With so many advertisements, billboards and commercials in our face, it’s tough to find one without a hashtag. In the late ‘90s, phone numbers were slowly replaced by AOL keywords and websites. Eventually social media handles made their way onto ads.
Now brands create a hashtag for consumers to find more information about a product or service. Whether it’s a branded term, phrase or call to action, hashtags increase social media engagement and brand awareness.
When you create a hashtag, you give users a new way to get in touch with your business on social. Or users simply engage in the conversation happening around that hashtag. This is just another way for people to engage, discuss and connect with brands on social media.
You just can’t discount the power of a good hashtag for your business.
Why Create a Hashtag?
Creating a hashtag for your brand has a lot of benefits. Essentially, hashtags give you additional strength toward customer engagement. Not only that, but hashtags tend to be great marketing resources.
Certain hashtags work like call-to-action phrases where users interact with brands. By using them, you give consumers another method to remember you.
For example, Tostitos used the hashtag #GetTogetherAlready to encourage get togethers with a trusty snack–chips and salsa. The brand gives you a source of conversation about what it means to do with “friends + chips,” with a little clever wordplay. But Tostitos also hopes you’ll use this hashtag the next time you think of a get together.
When to Use Hashtags
People use hashtags for several different things. For example, some of the most optimal hashtags uses include:
- Product Launches
- Career Opportunities
- Cross-Channel Discussions
All of these examples require some sort of conversation. And for company-specific hashtags, they should entice discussion and ultimately engagement.
Benefits of Creating Your Own Hashtag
To help spread the word about your product or service, you need a source of engagement. Hashtags continually prove to be great resources for engagement. So when you successfully create a hashtag for your business, other benefits include:
- Optimizing for Discovery: Hashtags are basically another organic output for your content. If you optimize your hashtags and use phrases or keywords pertaining to your industry, you’re more discoverable.
- Increasing Traffic: Like we mentioned above, hashtags make your brand discoverable. Once you’re easier to discover, you’re likely to see higher social media traffic. Hashtag searches occur on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all the time.
- Showcasing Brand Advocates: Your brand advocates are trusted sources. In fact, Nielsen discovered 92% of consumers trust brand advocates over businesses. Hashtags are a great way to help showcase brand advocate recommendations.
- Measuring Your Efforts: By using third-party social media management software like Sprout Social, you can track hashtags within your most important networks. Hashtag analytics gives you insights into what’s resonating with customers or what’s falling flat. Having the extra data could make all the difference.
- Cross Networking: A nice feature of hashtags is you can use them across channels. This will help your cross-channel promotions and make it easier to use hashtags for each major network.
How to Create Your Own Hashtag
Create a hashtag by developing your end goals first because having a hashtag tied to a metric is essential to effective marketing. Do this before you start coming up with clever phrases or keywords for your brand.
Like we mentioned earlier, hashtags have the chance to increase traffic, clicks and engagement. All these things should factor into your social media ROI strategy. So before you start, consider the hashtag goals best aligned with your brand goals, such as:
- Increase brand conversations with your company
- Be more visible on a specific social network
- Increase total link clicks
- Measure total reach
- Increase mentions
These goals should tie in with the aims of your overall social media marketing strategy. Planning goals first is always the best step toward seeing results.
Determine Your Social Network
Once you have your goals down, it’s time to determine the social network you want to use. Depending on your goals, your network could change in importance. If you’re creating a branded hashtag that generally supports your company, you’ll probably want to use it on multiple social networks.
However, here are a few things to consider for each network’s approach to hashtags:
Hashtags started on Twitter. So you know this is the perfect space to use hashtags for discovery, conversations and hopping on major trends. If you’re using a popular keyword in your hashtag, you have the chance to get more eyes on your Tweet.
Tweets with hashtags have advantages over Instagram hashtags because you can post a link in each Tweet. While Instagram allows links in the bio, every Tweet could have a hashtag and a link. This makes it less confusing to get customers from social media to your marketing pages.
Also, Twitter’s search features make it simple for branded hashtags. These hashtags are unique to a brand, but are easily discoverable from other Tweets. This is why so many brands do social media campaigns on Twitter.
While Twitter supports images and videos, users tend to engage more with visual content on Instagram. This platform is perfect for contests, promotions and other heavily-visual content.
