If you’re looking for a new campaign idea to help increase engagement and brand awareness on social media, we’ve got a great tactic for you to try: hashtag campaigns.

Hashtag campaigns help make it easier for your brand’s message to spread, so long as they’re done properly and make sense for the platform and the audience.

To help you determine if a hashtag campaign is the best idea for your brand, we’re going to cover what exactly a hashtag campaign is, benefits of this type of campaign, how to run one and how to track its success.

What is a hashtag campaign?

True to its name, a hashtag campaign is a social media marketing campaign that surrounds a specific hashtag that a brand creates and promotes. This is a great way to generate awareness around a brand, product, launch, event and more.

To run one of these campaigns, your brand would select a hashtag that best represents the campaign and share content related to and featuring that hashtag. The point is to get your customers to also pick up and start using the hashtag on related content in order to reach an even wider audience.

If you create a successful hashtag campaign, you can reach exponentially more people on social media than you would with an ordinary ad or organic campaign. You can also increase engagement with the followers that do participate and share your hashtag within their own posts.

It’s a great opportunity to further build your brand and increase followers, but you can also use hashtag campaigns as a way to show support for various social issues that reflect your brand mission.

There are a few different types of hashtag campaigns, from event hashtags to product launch ones or even those that simply ask questions surrounding a central topic and get your audience’s thoughts and opinions.

Let’s cover a few of the benefits of this type of campaign and why your marketing team might want to consider it.

Benefits of a hashtag campaign

Excited to pitch the idea of a hashtag campaign to your team or your boss? You need to share a few of the benefits alongside your idea, and we’ve got four of them right here.

1. Build brand awareness

Hashtag campaigns are great ways to get the word out about your business to a much wider audience. If you’re a relatively new or smaller brand, consider using hashtag campaigns simply as a way to generate awareness.

A similar example from a bigger brand would be the #MyCalvins hashtag campaign put together by Calvin Klein. For a brand awareness hashtag campaign, you’ll typically always want to work your brand name or a highly unique product or service name in there somehow, so that anyone who comes across the hashtag will start to get acquainted with your business.

Take a look at this tweet using the hashtag:

They include it in several different posts as a way to get their audience excited about owning their own “Calvins.” And many of their customers do also post pictures using this same hashtag, spreading it around even further.

While this started as a campaign several years ago, Calvin Klein and their audience still uses the hashtag regularly, showcasing the longevity that brand-specific terms and slogans (which are often easy to convert into hashtags!) can have for your brand.

2. Promote products, services and events

You can also use hashtag campaigns as a promotional tool to showcase your business’s product and service offerings, as well as upcoming or annual events.

You’ll see this tactic used a lot with new movies that are coming out, but it’s a successful strategy for businesses to utilize as well, especially when launching new products, services, facets of a business, etc.

One example of this was by Adidas when they launched their new Originals line. They used the hashtag #ORIGINALis across Instagram while also partnering with a number of celebrity influencers to increase the reach of their campaign. The brand now has its own Adidas Originals Instagram profile, proving how successful the launch was for building audience knowledge of and excitement around the line’s unique identity.

3. Aggregate information

Hashtags are searchable, so creating a hashtag for your audience to use in order to hold a discussion about a topic is a great way to aggregate information into one place.

Twitter chats are one great example of this, but you can also ask your audience thought-provoking questions and use a hashtag to keep track of all the responses and discussions.

One great example of this that brands can emulate comes from Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, where they’re regularly ask viewers to share funny stories and other information using different hashtags. They’ll then pull tweets that use those hashtags to share on the show.

Think of ways that your brand can use hashtag campaigns to aggregate information, whether funny or serious.

To get an idea of a humorous brand hashtag campaign, take a look at Charmin’s #TweetFromTheSeat campaign, where their Twitter account as well as their followers use the hashtag to make jokes in line with the brand’s signature humor about their product.

4. Increase user engagement

Successful hashtag campaigns are great for generating user engagement and getting your followers to tweet or post about your hashtag.

Since the whole point of a hashtag campaign is getting your audience to spread the word, you need to make sure you make it easy and accessible for your audience to maximize engagement.

You also want to carefully search for and vet any potential hashtag ideas you have in advance. Make sure you’re not using common phrases not already being widely used in general conversations, which could dilute the impact of your campaign. This is another reason to look to your unique product, brand and service names for inspiration.

