In recent months, there has been a huge rise in the use of hashtags for Twitter marketing purposes. In “The Twitter Hashtag is the New Neon Sign” by Blue Focus Marketing, author Mark Burgess writes that “hashtags function like a lighthouse to attract Twitter users to content that may be of interest.”
However, before you embark on a Twitter hashtag campaign, it’s important to figure out the best use of hashtags for your business and what you hope to achieve by using them. Here are 12 tips for effective Twitter hashtag marketing.
1. Determine what kind of hashtag makes sense for your brand and objectives
Before implementing your own branded hashtag, you’ll want to think about being transparent without necessarily including your brand name, as this can discourage people from participating, as well as give brand haters more motivation to upend the hashtag’s meaning (see #2 below).
Generic hashtags like Nike’s #makeitcount have more creative potential both for the brand and for consumers. Either way, the hashtag should be informative and concise rather than conceptual. You only have a few characters; make them count, and don’t make consumers think too hard.
2. Assess possible risk and have a plan in place in case a hashtag campaign backfires
Of all the hashtag marketing disaster stories, the #McDStories is probably the most notorious. Back in January, McDonald’s launched a campaign, first with the hashtag #meetthefarmers, and then later rolled out the dangerously vague #McDStories hashtag, hoping it would inspire heart-warming stories about Happy Meals.
What happened was just the opposite, and the Twitterverse quickly commandeered the hashtag and used it to share horror stories about the fast food chain.
Before you roll out a branded hashtag campaign, make sure you assess the possible risk of people using it to detract you or your brand and have a PR response plan in place for what happens when your branded hashtag is suddenly trending for all of the wrong reasons.
3. Don’t expect your hashtag to trend – set realistic expectations
We say this often about any kind of social media marketing, but it’s essential to remember that quality is often better than quantity. Most trending topics and hashtags on Twitter happen briefly and organically, so be realistic when setting goals for your campaign. And, you are often better off finding fewer engaged people using your hashtag then going after a trending topic.
Instead of vying for the elusive “viral” goal, set measurable rules for engagement and reach. Monitor what people are saying about your brand and hashtag, determine brand champions and influencers participating (who you can reach out to in the future), and determine whether you’ve reached new users and audiences as a result.
4. Promote hashtags by incorporating into other marketing channels
I recently wrote about how to integrate social media into your website – and leveraging a hashtag is a great way to bring conversations back to your website.
The Future M is incorporating community and conversation back into their website through the use of hashtags. Using Postano to pull tweets with the hashtag #FutureM on their website, the company is able to pull all the conversation and buzz surrounding their brand back to their site in a visual, elegant and engaging way.
>>Learn more about how you to embed hashtags and Twitter on your website
5. Take advantage of event hashtags and live tweeting
A great way to gain visibility and make new relationships on Twitter is through the use of event hashtags. If you are attending an industry conference or event, tweet using the official hashtag and participate in the conversation. This way you can reach out to new people and potential influencers, gain visibility for your brand, and look like knowledgeable and active participants.
Even if you are not attending an event, you can still get mileage out of using an event or industry hashtag. Monitor the conversation and participate remotely – it will still give you an opportunity to connect with others in your industry and potentially develop relationships with key influencers and potential new customers/audiences.
6. Keep your hashtag short and sweet
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Twitter only gives you 140 characters to work with, so if your hashtag is too long it’ll make it too difficult for people to use it. Keep it under 20 characters at the absolute maximum.
7. Don’t overload your tweets with hashtags
I recently learned at the AllFacebook Marketing Conference that tweets with more then three hashtags have much lower engagement and click through rates than those with fewer than three. While it’s smart to use relevant hashtags to participate and leverage existing conversations happening online, make sure you don’t overdo it. It just looks spammy and you’ll likely get ignored.
8. Participate in Twitter chats
Much like tweeting at events and using conference hashtags, Twitter chats are a great opportunity to gain additional exposure, connect and build relationships with potential influencers and contribute to a conversation.
Find Twitter chats that are relevant to you, your brand or your industry and make time to participate in them.
You can also create your own Twitter chats. This winter, Coloado.com organized #skichat, which several ski industry marketing professionals from multiple resorts all participated in. It was a great way for the marketing departments at resorts to connect to one another, along with engaging consumers. Prizes for participating sweetened the deal.
9. Don’t think of a hashtag as a place, but as a conversation
There are several tools out there that can help you discover hashtags for various subject areas.
- What the Trend?: This useful little service makes it really easy to learn about trending hashtags. What the Trend? provides a quick blurb on what’s going on behind the trending hashtag.
- Twubs: Twubs uses a wiki system to help disseminate information on a hashtag. It aggregates tweets and imports pictures to help illuminate the topics being discussed.
- Hashtags.org: While not the best at helping you understand the meaning behind a tag,Hashtags.org is good at showing you its use over time and recent tweets, which oftentimes is enough to figure out the meaning behind the tag.
Remember to keep #7 on this list in mind, however, and don’t overstuff your tweets with these kind of hashtags. If every one of your Tweets contains a hashtag it fragments the conversation and comes off as spammy – which can mean people unfollow you/hide you/stop caring about your content. Also make sure your hashtag has context – not everyone on Twitter knows what they are or what they mean.
10. Display hashtag conversations at events
As I wrote in a post on creating social media displays for events, with more people using special hashtags to promote events and spur conversation and engagement among participants, it is surprising that you don’t see more social media displays aggregating and showing all of this content and conversation.
As Mashable author Maeghan Edelstein writes in “How to use Social Media to Enhance your Event,” fewer people take advantage of the “low-hanging fruit” social platforms offer for events- like ways for attendees to “communicate with each other, broaden their participation, share information and have fun.”
>>Read more about social media displays for events
11. Monitor the conversation
Not only is it wise to participate in Twitter chats and implement smart-use of hashtags to help your content get discovered, it’s also wise to monitor hashtags to see what your industry, competition and key influencers are saying surrounding a topic. Often listening is the best way to gain insights into how to participate.
Pick up on language and strategies that seem to be resonating with your audience, and then use this knowledge to help with your own social media marketing and content marketing strategies. You can also see who interacts with who, who the key influencers seem to be centered around a conversation and more valuable information.
12. Source user-generated content and conversations
One of the best ways to use hahtags is to source user generated content. According to a Hubspot article, more than 8 in 10 Gen Yers (whose purchasing power will eclipse Baby Boomers by 2017), say user-generated content from people they don’t know influences way they buy and indicates brand quality.
Soliciting and marketing with user-generated is also a great way to boost engagement and get people talking about and advocating for your brand online. Smart use of hashtags can help you aggregate, curate and share this content the community is producing.