Over time, hashtags have become an important part of our culture. Though their use has somewhat devolved into the bizarre and ridiculous, in other ways they’re an important part of how we share information. Twitter uses them, Instagram uses them, and now Facebook has introduced hashtag use as well. So the question is, how can you harness this powerful force and use it to promote your brand? There are several ways.
Weighing In on Important Conversations. The main use for which hashtags were designed is to group all the information and conversation on a particular topic together, so that it can be easily perused. So for instance, say an elephant were to escape from the local zoo and wander through the downtown area of your city. Obviously this is something people are going to be tweeting about. And when they do, they’ll use a hashtag, like “#ElephantWatch2014,” so that people interested in the elephant story can find those tweets. News outlets will use it when they tweet links to the latest story updates. Local comedians will use it to make witty observations about the oddness of the situation. Plenty of concerned citizens will use it to tweet questions about what’s going on, suggestions, observations, etc. By keeping track of news and events that are relevant to your brand (and the hashtags that emerge from them), you can join in on the conversation. By tweeting your concern, your comments, etc. and responding to what others are saying about the issue, you can connect with people, gain exposure for your brand and interest in what you have to say, and establish yourself as an important voice in the ongoing dialogue about a particular topic.
Branded Hashtags. Weighing in on other conversations is great, but it’s even more important to have a specific hashtag that’s associated with your brand. It should be something short, unique, and memorable. If your company name fits those criteria, great. If not, come up with some shortened version of it that you can use, that will be instantly recognizable to your followers. Once you’ve established your branded hashtag, you can use it in tweets and encourage your followers to use it as well. That way, people who find your hashtag can click it to see the conversation that has sprung up around your brand.
Building Anticipation. We’ve talked before about the importance of using hashtags to promote events on Twitter as they’re unfolding. But you can also use hashtags to build anticipation for those events. Branded hashtags don’t have to be limited to your company name. Got a new product launch coming up, or some other important event in your company? Start a hashtag for it, and promote that hashtag, both on social media and in your other content. As people start seeing it, they’ll get excited for what you have in store.
Trending. As your hashtags gain popularity, hopefully they reach the point where they start trending. If enough people in a particular area (or worldwide) are using the same hashtag, Twitter puts it in a sidebar on their main page, to show what other users are talking about at the moment. If you can get a hashtag trending, many more users will suddenly be able to see it, and be exposed to your brand. Timeliness is a factor in which ones are selected, so you’re more likely to trend with an event hashtag than with the general one for your brand. If you want to get an event trending, just keep using the hashtag, promoting it, and encouraging your followers to do the same. Like with any form of marketing, the more exposure you get, the better.