Hashtags have become an integral element of any company’s participation on Twitter. In fact, they’ve even started to appear offline on billboards and television commercials. They’ve been around long enough that most brands are learning how to avoid rookie mistakes and to incorporate them regularly into their tweets.
But how do you take a hashtag from a word or phrase trailing a pound sign to a social success story? These three campaigns were hits for generating conversation, engaging followers, and raising awareness. Here’s why they worked so well.
1. The White House: #40dollars
In the midst of a troubled political climate, President Obama’s administration took to the Internet to start conversations about taxes. The campaign started in December 2011 when the payroll tax cut was set to expire, which would have meant a drop of about $40 per paycheck for many working families. The White House asked those people to speak up, starting with a tweet it posted that asked: “What does #40dollars mean to you?”
The overwhelming response of people who said they couldn’t afford to lose that money helped secure a two-month extension to the cuts. In February 2012, the campaign was revived and generated enough public support to lock in the cuts for the remainder of 2012.
The lesson here is that your brand doesn’t need to shy away from a controversial topic. In fact, ignoring an elephant in the room will more likely hurt your reputation by getting your company labeled as uncaring and out of touch. The key to tackling an inflammatory subject is to keep the human element at the forefront. Even though the subtext of the campaign was a push to extend the payroll tax cuts and to mobilize public support for that effort, the #40dollars hashtag was first and foremost about the people who would have been hurt most by the lapse of the program.
2. Mercedes Benz: #YOUDRIVE
Interactive content is often a surefire way to get fans excited and involved with your brand. This smart creation by Mercedes Benz involved a three-part story that aired on UK television during the commercial breaks for an episode of The X Factor. Each section presented viewers with a choice to vote on how the heroes of the spot would respond during the chase scene. They could tweet one of two actions along with the #YOUDRIVE hashtag to voice their opinions on what should happen next in the story.
Even after that live event, Mercedes Benz made the entire short film available on YouTube, with a built-in interactive option for selecting between the driver’s choices. This allows viewers to see all the permutations of the story, in addition to keeping the brand name and product before their eyes for longer.
This campaign was a hit because of how it involved the car company’s followers. Even though the stakes were low, the ad piqued enough curiosity to keep people tweeting and watching.
3. UNICEF India: #awaazdo
Celebrity backing was a key element to success for the “Awaaz Do” campaign run by UNICEF India in 2011. The phrase means “lend your voice” in Hindi and the campaign aimed to get 8 million uneducated Indian children into schools. Social agency Buzzvalve, which managed the program, contacted two Bollywood stars and asked for their support. In an interview with Mashable, Buzzvalve CEO Rohan Chandrashekhar said that explaining the impact their participation would have on the campaign guaranteed the help of well-known Indian celebrities.
By tapping into the fan bases of those popular figures, the #awaazdo hashtag was mentioned 1,525 times during the three-month campaign and generated 203,248 signups of people who wanted to join the movement.
According to Chandrashekhar, showing the celebrities hard data helped convince them of the importance of participating in the campaign — as opposed to simply giving a formal endorsement. When your brand is looking to forge a partnership around a hashtag campaign, with celebrities or with other companies, be sure to offer your analytics as evidence. Figure out why it would be beneficial for all parties to work together and present a strong argument. In this case, it was a worthy cause that needed a large audience for better awareness.
What’s the best, most successful hashtag campaign you’ve seen on Twitter? Let us know in the comments!
[Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski]