This is Part 2 of 3 in our series on hashtags. Part 1 is here.
How Are They Used?
Now that it's clear what hashtags do, it's important to know when to use them, and for what purpose. It's not entirely clear at this point how much Facebook will allow brands to launch Facebook ads centered around hashtags (historically, they're rather picky about how they let brands advertise) but it's likely that soon, we'll be seeing hashtags come into use by brands in the same way we see them on the networks that currently support hashtagging and filtering.
Evolving from the Website to the Hashtag
Social media is all about attracting attention, and for businesses, that means curating brand image and engaging with customers. For example, Twitter has emerged as a dominant platform for customers to interact with brands, increasingly using hashtags to do so. You may have noticed that companies advertising in commercials have moved from directing customers to their websites (Brandname.com) to their Facebook or Twitter page (Facebook.com/BrandName or @BrandName), to simply using hashtags (#BrandName or #CurrentPromotion) to denote how to best interact with their brands online. I think the main reason for that shift is that the hashtag transcends any one platform, so customers can choose the medium of their engagement.
We first saw hashtags hitting commercials en masse during the SuperBowl, the most expensive advertising opportunity each year in the US. Sysomos put together an infographic detailing the effectiveness of hashtags used in commercials during the SuperBowl.
The findings of Sysomos' research are striking: they found that people interacted more with the brand behind the hashtags than the campaigns they were running, which helps explain why Doritos and Calvin Klein were highly effective in soliciting engagement using hashtags, whereas brands like Audi and Tide weren't. What this shows is that brands are adopting hashtag use across their advertising efforts, but even the less effective ads still solicited easily-trackable engagement on social media. Not only did these brands get swaths of new followers (not shown in infographic) but also utilized the hashtag to extend their brand to the followers of those who tweeted their hashtag to their respective networks.
A recent survey published by RadiumOne illuminated some note-worthy statistics about hashtag usage, and they distilled their findings down to a few key points:
- 58 percent of respondents utilize hashtags on a regular basis, and 71 percent of regular hashtag users do so from their mobile devices
- 43 percent of respondents think hashtags are useful and 34% use them to search/follow categories and brands of personal interest
- 51 percent of respondents would share hashtags more often if they knew advertisers awarded discounts for sharing product based hashtags
- 41 percent of respondents use hashtags to communicate personal ideas and feelings
51% of respondents reporting that they'd use hashtags more often if rewarded for it reflects a significant opportunity for brands to utilize these metatags to engage their customer base. Additionally, 41& of respondents use hashtags to communicate personal ideas and feelings, and brands are capitalizing on those feelings and ideas to solicit engagement and integrate themselves with users' daily lives
What You Can Expect to See
Facebook is arguably the most advertising-friendly social network, so as Facebook rolls out hashtag integration, we're going to see more and more cross-platform marketing efforts, bringing together engagement across the numerous social networks that are already integrated with Facebook. Expect to see companies using hashtags to amass Instagram pictures, tweets, and pins (from Pinterest) in their Facebook feed moving forward.
For more details on Facebook's announcement, check out Mashable's article on how they'll implement the feature, and the motivations behind it. And of course, tune in tomorrow for Part 3 in our series on hashtags, discussing how they can be leveraged by brands.