Hashtags aren’t just that annoying thing millennials use too often. They can actually be an integral part of social media strategy. Hashtags are essentially buzzwords (or buzz-phrases) that identify and group posts, making them easy to find and highly engaging. In 2014, one of the biggest social media phenomenon, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, was shared across social media with the use of a hashtag #ALSIceBucketChallenge. The challenge, and in part the hashtag, not only raised awareness for ALS through 17 million videos but also generated over $100 million for ALS research. While not every hashtag campaign can reach the success of #ALSIceBucketChallenge, it can still be a successful tool for social media strategy.
According to Steve Cooper, hashtags play five roles in social media strategy.
#Promote – In summer of 2015, Coca-Cola rolled out their Share a Coke campaign accompanying their 20 oz bottles with names printed on them. They used the hashtag #ShareACoke on social media to invite users to generate their own content. Since individuality and self-expression are valued by millennials, the campaign prompted many social media users to buy these coke bottles and share photos tagged with #ShareACoke.
Hashtags don’t even need to be tied to an original slogan to be a promotion tool. Many twitter users follow social media tags such as #dailydeals or #flashsale. By using these hashtags, you can hold last-minute promotions with wide outreach.
#Unify – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all support hashtags. That means no matter what platform, you can find and group the outreach of your campaign. For example, when Too Faced, a popular makeup company, launched its collaboration makeup palette with NikkieTutorials, they implemented the hashtag #nikkie4toofaced across all their social media platforms. Rather than needing to create a new page for the new product, they can identify the outreach of the product across Twitter and Instagram by the use of the hashtag.
#Converse – When the Super Bowl rolls around, everyone talks about it, whether it’s about the teams, the commercials, or even just the fact that they don’t care about the Super Bowl. Companies can use big events like these to spark conversation with their users. 45% of advertisements during the Super Bowl included a hashtag. These hashtags initiate conversation during and after the game and can be a talking point between the company and its users.
#Target – Just a couple days ago was National Cat Day, and naturally, this meant everybody with a cat was sharing pictures tagged with #NationalCatDay (Myself included. I use every excuse to share a picture of my cat). Businesses can actually use this to their advantage to target specific users. Since people browsing this hashtag are interested in cats, companies that create products for cats and cat owners can implement the hashtag.
#Innovate – Technology is amazing. In 2016, American Express launched their highly innovative Amex Sync, which connects your Twitter. When you share a hashtag, you may be eligible for discounts, and when you use your American Express card to make the purchase, the discount is automatically applied.
Using hashtags is an excellent strategy, but hashtags need to be used judiciously. Tweets with hashtags are 25% more likely to incite activity, but tweets with three or more hashtags are 21% less likely to engage users. On Facebook, hashtags can even be detrimental with 50% higher reach than those without hashtags. Meanwhile, Instagram posts with over eleven hashtags are more than 30% more likely to engage followers than those with fewer hashtags. When used strategically, hashtags can have a great impact on social media strategy.