With social network updates happening faster than you blink, using hashtags to raise brand awareness is not as easy as adding # to your target keywords.

Brands must not only rely on the popular hashtags now, but also must be aware of emerging trends among consumers and influencers. This helps optimize your hashtag usage so social media users don’t miss your posts.

To increase their reach among an increasingly global market, more brands use social media analytics tools to change their hashtag marketing strategy and keep up with shifts in trends the second they happen. To get the most out of your hashtag marketing, you’ll need to define your goals. Will you be using hashtags to discover content or to contribute to a conversation?

You can certainly do both in different campaigns, but having a more narrow goal will help you pinpoint the best content and hashtag use. Read on to check out some great examples of how brands have hashtags to increase their brand awareness, and how you can research and track success yourself.

6 Important Types of Hashtags for Marketing

1. Branded Hashtags

The first and most basic aspect of hashtag marketing is having your own branded hashtag. Oftentimes, the hashtag is short, memorable and includes the brand name in some form. If you’re having difficulty coming up with the best one, do some research on what’s already being used for your brand. Your customers might already use a branded hashtag even without your knowledge.

Your basic branded hashtag should be used on an ongoing basis. It applies to any post and can be your fallback hashtag if you think you’re in need of one on your post.

Serena and Lily’s branded hashtag #serenaandlily is used in practically every post the brand puts on Instagram. It also operates as a community hashtag, adding up to over 14k tagged posts.

In Twitter, though, the brand switches from tagging their own name to using a hashtag for a store location. Twitter’s shorter character limitations often force brands to prioritize their hashtags. In this case, adding #serenaandlily to a post would have been repetitive.

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2. Community Hashtags

A version of branded hashtags, community hashtags are often used by larger brands to engage their consumer base.

These hashtags still include the brand’s name in some form and often tacks on a community or lifestyle element like “AtHome” or “Community.” In practice, consumers will use the community hashtag on a photo that features the brand or service. The brand will then select from the hashtag and feature the best on its feed.

This practice has many benefits. Consumers often feel like they’re part of a larger community and use the hashtag to find like-minded community members to engage with. The brand can also use the hashtag to easily find user-generated content and add authenticity to its feed. And third, brand awareness is spread as users adopt the hashtag in their posts.

West Elm asks its customers to use the #mywestelm hashtag to share how they’re using the pieces in their own homes. Having this separate community hashtag offers West Elm the ability to showcase various styles and give their followers some inspiration.

3. Campaign Hashtags

Used as part of a marketing campaign or a contest, campaign hashtags have a start and end date. Brands create these hashtags specifically to track contest entries and measure conversation around a marketing campaign. While these hashtags may have the brand name in them, it’s more important that the campaign slogan or message is conveyed.

When utilizing campaign hashtags, you’ll want to do some research with a tool such as social listening ahead of time.

Beyond the standard search to make sure the hashtag isn’t already in use, also check how the hashtag looks in various iterations. Combining words together in lowercased letters shouldn’t spell new, off-brand words. They also shouldn’t have any unintentional double entendres.

February is B Corp Month and B Corporation runs a hashtag campaign that involves certified companies, giveaways and other content. It’s a great way to get the word out about what they do and allows other B Corporations to connect to each other.

4. Event Hashtags

Like campaign hashtags, event hashtags often have a start and end date. If it’s an annual event, the same hashtag may be used. But some events also like to have a year-specific hashtag to separate new conversation from last year’s.

Brands often use event hashtags to join in and create conversation around the event.

For conferences, brands may even live Tweet using the event hashtag. In this case, a company is using another brand’s hashtag to share information. When conference attendees search on the hashtag, the company shows up as active participants and more notably, spreads brand awareness.

It’s typically a good idea to post before the event and introduce your audience to the hashtag. This will help keep it top of mind when you use it to follow up with posts during the event, and encourage attendees to do the same.

