Chris Messina, currently a Developer Lead at Uber, is credited as the inventor of the hashtag on Twitter. Originally intended to group content based on subject matter, the hashtag has been adopted across every popular social platform and has cemented its place in our culture.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina ❤s you (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Ever since its early implementation, a hashtag has been made popular because of the event or idea it was associated with. One of the earliest brands to successfully adopt the hashtag was South by Southwest. In 2007, anyone on Twitter could type in #SXSW and see what events at the Austin based conference were trending.
this panel starts in 20 http://www.ericrice.com/blog/?p=435 join me in irc channel #sxsw on freenode
— Eric Rice (@ericrice) March 16, 2007
One of the greatest things about the hashtag is that originated from a Twitter user–not a marketing agency, not a brand and not a social platform. Maybe that’s why marketers are often mystified as to how to create a branded hashtag that goes viral.
There isn’t necessarily a science behind the perfect hashtag, but there are best practices that can be applied when creating a branded hashtag.
When to Use a Branded Hashtag
Most often, a hashtag is made popular because of the event or idea it supported. Still, there are other ways that brands can use a hashtag to join in the conversation.
Create a branded hashtag for:
- Product launches
- Sponsored Events
Brands can also join into existing conversations, where it makes sense, by using trending hashtags. This will help you gain exposure as people scroll through their feeds or search a keyword.
Hashtag Best Practices
Not all hashtags are created equal. Developing a branded hashtag is no easy task but there are best practices and guidelines that can be followed.
Create a Shortlist of Hashtag Options
As you’re brainstorming potential hashtag options, remain authentic. Be yourself. Draft a shortlist of hashtags that come naturally and appeal to your target audience. Find inspiration from listicles online and your brand’s existing social data.
Research Your Proposed Hashtags
Once your shortlist is solidified, it’s time to do your research. Search each hashtag and variations of each hashtag across all of the social networks your brand is active one. Your team can stay organized and track its findings with a shared, spreadsheet.
When applicable, localizing your hashtag is an easy way to stand out. Don’t forget to account for this during your research. Warren recently attended The Impact Event Denver. Before the seminar, he was researching hashtags and found that many combinations of the event’s name, including #TIE16, were accounted for. In order to break through the clutter, he revised the hashtag to include a “d” for Denver.
— Debra Jason (@debrajason) May 2, 2016
At the time of the seminar, only one Tweet was attributed to #TIED16, making it the perfect option to implement.
Know Your Goal
What are you using a branded hashtag for? What are you hoping to accomplish? While it’s important to set objectives, it’s important to remember that your goals will vary based on which type of hashtag campaign you decide to run.
If you’re holding a big event, you know that fans will be sharing content surrounding it on social. That’s why It’s important to try to pick a hashtag prior to the event. At Social Media Unicorn, we look at who’s coming to an event a week before it takes place. Then, we make sure that the hashtag we is consistent on all marketing materials, including attendee badges.
Promote Your Hashtag
Once you’ve decided on a hashtag, it’s time to start promoting it. Share your hashtag wherever it makes sense.
Depending on the type of hashtag your brand is using, you’ll want to promote it on:
- Slides during an event presentation
- Product label
- Facebook group
- Facebook Event
- Twitter bio
- Instagram bio
- Flyers, stickers or other promotional materials
Since hashtags are ingrained in our everyday life, there’s no need to overtly explain or preface its use.
Measure Your Results
Regardless of what you’re using your branded hashtag for, it’s important to use a social media management tool and set up parameters and brand keywords that allow you to track and measure the effectiveness of your campaign.
Warren shared #TIED16 with speakers and attendees before The Impact Event Denver took place. Three days before the conference, #TIED16 had already seen nearly 20 million impressions across multiple social channels.
The best hashtag is often the one that doesn’t read like it was written by a marketer. As you iterate and expand your efforts, remember the original spirit of the hashtag. Don’t lose sight of the authentic conversations, new ideas and viral memes that the hashtag brings to.
Krista Whitley & Warren Whitlock: Krista Whitley is the Founder of Social Media Unicorn. Her first business venture included creating Canada's ninth fastest growing company. Warren Whitlock is a Digital Business Development Strategist. In 2008, he wrote the first book about Twitter and Mobile Marketing, and the best selling Profitable Social Media: Business Results Without Playing Games.