style session.
Branded Hashtags are great for boosting engagement and curating information for individuals who are already in contact with your content in some way, but how do you then maximize the reach of that content? When hashtags were introduced, they provided an easy way to track trends in conversations on social media. Twitter offers a list of the top trending topics at any moment, and there are sites such as Hashtagify and Sprout Social that provide more in-depth data on what’s creating buzz.
The key here is to keep an eye out for a trending topic that is relevant to your brand that you can engage with authentically. Is there a national holiday that feels relevant to your brand and your target audience? Maybe #funfactfriday is trending. Can you share a fun fact about your service or brand? By being cognizant of the ebb and flow of social media, you can find opportunities to engage in the global conversation and get your brand in front of a wider audience.
As long as you know who your target audience is, you can understand what topics are important to them. Be on the lookout for areas where your brand and content overlap with the topics that your target audience values. Maybe you’re looking to boost social engagement for your dog walking business. Using #bark could help you connect with dog lovers who would resonate with your brand. Or, if you’re aiming to market a destination with a poolside offering to millennials, the right Instagram post and #roséallday might be the bridge you need to reach your audience.
Social media marketing isn’t a get rich quick scheme; it requires intentional and consistent hard work. But with these strategies, you can demystify the process and make larger strides to growing your audience and engagement. If you’ve got an awesome brand, people are going to want to be involved, it’s just a matter of getting it in front of them.