Think the hashtag is dead? Despite epic fails, the hashtag’s power remains alive and well for content marketers who know how to use it.
With a winning hashtag and the right social strategy to back it up, the theory that the hashtag is dead holds little merit. In the realm of sponsored content, the hashtag is more important than ever, providing a simple way for brands and influencers to make disclosure clear. A hashtag tacked onto a thoughtfully crafted visual can help track popularity and engagement. They’re efficient branding tools that work across some of the most popular social platforms. But hashtag strategy isnt always smooth sailing.
When marketers plan to incorporate hashtags into their campaigns, the results are either magical and memorable, or they’re mistakes that cause brand mayhem. These examples are just a handful of the do’s and don’ts in hashtag marketing.
One of the main reasons many marketers believe the hashtag has outlived its usefulness is the number of ineffective campaigns that failed to capitalize on their own hashtag concoctions. For example, McDonald’s attempted to jump on the hashtag bandwagon in 2012 with #McDStories.
Originally intended to create positive buzz, this campaign went down in flames when customers began using the hashtag to share their unsatisfactory experiences. Despite halting the hashtag, the campaign spread over social media and created more negative publicity than McDonald’s bargained for.
In theory, a string of words might make sense. On paper or in print, those same words could easily be misinterpreted. Take, for example, Susan Boyle’s publicity for her new album. Her PR team created #susanalbumparty to spread the word. The tag quickly trended on Twitter for an unintending meaning caused by the unfortunate string of letters.
Another problematic hashtag in history was #nowthatcherisdead, which many social media users interpreted as “Now That Cher Is Dead,” sparking a viral rumor about the singer’s death instead of creating buzz about “Now Thatcher Is Dead.”
In the past, brands have tried to either own a hashtag—which is impossible—or used trending hashtags to promote their brands, a practice known as hashtag hijacking, or trendjacking. Both of these strategies carry negative consequences for brands. As an example, one major retailer used #Sandy to sell goods while the hurricane of the same name wreaked havoc on the East Coast.
On the positive side of trendjacking, hashtags tweeted out during Hurricane Sandy helped concerned citizens stay connected and up to date on the latest news about the devastating storm. Mashable reported that 20 million tweets went out with the words “sandy” and “hurricane,” with specific tags popping up to help New Jersey residents spot important updates about gas stations, open businesses, outages, and more. The real power of a trending tag in action.
The key to effectively leveraging the positive effects of hashtags is to find the most relevant tag for your brand and content. There are free tools out there to help connect you with hashtags that apply to your content, but marketers still need to use a little strategy to maximize their impact.
For example, #digitalmarketing is a popular option, which means that many people compete for reach when they tack it onto a tweet. The tag #instagrammarketing is also popular, but less in demand, which leaves room for your content to shine in a less crowded space.
It’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, with the right strategy, hashtags give content marketers a competitive edge by amplifying content, extending reach and connecting with audiences more easily. Consumers have a voracious appetite for online content, and the ever-swelling sea of words and visuals means that amplification is a must if you want to stand out.
One great example is #ShareaCoke from Coca-Cola. Combined with the names and personal messages on their bottles and cans, this campaign spurred chatter about the brand in a new way.
For brands that want to put a creative spin on their posts and track conversation, the hashtag is alive and well. Marketers simply must be careful about the quality and timing of their tags or suffer the consequences that come along with campaign #fails.