Instagram hashtags are frequently searched, so your chance of discovery is high. However, Instagram hashtags aren’t very cross-network promotional. While you can link to your Facebook or Twitter in your bio, typically you want to save that space for your promotional or marketing site.
A major benefit of Instagram hashtags is you can use up to 30 per post. Brevity is essential with hashtags–but you can hide hashtags on Instagram. This lets you avoid over tagging posts and boring your current followers.
Facebook hashtags are unique. While they’re not nearly as popular as Instagram or Twitter, hashtags are still effective here. With Twitter you see every Tweet using a specific hashtag. But on Facebook, hashtags categorize by popularity and date used. However, you can filter by who posted the hashtag, tagged location and date posted.
Unlike Instagram hashtags, it’s best to use a few as possible. A Surepayroll infographic showed Facebook posts with 1-2 hashtags receive 177 more interactions on average per post compared to those with 3-5 hashtags.
Getting Creative with Your Hashtag
Now that you have your goals and network(s) mapped out, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas. However, there’s an important balance between getting too creative or being too dull. Hashtags have to be unique and relevant to your business.
Don’t simply create a hashtag to have one. Instead, make sure this is something that will stick with your audience in a positive way. To get started, successful hashtags are often:
- On the shorter side
- Easy to remember
- Consistent with your brand
- Exclusive to your brand
- Focused on one message
- Unique and not generic
If you follow these basic tips, you’re destined to have a good and memorable hashtag.
Have a Simple Message
Hashtags are often over analyzed by marketing teams. Instead, it’s best to be straightforward and direct with your message. If you get too complex, the message could get lost within the context. Creative is always good, but too much of it will confuse people.
Make sure your message gets through to people and is consistent with your brand. You don’t have to be too catchy to showcase your brand. In fact, you risk alienating current followers with overly humorous or clever hashtags.
When your message is actionable, you’re more likely to see some sort of response. It takes a balanced effort of cleverness and simplicity to get people to act. Actionable hashtags:
- Ask questions
- Incite urgency
- Play off an emotion
- Require engagement
If you get people to act, you know your hashtag is working. You have to elicit some sort of emotion from others on social media. This is why call-to-action phrases work so well.
Double-Check Your Hashtags
Even though we continue to see social media fails from big brands, the errors are not likely going to stop. This means you have to put extra effort into double-checking and proofing your hashtag content before you put it live.
If you have any doubt about the context of your hashtag, you likely want to go back to the drawing board. A social media fail is detrimental to your brand and your audience. Before you launch a hashtag campaign, you need to:
- Check every major network: Make sure you search your hashtag on every social network. You never know if something is trending on Instagram more than Twitter. This will give you a good idea of what content associates with your hashtag idea.
- Ensure there’s no double meanings: You and your marketing team might not have ever thought your hashtag meant something different, but your followers certainly will. Ask for help from all corners so you know you covered your ground.
- Look for hidden messages: It’s easy to miss a huge mistake in your hashtag phrase if you capitalize each letter. Make sure there aren’t any other words or messages when the hashtag is all lowercase and as one word.
- Be aware of current events: There’s no doubt your marketing team has any ill will when a major disaster or event occurs. However, you have to make sure your timing is right. Check your hashtag with major current events. You can’t catch them all, but you can avoid being in the spotlight.
Track Your Hashtag’s Performance
After your hashtag is proofed many times, you’re ready to get started. Make sure you have a detailed schedule of what Tweets, Instagram posts or Facebook updates will include the hashtag.
Remember that brevity is key in most cases with hashtags. Try to avoid posting your hashtag too frequently. Too many hashtags could push your followers away or make you seem desperate. Try to plan a specific period of time and number of hashtags. Track their momentum over the course of three, six or 12 months.
By using a tool like Sprout Social, you gain valuable insights into specific social media analytics like hashtag usage. If you have more than one Twitter hashtag, measure them against one another in our Twitter Keyword report. Or if you want to compare your hashtag against a competitor, use our Twitter Comparison report.
Sprout also provides a look into frequently mentioned topics and hashtags associated with your handle. This lets you to see the effectiveness of your campaign.
It’s time to go out there and introduce, engage and build traction with your hashtags. It’s important to realize the power one hashtag could have your brand. And if you use it correctly and follow the steps above, you have the chance to see a true impacts on your social strategy.
Have any recommendations or previous experience with creating a hashtag? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter!
Update: Instagram made changes to their Graph API in 2018, which may affect functionality mentioned above. Read here for more information