Hashtag marketing is now everywhere. Kickstarting social movements, representing popular culture, uniting conversations- the hashtag is the ultimate powerhouse for digital communication. Catchy and open for everyone, anybody can tap into its wide reach. We all witnessed how the #metoo movement inspired thousands of women from all walks of life to come together and share their stories.
Hashtags are keywords or certain phrases which work like short, searchable links. Used to organize social media posts under a particular keyword, it adds a bit of a punch to an otherwise ordinary post. You could sprinkle some zesty humor to your daily updates or throw in a captivating catchphrase to promote your brand. You could also use it to kick off a funny thread like the popular #HowIGotFired hashtag. Versatile and compelling, the hashtag is bound to make your friends and followers stop to listen. That is probably why hashtag marketing has become so popular among marketers.
If you ever find yourself doubting how effective hashtags truly are, just look at the sheer number of social media platforms which have adopted this trend. Social media giants like Twitter and Facebook and even the niche platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest, everybody wants in on the hashtag!
Hashtags had been around for a while in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Rooms, albeit relatively unnoticed. Until Twitter decided to bring it into the world of social networking platforms. Twitter had just been blowing up back then in 2007 and struggling to keep up with the volume of content generated. Enter the hashtag and the game was changed forever.
The introduction of hashtags in Twitter was met with an explosive response. The platform with a word limit of 280 (back then, 140) spurred the Twitteratti, as the users are affectionately called, to explore their creativity and showcase their best inventions. It could be argued that the concept of viral content began right here on Twitter, what with some of the hashtags receiving global recognition besides landing on the Trending page.
When the hashtag trend grew a life of its own, marketers saw the branding opportunity and took a leap for it. While some of them carried out their Twitter campaigns with finesse, others went awry like the famous McDonald Twitter mishap. In 2012, the fast-food chain launched the #McDStories to urge followers to highlight everything good about their brand. A few tweets later, things started going hilariously wrong when followers decided to post about their horror stories associated with McDonalds under the hashtag originally intended for positive publicity.
Besides being a goldmine for branded campaigns, Twitter hashtags have played an enormous role in shaping the global political environment. Besides being the US President Donald Trump’s favorite site for pouring his heart out, this platform has also prompted significant political discourse. During the 2016 US Elections, for instance, the following hashtags- #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, #FeelTheBern, #ImWithHer- completely took over Twitter, with everyone sharing their insight.
Instagram is a haven for all the hipsters, creative-minded individuals who stand out from the crowd. At its core, this platform is all about sharing moments with friends and loved ones. Unpolluted from political commentary or social agendas, Instagram is a personalized space for users to flaunt their own aesthetic tastes. Hashtags enhance this experience by allowing posts to receive more visibility across the platform under the umbrella of a specific keyword or phrase. Allowing up to 30 hashtags in a single post, there is a lot of room in Instagram for playing around with this popular tool.
Hashtag marketing is unparalleled when it comes to increasing engagement across posts. Many users of Instagram are always racing to gain more likes and followers to boost their online presence. Hashtags here prove their mettle once again by helping users amass just what they want with the popular #like4like and #follow4follow. Besides, some other extremely trendy hashtags have taken Instagram by storm when it comes to sculpting the perfect Instagram profile. After all, almost every one of us have posted a #ThrowbackThursday and #OOTD picture to keep up with the times.
User generated content is the name of the game in Instagram- and the holy grail for businesses. The introduction of hashtags presented so many opportunities for advertisers who were seeking customer engagement. Thus, began the saga of high-on-lifestyle brands coming up with branded hashtags to grab the attention of their followers. Starbucks repeatedly does a stellar job at this with their various hashtag campaigns, one of which is the annual #RedCupContest.
Hashtags in Facebook have sadly not taken off with the same momentum as seen in its counterparts. However, it does allow Facebook loyals to partake in the buzz which generates around popular television shows, events and holidays. The Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones, for instance, received around 1.5 million mentions on Facebook. The numbers reach similar heights during hyped events such as the Oscars or the presidential election.
There is no denying Facebook is simply crawling with brand promotions. Marketers, of course, try to leverage this hashtag phenomenon to put their message across to the billions of users who populate the platform. Starbucks again shows everyone how it’s done by bringing in some of their popular hashtags. Cover Girl too does a good job, incorporating their #EasyBreezyBeautiful tagline into their Facebook posts.
Social media is all about sharing. Thanks to the hashtag, doing that now is so much easier. However, a few thumb-rules to remember when using the hashtag is to keep it relevant and specific. Some examples of broad hashtags which should never be used are #bestfriends and #loveyou. Also, embrace the hashtag without going overboard with it. Using too many at a time can make your post look cluttered and will also decrease engagement, as studies have shown. Besides that, getting the hang of using hashtags is quite easy. If you are still a novice at it, you better get started on mastering the art of hashtags. Because this trend is here to stay.