Though they’ve only been around for about a decade, hashtags have become a widely-used feature on nearly every major social media platform, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Hashtags serve two primary functions for users: (1) they help users find content related to a specific topic, and (2) they make it easier for users to find others with mutual interests.
Today, brands are using hashtags to promote their name and advertise specific products on social media. Just as hashtags help users find content related to a term or phrase, they make branded content more searchable and discoverable online. Hashtags are an important part of social media marketing strategies that should not be overlooked.
Here we’ve outlined 10 tips marketers can follow to create a stellar hashtag. Whether a brand is aiming to increase audience engagement in the form of user-generated content or to promote the launch of a new product, hashtags are an extremely powerful social media tactic that every marketer should consider implementing.
Oftentimes, users only glance at captions as they scroll through their social media feeds. To improve the readability of a hashtag, limit hashtag length and capitalize the first letter of every word. This will make it easier for users to read and understand a hashtag at a glance.
To promote its Cat & Jack children’s clothing line Target utilized the short, succinct hashtag #CatandJack. The capitalization of both “Cat” and “Jack” enables the hashtag to be read quickly and easily, like a sentence. The capitalization of two out of three words in the hashtag improves its readability, whereas a longer hashtag absent of capital letters would be much more difficult to read and comprehend.
To ensure a hashtag stands out against other social media content and other hashtags, avoid generic hashtags. Strive for a hashtag that is specific and unlikely to be used in other scenarios. By choosing hashtags that are individualized and creative a brand can effectively “own” the search results for that hashtag.
For instance, to advertise the Hawaiian Islands to Instagram users, the Hawaii Visitors and Conventions Bureau created the unique hashtag #lethawaiihappen. The use of this specific hashtag instead of something simpler like #hawaii makes content associated with the campaign more searchable.
The inclusion of a call to action in a hashtag often triggers user engagement. In most cases, a hashtag with a call to action directs users to create original content.
Coca-Cola utilizes a call to action in its ongoing #ShareACoke hashtag campaign. The hashtag campaign was launched in conjunction with another Coca-Cola marketing initiative that replaces the Coke logo with common names on select cans and bottles.
The new element of personalization, in addition to the call to action within the hashtag, makes users more likely to purchase Coke and share the hashtag on social media. To date, hundreds of thousands of social media users have created original posts using the #ShareACoke hashtag, many of which showcase a can adorned with their name.
Including brand names in hashtags is an effective strategy for increasing brand awareness. Marketers can do this by making their brand name the entirety of a hashtag, for example, #danielwellington, or by incorporating their brand name as part of a hashtag, such as #amexaccess.
The watch brand Daniel Wellington is well known for using its brand name as a hashtag. On Instagram in particular, the search results for #danielwellington feature influencer and user-generated images of the company’s watches, making it easy for users to browse through images of Daniel Wellington’s latest products.
The brand also incorporates its name into longer hashtags such as #danielwellingtonhk to highlight more specific influencer and user-generated images. This type of hashtag makes images of Daniel Wellington watches from specific parts of the world, in this case Hong Kong, highly searchable.
Hashtags are a great way to not only raise brand awareness, but also to generate buzz around a specific product. Whether promoting the release of a new product or aiming to increase interest in an existing one, including a product name in a hashtag helps generate interest in that specific item.
McDonald’s recently used this strategy to promote one of its specific menu items, Buttermilk Crispy Tenders. The brand used the hashtag #ButtermilkCrispyTenders, which is more specific than a simple hashtag like #McDonalds or #ChickenTenders. This hashtag effectively showcases McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Tenders and makes it easy for users to find more images of the product.
To further boost audience engagement, consider using hashtags to run social media contests and giveaways. Contests and giveaways are a great way to incentivize social media users to reuse branded hashtags. Many brands that leverage this strategy see an influx of valuable user-generated content.
To promote its coffee and donuts during the winter holiday season Dunkin’ Donuts ran a photo contest on its Instagram that encouraged user participation. The company instructed users to post a photo or video of a holiday moment with Dunkin’ Donuts alongside the captions #DDCoffeeJoy and #Contest. Multiple prizes were awarded to top posts, including Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards and JetBlue travel certificates. Additionally, more than 300 original posts were created using the unifying hashtag #DDCoffeeJoy.
Similar to the implementation of hashtagged photo contests and giveaways, hashtagged charitable campaigns give users a strong incentive to reuse a hashtag.
Disney recently ran a campaign across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the hashtag #ShareYourEars. For every photo users posted of Mickey Mouse ears alongside the hashtag, Disney pledged to donate $5 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Users responded positively to the promise and Disney donated $2,000,000 in total to the foundation as a result of the campaign. Additionally, more than 200,000 posts were created using #ShareYourEars on Instagram alone, effectively raising brand awareness for Disney and positioning it as an altruistic corporation.
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Social media influencers often serve as a megaphone for brands and their specific hashtag campaigns. Partnering with influencers can maximize the visibility of hashtags and help a hashtag spread.
For its #FightHunger campaign, Walmart collaborated with 7 Instagram influencers and pledged to donate $0.09 for every like, share, or comment on the influencers’ sponsored Walmart #FightHunger post. By using influencers the brand generated millions of likes and donated $3,000,000 to Feeding America, an American nonprofit working to alleviate hunger.
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Aligning hashtag campaigns with popular events is a great way to maximize hashtag visibility. For example, Stella Artois’ 2017 Oscars campaign utilized the hashtag #1Chalice5Years. In this campaign, Stella Artois partnered with designer Marchesa and celebrity Olivia Culpo to create an iconic dress made entirely from their Limited-Edition Chalices. The hashtag #1Chalice5Years was used to spread the word about the dress and encourage social media users to buy Stella Artois Chalices.
The hashtag communicates their central campaign message: for every 1 chalice purchased, 5 years of clean water was donated to a person in the developing world. By aligning this hashtag campaign with a popular event, Stella Artois was able to capitalize on the organic buzz and press coverage that surrounds the Oscars.
Including campaign hashtags on your brand’s social profiles is another way to increase hashtag visibility. Haircare brand Moroccanoil uses this strategy to showcase its hashtag #ArganEveryDay, which refers to a specific Argan oil hair product. When users arrive at the brand’s Instagram page, #ArganEveryDay is a clickable link that directs them to the search results for the term. Here users can find user and influencer generated content that showcases Moroccanoil’s product.