If you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you may only know this symbol, "#" as the pound sign on a phone or keypad. But this simple "pound" sign has turned into a social media phenomenon, known as the "Hashtag". If you've been living above ground and looked at ANY form of social media lately, you've at least SEEN a hashtag being used in some way shape or form. So what are they, and how can they help market my business? Here's a brief history of how the hashtag came to be, and how they have taken online & social media marketing by storm.
Hashtags were originally made popular by Twitter, engaging conversations or "chats" between a wide variety of users. It was a way to have a discussion about a certain topic with anyone and everyone who had "tagged" their comment or post with that specific hashtag. Now days, this small but powerful symbol has turned any word or phrase into a window of opportunity for business owners to get their message out to multiple audiences. Now, most social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram have made hashtags a linkable word or phrase within each of these sites. That being said, creating/using the right hashtag for your business is critical to marketing toward your target audience.
There are essentially 3 categories for hashtags:
1) Brand & Campaign specific hashtags:
A brand hashtag is your company name and/or tagline that you create and use as a signature stamp. Make a brand hashtag or tagline that is unique to your business and use it to market your products or promotions. A campaign hashtag would be tagline or slogan you would create for a specific event or promotion your are currently holding. Use these hashtags to promote a sale or a new product and get others to use them. For example, when Oreo wanted to get people talking about their product for their 100 year anniversary campaign, they created the hashtag "#oreomoment. They encouraged people to share their favorite Oreo memories with them using this hashtag - and got a lot of traffic from a broad spectrum of users.
Think about your brand/business identity, and try to translate that into a short word or phrase that best represents your company. Do your homework and research hashtags you'd like to use, and see who else is using them. If it's a fairly common tagline, go back to the drawing board. You want your business to stand out and not get lost in the thousands of postings with an over-used hashtag. Make sure it's short and sweet, easy to spell, and memorable... there's nothing worse than a potential customer trying to search for your company with your wordy hashtag of #WeOfferTheBestLuxuryFurniture, and having them end up on your competitor's site, because all they could remember was #luxuryfurniture. Relevant, clever, and concise seems to be the best formula for the most memorable hashtag.
2) Trending hashtags:
These are the currently popular topics circling the web right now - this is more of a "seize the opportunity" when it arrives. Only on Twitter and Google Plus can you look to see what topics are currently being discussed, shared, and re-posted at any time - in real time. The key to correctly implementing trending hashtags is to ONLY use them when your company has relevance to that particular subject. If your business can take advantage of a specific subject going around the web right now, go for it! Engaging in that topic will get your name and message out to the masses during the peak of their interest. Once again it seems that Oreo has perfected the trending hashtag, no matter what the topic. During London's fashion week, they tweeted this with just one simple picture of an Oreo cookie;
"Why all black? Because white was soooooooooooo last week. #FashionWeek".
Imagine the power this simple comment has produced... selling cookies to super models! Oreo was clever enough to somehow make cookies relevant with fashion, but be careful to not get too hashtag happy when it comes to trending topics. Trying to relate to any and all trending topics is typically frowned upon, and your business will lose credibility with your audience. Keep your content current and relevant, and your audience will realize the authority your company has on the subject at hand. Trending hashtags are constantly changing, so be ready to seize the opportunity to get your brand out for there your target audience to see and share.
3) Content hashtags:
Content hashtags are the "common" items or products that people talk about within the content of their posts - For example, #coffee, or even #caffienefix. The most common hastags types are Product, Lifestyle, Event or Location hashtags. Product hashtags are typically very general things you can purchase or use (such as coffee) that people have either talked about within their content, or are in search of. If you own a furniture warehouse, using #furniture within your tweets or blogs will automatically link this word to all the other pictures, tweets, and posts with the #furniture. People just browsing pictures or websites about furniture will have access to your images, and if interested in what you have to offer, they will easily follow your content to learn more about your business. Using Lifestyle hashtags in your content such as #luxuryliving could also be used to define and describe your furniture business, and therefore open your business to a new caliber of consumers. Event & Location hashtags are particularly helpful with your local advertising as you can promote your business directly to the public near you. Implementing event hashtags to promote a seasonal sale or simply adding your city as a location hashtag, (i.e. #PhoenixTradeShow) can greatly affect the traffic you get to your business. Potential customers are out there actively searching, sharing, looking & liking all kinds of products and services that you could be offering, so make sure they know where to find you!
You won't find a better, easier, faster way to promote your business throughout social media than through the use of hashtags. Correctly applying these hashtags to all the items or services that your company has to offer has become a necessity for any marketing strategy. And if you haven't hopped on the band wagon yet... there's still room! Think about the amount of people that will see and share your content with their followers, and then with their followers, and so on. Imagine the opportunity for the kind of brand exposure that reaches hundreds if not thousands of people INSTANTLY! You just can't beat that level of advertising.