You don’t need to host an event to live tweet from it. Attending an event and sharing updates from lectures and panels is another way to show to your audience how you participate and learn in a community.

5. Trending Hashtags

Another common strategy for hashtag marketing is to jump into trending hashtag conversations. Similar to other types of viral content, these conversations are often fast-paced, short lived and unpredictable in their occurrences.

A major advantage in contributing to a trending hashtag conversation is that when timed correctly, the brand exposure and payoff can be astronomical. The day after a viral trending hashtag on Twitter, news networks often capture the most popular Tweets.

However, there are quite a few downsides to this strategy. Unless you’re already tracking conversations in your feeds, this strategy requires you to be more attentive, more often. It can be risky jumping into a trending hashtag without knowing why it’s trending in the first place, so you want to make sure you completely understand the trend before latching on.

If you think your company may not be the best fit for a hashtag, it’s often wise to listen to that gut feeling. Sometimes it’s better to watch things unfold than to risk being tone deaf.

When Pokemon Go first became a sensation, Warby Parker jumped in on the hype and posted some fun photos of Pokemon being spotted in their stores. The result was an authentic and fun opportunity for brand to jump on the trend.

6. Holiday Hashtags

When planning your content calendar, you may find that certain holidays use their own hashtags. Everything from #4thofJuly to #maythefourthbewithyou to #nationaldonutday can become an opportunity for your brand to have fun.

Similar to trending hashtags, one cautionary piece of advice is to make sure that your content is still relevant to your audience. If your brand doesn’t seem like it would celebrate National Pie Day, don’t force it into your feed just to capitalize on the holiday.

Using holiday hashtags correctly can help you brand be discovered in search results. To find some of the most popular holiday hashtags, we prepared a calendar for you.

Foodstirs offers baking mixes, so National Donut Day was right in their wheelhouse. Its colorful, attention-grabbing photo tempts their audience to try the mix out for themselves at home.

How to Implement and Track a Hashtag Marketing Strategy

Finding the Right Hashtags to Use

Like your target keywords for search engine optimization, you should research hashtags via keyword analysis before using them in any campaign. Find out the volume and frequency of posts related to your chosen hashtags. Research variations of your hashtag to see what is used the most.

There are a few easy ways to get started on different platforms. On Twitter, advanced search options can help you connect with popular keywords and hashtags, as well as how they’re used and who they’re used by. On Instagram, users can type a hashtag in the search bar and instantly see the number of posts tagged with that particular word or phrase with results organized by “Top Posts” and “Recent Posts.”

Listen in on Competitors and Audiences

Even if you’re confident you’re up-to-date on trends in your industry or market, it’s worth checking out what your competition is doing to avoid falling behind. When researching your competitors, take note of the exact hashtags they use, the campaigns associated with them, the follower engagement around these posts, and reported outcomes.

Conducting industry analysis through social listening is one way you can uncover content ideas you hadn’t considered before. With all the data you collected, you’re likely to have a good deal of inspiration for new marketing hashtags for your own brand.

It’s also important to be tapped in to what users are actually saying. This can help you be more agile in engaging with conversations on a quick turnaround, and directly responding to users talking about your target topic, whether it’s a viral trend or a branded campaign.

When audiences are organically talking about your brand, you want to be able to maximize the value of these discussions by joining in, reposting and otherwise forging connections with your fan base.

This post shows both that Dunkin’ was monitoring the winter storm being heavily discussed on social, and looking out for their own organic brand mentions. This was a good opportunity for Dunkin’ Donuts to interact with fans and encourage a positive experience with its followers.

Extend Hashtag Reach with Influencer Campaigns

If you know your audience well, you know which influencers they follow and care about. Partner with these influencers on campaigns and create a branded hashtag to go along with it.

For instance, Instagram user Oliveandrye featured the hashtag “chewyinfluencer” along with their other key hashtags to promote their participation in an influencer program with Chewy. For the brand, this also makes it easy to collect and track all the sponsored posts in the campaign in one place.

