As an avid social media user – be it a brand or an individual, the concept of hashtags is familiar to everyone. Irrespective of the platform a brand uses as part of their digital strategy, hashtags are irrevocably a part of your content and aids in boosting your brand’s engagement & reach.
What is a Hashtag?
Commonly known, a hashtag is a word or a phrase that is preceded by the pound # symbol on your keyboard. The purpose of using a hashtag is to showcase that a piece of content is related to a certain topic or category. With the help & use of hashtags, your content is made more discoverable on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.
But how did the hashtag come into existence?
We are all aware that the pound symbol, also called the octothorpe, is used to denote a hashtag. When was it first used, you ask? The hashtag came into being in the year 2007 by Chris Messina, a web marketing specialist. He pitched the idea of using hashtags to Twitter considering the transience and clarity required to use the platform & to pit a group of related ideas and topics together. And ever since then, the use of hashtags has only grown on social media. From being used only on Twitter, they can now be used on almost all social media platforms. The use of a hashtag allows a brand to connect their content to a particular topic, conversation or theme.
The hashtag basics
A hashtag always starts with # but will not work if you leave spaces or add punctuations.
In order for a hashtag to do its job effectively, you should have a public account or the content will not be visible to non-followers.
You may have seen long hashtags. They DO NOT work. Shorter hashtags are easy to remember.
Keep the hashtags relevant & specific to your content. An obscure hashtag will not be easy to decipher & will not be picked up by users on social media.
You may have heard that using more hashtags is better. But more isn’t always good. Doing so will make it look spammy.
Why should you use hashtags?
One of the main reasons to use hashtags in your content is to make your post or content more discoverable on social media and by your target audience. It also makes your content visible in the ongoing conversation around your chosen topic. It will eventually lead to increased engagement through likes, shares & comments.
Creating brand awareness with hashtags
One of the most important ways to create brand awareness and drive conversations around your brand is to use a carefully crafted hashtag that contains your brand name while also talking about your campaign.
An outstandingly epic and viral hashtag campaign is the #ShareACoke campaign from Coca Cola. The brand came up with the idea of offering personalized labels for their bottles, thus encouraging their customers to #ShareACoke The brand started a website from where customers could order their personalized Coke – for themselves or for gifting. To give a further boost to their campaign, the brand collaborated with Selena Gomez & Ryan Seacrest. The company uses the hashtag where relevant even today.
Be a part of social issues
While it’s beneficial to popularize your brand on social media with brand related hashtags & relevant campaigns, being associated with social issues gives any brand a ‘human face’.
For instance, the ‘For Once, Just Don’t Do It’ campaign initiated by Nike was one of the first responses to the unrest after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. The brand’s response in 2020 was an urgent voice for companies and consumers to unite against racism. The brand used the hashtag #UntilWeAllWin & very daringly put a spin on their own tagline saying ‘Just Don’t Do It’. According to ACE Metrix, people in the age group of 16 to 49 perceived the advertisement as more empowering than other ads. Infact, competitor brand Adidas also retweeted the advertisement.
It’s important to keep your posts in context
Twitter, from 140 characters, has given us 280 characters today to send out a tweet. But irrespective of the character limit, it is imperative that you keep your messages well in context. With Twitter, the advantage is there’s not too much space anyway, so one has to be crisp and concise.
But even while a brand posts on other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest; longer captions aren’t always as effective. Because most times less is more on social media. To make your text clearer, applying an event specific hashtag is a simple way to communicate what you want without repeating the same thing in a lengthy caption.
For instance, in the year 2019, NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The space organization very deftly used the hashtag #Apollo50th which clearly communicated the occasion and was also easy to understand on social media.
The use of hashtags has exponentially exploded since it was first used in 2007 – starting with Twitter to every other social media platform. Hashtags are everywhere and have become an integral part of every brand’s marketing initiatives. Many companies have experienced the positive impacts of using hashtags. All you need to do is hop on board and let your brand experience the reach of hashtags & flourish in the digital world.