Hashtags are eleven years old. They’re nearly teenagers. And for that reason alone, it’s about time we sit down and have “the talk.” Let’s talk about #HowToHashtag.
Back in 2007, a man named Chris Messina—the self-proclaimed hashtag inventor—proposed on Twitter that we should all begin using # (better known at that time as the “pound” symbol) to distinguish tweets intended for certain groups. A decade later, “#” is used across social media for that purpose and so much more. Which brings us to the big question: What do hashtags do?
For starters, hashtags categorize photos and messages into topics. Twitter users who wanted to celebrate the Philadelphia Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship used #SuperBowl52. This past September, Instagram users who wanted to post their images from Milan Fashion Week used the abbreviated #MFW. When enough users are discussing the same topic, those hashtags are then considered trending—such as the #MeToo movement.
Business owners capitalize on this by catering their social media posts to particular communities or groups of consumers. Promoting a new cloth diaper service in Miami? You might use #NewMoms, #MiamiMoms and #MiamiBabies in your next post. You can also connect with likeminded users in the field (e.g. #BabyProducts) or connect with professionals at an industry conference (#ABCKidsExpo).
When the feminine products brand Always launched its #LikeAGirl campaign, it accomplished two things: (1) it inspired women to comment on the campaign and use the hashtag, thereby promoting the Always brand, and (2) it made a bold statement. Not all hashtags are worth a thousand words, but this one spoke to girls around the world. (There are over a million #LikeAGirl posts currently on Instagram.) Others, like the #IceBucketChallenge, serve as call-to-actions and create consciousness about global issues.
When creating your own campaign, make sure to communicate the message in a single, unique and memorable phrase. For that new eco-friendly cloth diaper service, consider this clear frontrunner: #DooDooTheRightThing.
As a business owner on social media, your best bet is to use hashtags to lure potential customers and help them locate your profile amongst the 68 million users on Twitter and the more than 1 billion active instagramers. The hashtag #NewDiaperServiceMiami doesn’t serve you; no one would ever search for that particular tag. However, the tag #ClothDiapers has more than 485,000 posts. #ClothDiapersRock has a respectable 6,800.
In the hashtag game, there is always the temptation to be clever. But there’s a time and place for witty captions. (Imagine a dad posting a snapshot of his screaming, tantrum-throwing toddler. The caption reads: #Winning #DadLife.) But with the comical must come the practical: hashtags that are both specific to your company and searchable by your future customers. Find the right balance, and you’re bound to attract the right customers.
About Brand Poets
Founded by Tana M. Llinas, Brand Poets is a collective of strategists, visual storytellers, and digital artisans crafting smart, poignant campaigns that command attention. www.brandpoets.com