View this post on Instagram

It’s Sunday spa day! Our furriends @chewy invited us to try some #BurtsBees Waterless Shampoo for Cats for free as part of the #chewyinfluencerprogram. Since we are not generally cats who get baths, we thought it might be an easy way to freshen up when we aren’t smelling our finest (which for Olive especially is pretty often 🙀). Depending on the temperament of the cat, applying it could go either way as you can see😅 Olive and Fig didn’t mind at all (Fig looooves being wet any way) but it startled Rye a bit at first – we might recommend starting by the tail rather than the neck for best results. The directions say to spray and then brush through the fur. Everyone liked having a good brushing afterwards 😹 especially Fig. There is no fragrance/perfume in the product and afterwards we smelled pleasantly fresh and not perfumed. Nobody in our house really cares for perfumes, so that suits us fine. Fig tried to even lick it off Rye at one point 😹 If you are looking for a way to freshen up your cats with self-grooming issues – such as seniors or other cats who have stopped grooming themselves this might be a great option for them. No dubious ingredients! We probably will only use it on Olive as the torties don’t really need it (but Fig may demand it😹) but it is nice to have the option that doesn’t involve an actual bath! Thank you Chewy for letting us give this a test drive! . . . We received this product free of charge in exchange for our honest review. #chewyinfluencer #sponsored #sponsoredad #oliveandryevids #catvideo #cute #cats #snapcat #funnycat #funnycatvideo #buzzfeedanimals #cute #oliveryefig #thedodo #weeklyfluff #catsofinstagram #tricorncats

A post shared by Olive, Rye & Fig • Cat Art (@oliveandrye) on

Using branded hashtags for influencer campaigns makes it easier to track performance and increase brand awareness.

Track Your Success

There are various hashtag tracking tools available to help you measure your results and plan future marketing efforts. The best solution depends on which kinds of hashtags you’re using and what goals you’re planning to achieve.

Key meyrics to monitor include:

  • Mentions: Effective hashtags should inspire followers to interact with your brand, including mentioning your hashtag in posts. Monitor the number of mentions to determine whether followers think your brand message is memorable and shareworthy.
  • Views: These are views related to hashtagged posts, your business page, or related content like videos. Compare your views before launching a hashtag campaign and after to see if you achieved your goal of getting more eyes on your brand. Also try to compare organic vs. paid views for posts with hashtags. More organic views indicate there is bigger buzz around your brand as users are sharing posts with your hashtag with their networks.
  • Followers: Ideally, you should see your follower numbers grow after a successful hashtag campaign. If numbers stay the same, redo the keyword analysis step of your marketing strategy.

Campaign Hashtag Monitoring

Any hashtag campaign needs an effective monitoring method. In Sprout’s Smart Inbox, you can filter by tags or brand keywords, both of which are ideal ways to keep track of everything being posted across networks with your campaign hashtag.

Sprout filter in inbox

Hashtag Listening

Use social listening to track conversation around specific hashtags or phrases. Sprout’s Twitter listening reports let you know which phrases are most commonly used with your brand. These might give you a good idea of which hashtags to use.

Sprout hashtag report from listening

In Instagram, you can also choose to “follow” a hashtag. If you follow an interest hashtag, like #latteart, you’ll likely find new accounts to engage with.

With analytics tools, you have more insight into what is working for your hashtag marketing strategies and how to improve future campaigns. For example, it’s easier to identify influencers based on their number of followers or other metrics after analyzing your hashtags and social media posts.

Through optimizing your hashtag strategy, you can grow the stage for your brand message and have more meaningful interactions with consumers that ultimately go beyond social media platforms.

How are you using hashtags in your social marketing plans? Let us know @SproutSocial on Twitter, or if you’re still looking for more inspiration, read our advice on how to create a great hashtag.