Do You Really Need That Hashtag?

Steph Parker
Steph Parker Activation Strategy, allen & gerritsen

Posted on January 23rd 2014

Do You Really Need That Hashtag?

From accidentally utilizing adult-themed hashtags to newsjacking, many brands across the board are still misusing hashtags on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Unsurprisingly, in a saturated environment, these conversations are getting lost (or not happening between fans at all).

The biggest mistake most marketers have made is the assumption that every campaign or brand needs a hashtag. Often, experiences are better served in other ways, like a really cool piece of content or a strategic partnership. And often, those are the initiatives that make the most impact on an audience.

For news stories and weather alerts, for example, a hashtag makes sense. Breaking updates coming in from a variety of sources enrich the overall information I feel I’m able to take away, as a user and participant.

Products and branded elements are less clear. What makes sense to us isn’t always practical, logical, or appealing to our target consumers. Launching something soon? Take a second to walk through the process, answering questions like:

  • Do I really need a hashtag at all?
  • If I decide to implement one, will people use it?
  • Arepeople already using it? If so, how?
  • How will I build awareness of this initiative?

If you do decide that a hashtag is something you want to use, do some digging. If people are already using a certain (favorable) hashtag to talk about your brand or product, it might make more sense to embrace it. Changing behavior is hard, after all, and encouraging people to keep doing what they’re doing? Not nearly as difficult.

If you’re crafting your own, make sure you do your homework. I’ve seen some interesting discussions interrupted by brand campaigns. If you don’t want your brand anywhere near inappropriate discussion, don’t place it in that stream.

When it comes time to promote your campaign, don’t rely on TV art cards alone; activation requires proper use of paid media, and TV is only a small part of the mix. There’s no guarantee that people will be captivated enough by your advertising that they’ll start using your hashtag – or even pay attention long enough to know what it is.

Building a giveaway that uses a hashtag as an entry mechanism? You're still not immune to the challenges faced here. Appropriateness, awareness, and adoption are all factors that will contribute to your overall success.  

Have any success (or horror) stories of your own? Commiserate in the comments below.  

Steph Parker

Steph Parker

Activation Strategy, allen & gerritsen

Steph Parker is a digital strategist working at an ad shop in Boston. She was also named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in Marketing & Advertising in 2013. Steph gets her hands dirty with research, planning, content, and design, and has worked with several Fortune 500 brands on various campaigns and initiatives. In her spare time, she teaches classes & workshops at General Assembly. 

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Posted on January 23rd 2014 at 12:47PM

You make such a great point, Steph! I've seen far too may brands use hashtags that their fans don't understand and don't feel the need to use. Just because you are a brand on Twitter that doesn't mean you need your own hashtag. Awesome post! 

Tom Haarlander
Posted on January 27th 2014 at 12:04AM

It's funny how often brands seem to get caught in the middle of the wrong side of a hashtag.  Thanks for the solid advice!