Hashtag – ‘you’re’ not it!

Hashtags are ubiquitous in today’s society. Remember when this # was just called ‘hash’ or ‘pound’?! We even physically say it in conversations ‘hashtag just saying’.

As someone who likes things to be organised, I’m a big fan of them. I like that we can file our comments on social platforms in certain topics and I also like the way that their use has developed to be used as an aside too e.g. I went to Tesco today and bought loads of salad #MustStopEatingRubbish.

However I have two bugbears when it comes to hashtags.

1) Thinking that a hashtag will make your campaign ‘digital’

A hashtag is not a stamp that you add to the end frame of your TV advert or the bottom of your DPS to tick the digital box. The beauty of a hashtag for marketeers, is to make your campaign easy to remember and easy to find. But the hashtag has to make sense to the consumer and there has to be a logical way for them to use it. Don’t just use the name of your product or brand as a hashtag. There is no reason why I, as an individual, would want to write a tweet and then just use a brand name in it. However if you start with a campaign and then find the most appropriate hashtag, it works much better. What is the philosophy of your product or brand, what are the benefits, how can it be used? You would think about all of these things when you are building the rest of your marketing campaign and it is just as relevant for your social campaign.

One of my favourite hashtags of recent times is #BeMoreDog – O2 created an entire philosophy around their phone upgrade offer and it meant that consumers could use it in all kinds of ways.

Of course sometimes you may just want to use a branded hashtag to curate your own content and make it easy for people to find. It’s not always the case that you need to expect consumers to use the hashtag themselves.

2) Using personal pronouns in hashtags

When you are deciding on the wording for your hashtag, think about how it will be used. One of the worst hashtags I have seen in the last year or so was Barclays #YouAreFootball. Now that’s lovely of you to recognise that the fans make football, Barclays. It’s a really nice sentiment. But how are us fans meant to use it?! Do I change it when I use it in my own tweet and say #IAmFootball or do I say yes I am #YouAreFootball? It just doesn’t work and as a result there was not much traffic on the hashtag.

I had a similar situation at a brand I worked at where a hashtag had been decided at an international level and it started with ‘I’. It makes it very difficult then for the brand itself to use it as often brands speak as ‘we’ rather than an individual. It also means that you have to ask the consumer, ‘do you #IBlahBlah’ which is just terrible.

You need to give your consumers an incentive to use a hashtag. For TV shows, the incentive is that you can discover and be discovered by other people watching the same show. For brands it doesn’t always have to be a competition or an offer, perhaps, like O2 you can encapsulate something that makes it easy for them to express themselves.

The time you invest in choosing and testing a hashtag is time well spent. Make sure you get trending for the right reasons!

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