It’s in the tag: Complete these #hashtasks to create the perfect hashtag
The world of PR and Marketing is no stranger to wordsmithing, but with the evolution of social media, the pressure to be clever on-the-fly with limited word count is higher than ever. Another factor to complicate matters is the sheer volume of noise vying for your attention. Our clients come to us to tell their story, whether it’s pitched to media, becomes website content, or 140 characters or less (technically 280 now… but I digress). It’s so important to encapsulate their voice while making an impact with their audience. There’s one little character that packs an especially important punch: the hashtag.
This isn’t Alexander Graham Bell’s pound symbol anymore. Initially used as part of IRC (internet relay chat… we don’t need to get into that) as a tagging system for important groups of information, it made its way to Twitter around 2007 when ‘tech evangelist’ Chris Messina suggested its use. Similar to its original purpose, the hashtag was intended to create a ‘tag’ to group important information like events and discussions. In 2009 Twitter integrated hyperlinking so that the hashtag could be clicked to a stream of every tweet using the same tag. It took off and the other social channels quickly followed suit with Instagram launching in 2010 and Facebook adding the feature in 2013.
Aside from its functionality changing the way we consume content, the hashtag permeated pop culture as well. It was added to the dictionary in 2014, became common vernacular #IRL (in real life, as the kids say) and even became a skit on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Artists like Drake have mastered creating lyrics that have instant caption potential. The phenomenon of virality and meme-culture has created new ways to discover like-minded individuals, new customers, join conversations and build a community. Now, brands, events, weddings, even social justice causes leverage the power of a hashtag to gain traction for their message.
Because of this momentum, hashtagging for our clients has become an important exercise in branding. There are a variety of use cases for a hashtag, each with their own strategy. In this section, I will give some insight into three types of hashtags to use, and how I approach creating the #perfect one for our clients.
Utilizing hashtags to be discovered or join conversations is about casting a wide, but relevant net. When our clients are looking to expand their brand awareness, it’s important to come up in front of as many of the right members of their audience as possible.
Find hashtags that suit your subject matter.
Don’t: Hashtag overload.
The audience will be thrown off or overwhelmed with too many hashtags. What’s more, followers and the algorithms used by each platform don’t appreciate hashtag ‘poaching’. This means don’t use hashtags that are extremely broad or not relevant to force traffic to content.
Pro-tip: Add a comment
When you are still starting to grow an audience, you can add a few additional hashtags in the first comment of your post vs. within the caption. This reduces clutter, but you’ll still come up in searches for similar content.
Perhaps the most important, but also challenging #hashtask, is creating hashtags that are unique to a brand. Much like a URL, these branded hashtags have to be intuitive, on-brand, and most critically: available. With the sheer volume of chatter on social, that can be quite the challenge. A branded hashtag should capture key brand attributes while encouraging the audience to use it themselves. This creates community as well as a quick way to accumulate UGC (user generated content). For some clients it makes sense to have several hashtags associated with different series of content or brand attributes. We’ll get more into campaign hashtags next.
Do: Keep it simple.
While clever, rhyming or punny hashtags are great, there’s no need to rack your brain if you don’t think of one. It can be as easy as the name of the company.
Do: Put it on everything!
Use your hashtag often so your audience begins to associate it with your brand. Plus, add it to printed materials, cross promote in other channels like your blog and emails, create signage for brick and mortar locations and events, etc.
Do: Vet your ideas
Make sure your hashtag isn’t already being used by another brand or worse, anything that may be a risk or liability to your brand. As with any creative effort, review it with a group of people first to make sure it resonates.
Don’t: Run on.
Hashtags need to be short and sweet so that they are easy to type, read and remember. They have to pack a punch with no more than 15-20 characters.
Pro-tip: Play with words.
Of course, if you can be clever you should. A play-on-words makes for better emotional impact. There are lots of tools to help you find a recognizable phrase to play off of.
Pick a keyword or name associated with your brand or a similarly sounding word (puns are highly encouraged)
Search by keyword
While working in-house at a company called eero, a home WiFi systems, I created #HappyWiFiHappyLife from Happy Wife Happy Life, inspired by customers who appreciated reliable WiFi creating harmony in their home. We even used a spin on that with #HappyWiFiHappyWife after a customer was hoping we could help him get his wife’s stamp of approval.
This post is part of an ongoing knowledge series from East River PR. Each of our team members have a unique skill-set and background that they bring to the table and the chaos of agency life is chock full of opportunities to hone our craft. We’ve all gained from collaboration with our team, our clients, and jobs we’ve had along the way, so we’d like to pay it forward here.
This week’s contributing team member is Kathleen Lee. She is ERPR’s social savvy creative ideas person. Whether it’s crafting content or driving influencer marketing, she’ll wear any hat needed to create memorable brand moments.
With a background in design, social and influencer marketing, she seamlessly brings client vision to creative fruition.