Hashing it out: Using hashtags to market your business

Hashing it out: Using hashtags to market your business
Written by Martin Jones

If you've paid even the slightest attention to marketing campaigns recently, you have likely noticed the emergence of a rapidly spreading trend: the Twitter hashtag.

If you’ve paid even the slightest attention to marketing campaigns recently, you have likely noticed the emergence of a rapidly spreading trend: the Twitter hashtag. The old, reliable pound sign has been repurposed in recent years to become a new marketing and social tool designed to help people navigate the increasingly dense Twitter landscape. If you watched the last Major League Baseball or the recent Golden Globes award ceremony, you probably saw the humble hashtag in a variety of different guises. #MLBpostseason and #GoldenGlobes were scrawled on posters, flashing across television screens and, of course, affixed to online ads for weeks,leading users to initiate discussions and share related stories about those topics.

These two examples are representative of a new wrinkle in the hashtag trend. Brands of all sizes have learned that appending their Tweets and marketing campaigns with hashtags is a great way to increase brand awareness, brand-related discussions and reach new customers.

The technique, however, is still in its early stages – especially among businesses – so many companies have not found it easy to incorporate the technique into their marketing initiatives. However, branding your business through the creative use of hashtags has the potential to make marketing your business much easier, so now may be the perfect time to master the hashtag.

Here are a few simple tips to get you on the road to hashtag prowess.

Tap into the hashtag reservoir
One of the features that makes hashtags so powerful is the way in which they build off of each other. The more frequently a hashtag phrase is used, the more potent it becomes. Finding trending phrases and those that are expected to become more popular in the near future is a great way to tap into a hot topic and use it to your advantage.

According to Asking Smarter Questions, tweets that included hashtags had around 10 percent higher click-through rates than those that didn’t. The successfulness of this tactic, however, hinges on the ubiquity and popularity of the hashtag phrases. Taking the time to research which words and phrases are spreading quickly – as well as, perhaps more importantly, how they are being used – can help you launch a viral marketing campaign much more easily.

Hashtag flash mobs
In her editorial for The New York Times, author Julia Turner expressed shock at how brands can use hashtags to generate massive, seemingly instantaneous discussions about their products, services or events. Citing the example of last year’s National Basketball Association’s Sprite-sponsored slam-dunk contest, Turner shows how effective a well-placed hashtag phrase can be.Using the hashtag #spriteslam, the event’s organizers prompted 50,000 tweets with that hashtag at the end in the first two minutes of flashing the term on screen.

Your company may not have as much reach as Sprite – or a venue as popular as the Slam Dunk Contest -but the shocking results of that marketing campaign suggest that, even on a much smaller scale, a carefully considered and well-executed hashtag push can generate an enormous amount of engagement in a hurry.

Go local
The inverse of Sprite’s successful national conversation-starter may be even more important for smaller businesses. In addition to helping multi-national companies launch continent-spanning conversations, a well-placed, micro-targeted hashtag can assist smaller companies in generating local activity and interest.

According to Business 2 Community, companies can use location-based hashtags to reach nearby customers and inform them of special promotions, upcoming events or time-sensitive news. Simple steps such as using your company’s name as a hashtag and specifying certain cities – like #chicago – can have a profound effect on your marketing initiatives with very little extra effort.

#consistency
Although the benefits of getting creative and varied with your hashtags is clear, it is equally important to retain some consistency throughout your implementation. It may be helpful to break your hashtag use into two categories: those that you use for specific, one-off events or promotions and those that you use regularly and reflect a core message of your brand.

In the first category, feel free to get clever and distinctive hashtags. However, the majority of your hashtags should be in keeping with your overall strategy and brand personality and easily searchable. Like slogans, these hashtags should be instantly recognized by your loyal customers and serve as a way to maintain near-constant engagement with them.

Study the craft
Perhaps the most effective way to successfully incorporate hashtags into your company’s marketing strategy is to become a hashtag student. Follow frequent hashtag-users, read about emerging trends and appeal to your customers for advice. Remember, this is a fairly new promotional technique, so don’t be afraid to try new techniques, ask for help and expand your strategy.

How have you used hashtags to promote your business? Share some of your best advice below!

 

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About the author

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Sr. Marketing Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.