Now that pretty much every social media platform supports hashtags, more and more companies are running campaigns either centred around a hashtag, or featuring one. Brands feature hashtags at the end of adverts, TV shows feature hashtags during the credits and celebrities use hashtags to advertise their appearances. In every instance, hashtags are used to drive conversation about a particular topic, but they can be used for a plethora of other reasons.
Hashtags can be used to advertise new products and campaigns, to run competitions and contests, to ask fans for their input about a company development, and to associate a brand with a popular news item. The best thing about hashtag campaigns, however, is they can be completely free. Of course, the more you (strategically) spend on a campaign, the more you will reap its rewards. Here are a few pieces of advice to follow when planning your hashtag campaigns.
- If you're about to run a hashtag campaign then make sure the public know about it. Feature your hashtag in print and media advertising, or run a larger campaign with a featured hashtag. By promoting your hashtag as widely as possible, you can make sure that people will start talking about it.
- Make sure that you promote your hashtag campaigns across all the hashtag-compatible social media sites. Even if you're running a hashtag competition on Instagram, you can still drive conversation about it on Facebook and Twitter, even if people cannot enter the competition from those sites.
- Of course, in the case of hashtags, Twitter started it all. If you're planning on running a large hashtag campaign on Twitter, it's a good idea to take advantage of some of the site's advertising features to ensure a wide audience.
Make It Interactive:
- Use a hashtag that will encourage debate - a phrase that invites the public to give their opinion or make a joke. For example, Edge Shave Gel ran a campaign on Twitter asking users to say what irritated them using the hashtag #soirritating. The hashtag trended on Twitter as hundreds of users wrote quips and comments.
- You don't even need to get involved in the conversation: Matalan advertised the hashtag #MatalanSummerTips on Twitter recently so that fans could exchange tips and hints on the site.
- You could run a picture or video campaign across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vine, asking fans to post content around a specific hashtagged theme. Ben & Jerry's ran the #CaptureEuphoria campaign on Instagram, inviting fans to post pictures of themselves enjoying ice cream. All the pictures were posted on a devoted microsite so that fans could view them.
- You can even engage with tweeps in innovative ways, gaining a wider audience in the process. A few weeks ago, Honda responded to a number of tweets containing the hashtag #WantNewCar with Vine videos. the campaign was very popular, catching the attention of a number of social media influencers in the process.
- Create a hashtag campaign that is themed around a big event or news story. During Wimbledon, for example, sports brand adidas introduced two hashtags into the Twittersphere: #AllinforMurray and #Hitthewinner, the latter of which was also used by entrants for an online competition. #AllinforMurray was tweeted over 20,000 times during the weekend.
- People tweeted the #Hitthewinner hashtag in order to enter a competition: Murray's fans could use the hashtag to play a real-time game during the match. To play, they had to first select an area of the court where they thought Andy would hit a winner, then tweet their guess before each set. Millions of people watched the tennis match, so, by providing fans with a way to interact during the game on Twitter, adidas ensured a large userbase.
Give Them An Incentive:
- Create a competition where the applicants have to use a specific hashtag to enter, or one of a number of hashtags. Vodafone Netherlands recently launched #HashtagHolidays, rewarding followers with one of eight different holidays, each one based on a trending hashtag.
- Nissan recently ran a campaign which was interactive and gave competitors an incentive. Nissan asked fans to create micro-videos using the hashtag #VersaVid. They then featured some of the videos in a TV commercial, rewarding the makers of these videos with a $1000 Amazon Gift Card.
- You don't always have to offer a big prize; instead, you can reward the best content by featuring it in a larger campaign. The best #CaptureEuphoria photos, for example, were featured on billboards and in magazines. Wendy's is running a promotional Twitter campaign at the moment. The restaurant is creating videos featuring singer Nick Lachey and posting them online. Fans of the restaurant brand are being asked to tweet the hashtag #PretzelLoveSongs and Lachey is then incorporating these tweets into love songs about the new pretzel bacon cheeseburger.
- You don't always have to come up with your own hashtag either (though I suggest that you do). JELL-O recently ran a campaign using the popular hashtag #FML. The company gave small prizes to selected people who used the hashtag on Twitter. It is, however, difficult to tell how much JELL-O's campaign permeated into the Twitter consciousness: with such a commonly used hashtag, it's unlikely people would have associate JELL-O with #FML.
Every month, companies are thinking of new, innovative ways of using hashtags to promote their brands on social media. If you haven't used hashtags yet, then I advise you start: introduce a hashtag to a campaign you are running currently, or incorporate a hashtag into a campaign you're planning at the moment. If you're new to hashtag campaigns, make sure that you experiment a little first by trying out hashtags on various platforms. A number of campaigns have gone awry because people didn't check their hashtags, the most famous being, of course, Susan Boyle's #susanalbumparty. The most important thing to remember, however, when you're running a hashtag campaign, is to use the right hashtag: one that is relevant, catchy, unique and not too long.
How do you use hashtags to promote your brand on social media?