Thursday, August 4, 2016

How do #hashtags work?

Hashtags are used on social media to tag keywords or phrases in your own posts that you want to be easily found by others posting with the same tag. On sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, adding the "#" sign at the beginning of a word creates a clickable link that will open a page full of other posts with corresponding tags.
The first hashtag was posted online to Twitter in 2007, and since that time they have allowed social media users to discuss topics with those outside of their own network. This can be particularly beneficial for topics that need awareness, for branding a social campaign, and to drive user interactions.
How do hashtags work?

Hashtags aren't just for user interactions, however. Since 70% of people use hashtags on mobile and 55% of tweets with hashtags are more likely to be retweeted (Social Media Today), the use of these tags should also be considered an important part of business marketing strategy.

How businesses and brands use hashtags

Statistics show that marketing to online audiences is critical for business success. Like many social media tools and strategies, how your company uses hashtags should be based on your goals and objectives. Businesses use hashtags for social listening, to encourage engagement, and to increase brand awareness.

1. Using hashtags for social listening


The pros have been listening in on social discussions for ages. The idea is to keep an eye on:
  • what your target audience is talking about, 
  • what your competition is talking about, and 
  • what anyone on social media is saying about you
Since hashtags are usually simple, broad terms, you can start by simply searching for your target keywords and phrases in hashtag form. If "digital marketing" is one of your keywords, search Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+ for "#digitalmarketing" to get the scoop. This will give you an idea of who's using that tag and allow you to gain valuable insights into the perceptions of your audience based on the posts and discussions you find there.

2. Using hashtags with emojis

Example of a Branded Hashtag Emoji on Twitter

One of the latest trends in social media is the use of emojis, and hashtags are no exception. On some platforms, like Instagram, you can actually hashtag the emoji symbols just like regular words. For example, # becomes a clickable link when used on Instagram.

The other major trend in emoji-hashtags is the branded hashtag emoji used in campaigns by bigger brands on Twitter. According to AdWeek, when Coca-Cola launched the first branded hashtag emoji campaign on Twitter last fall, there were over 170,500 mentions in the first 24 hours.

Trends that include emojis are likely to continue as the little symbols continue to grow in popularity.

3. Using hashtags to encourage engagement


If you're just starting out with hashtag use, try using some popular tags that already have a large following. The goal is to join conversations so seek out tags that connect you with the right users for your goals. Consider incorporating existing hashtags into your posts that your audience already uses. Obscure or unique tags can work really well for large-scale events and companies, such as #GenCon2016, but will likely generate very little discussion if you're the only one using it.

4. Using hashtags to increase brand awareness


Since social media marketing is so heavily reliant on networking and sharing, it will come as no surprise that hashtags can very successful at increasing awareness. If you've purchased a Coca-Cola product recently, you may have noticed #ShareaCoke printed on the cans and bottles. This type of branding encourages users to post online with that hashtag to share who they would share a soda pop with.

This isn't just for corporate giants, however, since local attendees are also likely to use suggested hashtags. For example, a recent event in the Indianapolis area used #RUN317 to connect attendees, sponsors, and media to the event all with the use of the hashtag.

Example: #IGoPurpleFor Campaign

Trending hashtag
In June, The Alzheimer's Association used hashtag #IGoPurpleFor to raise awareness and drive conversations on social media. See the tweets.

June was Alzheimer's Awareness month so the hashtag #IGoPurpleFor was a popular tag that individuals could use in their own tweets or click on others' to join the conversation. One of the benefits to incorporating a hashtag into a campaign is that users help shape and define the messaging so it's reach is authentic. This is an important factor, since 92% of people trust people (even if they don't know them) over brands (Nielson). 
At the time of this post, for example, #IGoPurpleFor engagement statistics included:
  • ~600 posts
  • ~500 users
  • ~3.5 million reached
  • ~5 million impressions
It is important to note that a hashtag campaign doesn't have to be used by hordes of people in order to be effective. Be strategic while targeting audiences and shaping messaging to fit the campaign objectives to see results like increasing followers, subscribers, or even leads.

Takeaways

While there is no single, specific way to utilize hashtags for success, they should not be overlooked in your digital marketing strategy. If you are just getting started with hashtags, it is okay to start simply. Even if hashtags are old news to you, it is still a good idea to keep it basic. Research which hashtags will have the most ROI for your campaigns/brand, track the impact of hashtag utilization using data and reporting, and don't be afraid to try new strategies as the digital marketing landscape shifts and changes.

How do you plan to leverage the power of social media to supercharge your digital marketing? If you're looking for help creating an online marketing strategy, TBH Creative is here for you. With our wide range of services and years of expertise, we can help you develop a plan to make this year a successful one for your company. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends in web design, social media, and digital marketing.
Sarah

About the author | Sarah Matlock

Sarah is a digital marketing assistant at TBH Creative, specializing in social media management and data analysis. She likes to blog about social media strategy, the latest trends in the industry, and how to engage the online community more effectively.

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