Finally, be careful to read through how your hashtag looks combined as a single term with no spaces and different stylings. While it might look readable when capitalized in your official brand style, you can’t always control how audiences will type it, and over the years some brands have gotten surprised by unintended alternate readings or spellings.

5. Collect user-generated content

Use a hashtag campaign that gets your customers to create and share photos that feature your products. In turn, your brand can share that content on your own channels as user-generated content.

One great example of a hashtag campaign that generated tons of awesome Instagram photos was RYU’s #WhatsInYourBag campaign. This centered around a photo contest that ended up increasing their follower count to well over 40,000 and helped them generate a ton of photos to share on their own social feeds.

How to run a hashtag campaign

Now that you know the benefits and have seen a few examples of successful hashtag campaigns, let’s talk about how you can run your own.

We’ve put together an easy-to-follow four-step process that will get you well on your way with a hashtag campaign to propel your brand’s social strategy forward.

1. Understand your audience

Make sure you know where your audience is and what kinds of content they like to interact with so that you know what type of hashtag campaign to run.

Keeping up with social media demographics is just one part of this. You also need to have a clear customer persona set for your target audience so that you understand their online behavior patterns and can create a campaign that they’ll be most likely to engage with.

2. Define your goal

Are you trying to make sales, increase awareness or simply generate some engagement? The end goal of your campaign is going to determine the type of hashtag and campaign you’re running.

If you want to generate engagement, consider creating a hashtag campaign meant to aggregate information or help your audience have fun with your brand. You could also use this as a chance to run a photo contest centered around a hashtag, like we saw with RYU.

If you’re looking to increase awareness around your brand, make sure you include at least part of your brand name within the hashtag. Try to come up with a good play on words that you can have fun with on social media.

And if you’re trying to ramp up sales, keep your hashtag campaign focused on a specific product or service that you can promote. Try to get customers to join in by sharing photos and tweets about their own experiences with your brand.

3. Make participation easy

If it’s difficult to interact with your hashtag campaign, your audience won’t do it. Simple as that.

This means you don’t want to require too many steps. This is the same rule of thumb for social media contests. Don’t make it hard to enter or participate. It should be as simple as posting a photo or writing a tweet and including your hashtag.

When you start trying to add additional steps, like specific guidelines for the types of posts, or asking them to go somewhere for a photo, you’re asking a bit too much from your followers and you’re not likely to see the level of engagement and reach that you otherwise would.

4. Choose the right platform

Your last step is to choose the right main platform for launching your hashtag campaign. You’ll likely be choosing between Twitter and Instagram as these are the two most popular platforms for hashtags.

Since these two social networks are very different, deciding which platform is going to be best should be pretty straightforward. If you plan a photo-based hashtag campaign, you’ll want Instagram. If you plan a text or conversation-based hashtag campaign, you’ll want Twitter.

It’s worth noting that you could also create a multi-channel hashtag campaign that covers all the bases and reaches an even wider audience. In other words, including your campaign’s hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts could also result in further visibility of the content posted around your campaign.

How to track your hashtag campaign’s success

Once your hashtag campaign has been live for awhile, you’ll want to do some measuring to track its success. The KPIs you might want to keep in mind are:

  • Posts: How many posts were created using your hashtag?
  • Users: How many different users interacted with your hashtag?
  • Engagement: How many likes, shares, clicks and comments did your hashtag receive?
  • Reach: How people’s feeds did your hashtag show up on?
  • Impressions: How many times did your hashtag get viewed?

Keeping an eye on these different metrics can help you determine the success of your campaign or what might need to be adjusted in order to improve performance. You can use a tool like Sprout Social to understand how often your campaign hashtags are being used and engaged with compared to others your audience is interested in.

Sprout Social hashtag report

Create your own hashtag campaign

Ready to start engaging your audience through hashtags? Pinpoint the best strategy for your next hashtag campaign. To get even more campaign and social strategy ideas, check out our most recent Sprout Social Index™.

How to run a hashtag campaign

Now that you know the benefits and have seen a few examples of successful hashtag campaigns, let’s talk about how you can run your own.
We’ve put together an easy-to-follow four-step process that will get you well on your way with a hashtag campaign to propel your brand’s social strategy forward

  • 1. Understand your audience
  • 2. Define your goal
  • 3. Make participation easy
  • 4. Choose the right platform