Watching television today isn’t just about enjoying alone time on the couch. It has become an active, social endeavor. People may find themselves engaging in conversations with other viewers, with a show’s social campaign, or even with advertisements. Once just the purview of online communications, hashtags and Twitter handles are now prevalent in many TV spots.

There’s a lot to learn from brands that have already connected their Twitter accounts and hashtags with TV advertising. Some analytics firms have already started to assess which types of social campaigns translate the best to television, but there is a lot of room for creative ideas in this space where TV and computer screens overlap. Here are some smart campaigns that have hit the airwaves in the past few years.

1. Audi — #ProgressIs 

Car company Audi ran the first Super Bowl ad to feature a hashtag during the 2011 game. The company’s tagline that year was “Luxury has progressed,” and its spot for the big event closed by flashing the hashtag #ProgressIs along with the Audi name and logo.

That ad was designed specifically for the Super Bowl, but Audi used the hashtag throughout its promotions for most of 2011, according to an interview with Senior Social Media Manager Andy White. He noted that while YouTube played an important role in how the car brand approached crafting an ad for the big game, Twitter served as the best tool for outreach and response in real-time.

Audi’s success showed that linking a live TV spot to a Twitter hashtag can connect your social media and traditional marketing strategies. Television and social ads can support each other, turning a single minute-long clip into the source of a year-long campaign. The #ProgressIs hashtag was a specific, pithy phrase that could, and did, yield a huge and varied volume of customer responses, which gave it serious staying power.

Another element to the success of the campaign was an accompanying sweepstakes. People who tweeted the hashtag and a related URL were automatically entered into a contest to win a trip to California for a test drive one of Audi’s cars. This offered extra incentive for people to participate in the hashtag program. It also helped keep the phrase affiliated with the Audi brand, despite not having any specific mention of the company or its cars in the hashtag itself.

2. Dr Pepper — #ImA

Early in 2012, Dr Pepper aired a commercial that showed people wearing bright red T-shirts with statements about their personalities. The spot was part of the brand’s ongoing “Always One of a Kind” slogan, and it aimed to get people excited about their originality and unique traits. The accompanying hashtag was simply #ImA.

This campaign was a great way to get people talking online. It was an open-ended hashtag that was easy to participate in, even for those who were not die-hard fans of Dr Pepper. Taking an all-inclusive approach can net a wider audience, especially for an upbeat message that has a broad appeal across demographics.

The other key element of this hashtag’s success is that it turned a product ad into a lifestyle ad by associating statements of individuality with the soda brand. Obviously the spot was promoting a soft drink, and fans of Dr Pepper can still purchase customized T-shirts like the ones seen on TV from the company’s website. But more importantly, the ad was selling an ideal that could be encapsulated with the hashtag.

3. HGTV — #lovehome

Who says a television network can’t advertise itself? HGTV ran spots on-air to promote its “Love Home” social media campaign. The network asked fans to share photos on Twitter or Instagram and label them with the hashtags #lovehome and #hgtv. Some lucky fans then got to see their images included later on TV ads and on the company blog.

This was a successful campaign because it had a low barrier to entry, where people could participate just by snapping and uploading a photo. The home decorating and lifestyle channel took full advantage of the demographic that watches television with a mobile device within reach. By focusing purely on personal expression, HGTV got a huge response from its viewers. According to an official blog post, the channel received more than 40,000 submissions for the campaign.

It was also a smart, easy way for HGTV to promote its social profiles, and possibly encourage its viewers who are not yet second screen watchers to get more involved with the brand digitally. For those who were already wired-in during the popular network’s programming, the chance to see their homes on television was an extra perk to keep them engaged. HGTV’s #lovehome campaign showed how a successful TV spot can extend your social media reach to both new and old fans.

What’s the best use of a hashtag you’ve seen on TV? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credit: Iain Watson]