How Hashtags Can Be Leveraged
As hashtags hit Facebook news feeds this week, it's crucial to understand how your brand can leverage them to increase customer engagement and improve your social media presence. This is the culminating article in our 3-part series on hashtags, so be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 for more context.
There are three core functions hashtags can serve for brands: Promoting, Engagement, and Targeting.
Campaigns identified with a hashtag make it easy for users to share their enthusiasm for your brand, and you can easily reward customers for promoting your brand on their own social networks using a hashtag, as it's cross-platform and unifying. Remember from Part 2, 51% of respondents to RadiumOne's survey said that they would promote hashtags for brands in exchange for rewards or access to specials. Rather than taking a buckshot approach to discounting, giving everybody who walks in the door a discount to simply drive volume, use your specials to increase your social reach and bring new potential customers into the fold. Similarly, if you're doing a sweepstakes or giveaway, you can have contestants enter using a hashtag, perhaps with their unique perspective or use of your products.
'Engagement' is really part of every hashtag-based effort, but in this sense, we're talking about hashtags as powerful for brands looking to initiate conversation. Going beyond giving customers your website or Facebook page address, you can initiate and elaborate on conversations already going on in a manner that is more organic and engaging than the one-dimensional, one-way-conversation marketing strategies of yesteryear. A great example of effective use of hashtags could be seen at the inaugural Boston Calling music festival in Downtown Boston last month. They plastered the hashtag on every stage and banner, encouraging concert-goers to tag their pictures and tweets, which went out to their networks, and acted as free social advertising for the festival.
Additionally, you can use hashtags across platforms to facilitate engagement throughout your brand's social network. Unification is perhaps one of the strongest attributes of the hashtag. Hashtags allow for unified messaging across platforms, making promotions more broad in
their reach and more engaging despite the myriad social media that
customers prefer. As with promotions, by offering something of value to followers in exchange for their engagement, you can push users to get creative with your brand. Examples of this include caption contests, fill-in-the-blank requests, or 'post a picture with our product,' all of which will go out to their respective networks as well.
Hashtags also allow businesses to target consumers in new ways that go beyond the pay-to-play advertising algorithms provided by these networks. By identifying hashtags that are trending and hopping on the proverbial bandwagon, brands can promote themselves to a wider audience, and do so for little or no cost. Creating hashtags that their userbase can relate to allows brands can facilitate conversations and good PR, while widening the scope of their social network through their users' participation.
Small and local businesses on Instagram (a widely-popular photo-sharing social network recently bought by Facebook) are using hashtags to identify pictures of their wares along popular trends, harvesting followers and gaining fans and customers in the process. Larger brands can capture good PR and run engaging promotions by encouraging customers to post pictures of themselves using their products with Instagram, or retweeting at followers who post particularly valuable or special content.
As a final note, it warrants mentioning that hashtags are still in their relative infancy, but with growing ubiquity and inherent ease-of-use, hashtags are primed to become a major framework for facilitating engagement, building and reinforcing brand image, and promoting businesses online. We look forward to seeing how hashtag use evolves as new applications and platforms for the concept arise and develop.
For a primer on what hashtags are, check out Part 1 of this series: Hashtags For Facebook: The 3 Things You Need to Know.
Then, take a look at Part 2: How the Best Brands Use Hashtags.