Hashtags – Lazy or Effective Online Marketing?

Everyone loves a good hashtag…and there have certainly been some good ones (where would we all be without the #selfie).  But do they actually accomplish anything when it comes to a strategic marketing plan?  Does it make sense for a small to medium sized business to develop a hashtag as part of its social media marketing efforts?  I’ve often found myself asking these questions and I have come to a final answer.  Hashtags can be BOTH lazy and effective in online marketing; depending on the context of course.  Let me break it down the way I see it…

Hashtags Are Lazy Online Marketing When…
Hashtags are lazy marketing when there’s no conversation or plan built around the hashtags.  Sadly, I see this all the time.  Even from some huge companies that should know better.  What is the point of using a hashtag if there’s not going to be a specific goal in mind?  Often times hashtags become an afterthought and something that just gets tacked on at the end.  It’s kind of like adding links to all of your social media accounts to an email marketing template just because.  If the purpose of the email is for people to connect with you socially, then add them.  If the purpose is for someone to click back to read your blog post, then they aren’t necessary.  Same with hashtags.  While they may be trendy and cool (kind of like QR codes used to be) they aren’t necessary.

Not only do you need to have a plan for hashtags, but you need to reinforce them at every possible opportunity.  I think some of the Super Bowl commercials this year really dropped the ball on this and can provide an example of what not to do.  One that comes to mind is the Kim Kardashian T-Mobile commercial.  While the concept of the commercial is OK, the hashtag of #kimdatastash just gets lost at the end.  I mean, it’s literally on the screen for around one second.  Let me say that again – one second.  You look down to grab another chip while watching the Super Bowl and it’s gone when you look back up!  Why not keep something like that on screen the entire time?  As an online marketing professional, I have to ask that question.

I was curious about if there was something that I missed here, so I went to search.twitter.com to check it out.  At the time the commercial aired and the day after there were hundreds of tweets using the hashtag.  That’s to be expected.  I mean it is a Super Bowl ad and it is Kim Kardashian (love her or hate her) that we’re talking about.  But what happened after those first couple of days?  Well, sure enough there have been less than 30 Twitter mentions of the hashtag #kimdatastash – less than 30!  We’re talking about one of the most followed people on social media and Super Bowl commercial here.  If you were going to use a hashtag in a commercial been viewed on one of the biggest stages in the world, wouldn’t you want to make sure the conversation continued?  I would have to classify this in the category of lazy hashtag marketing.

Hashtags Are Effective Online Marketing When…
Hashtags are effective online marketing when there’s a conversation or plan centered around them.  I would encourage any online marketing professional to do some research around hashtags in the target market then work backwards.  What is the goal of using the hashtag?  Does it really make sense to create a new one?  If the purpose is to reinforce branding, maybe it does make sense.  Another time when it might make sense is if your company is involved in a specific event and you want to monitor conversation around.  However, if the purpose is solely to increase online visibility, then tapping into existing hashtags could save boat loads of time.  When it comes to online marketing, it’s much easier and takes far less resources to join a conversation that already exists than to create a new one.

One great example of this was the #shareaCoke campaign from Coca-Cola.  Clearly they had an incredible strategy ready to go build around this concept and hashtag.  It reinforced the brand, was very creative, yet a simple and fun way to engage its customers.  This is the perfect use of a hashtag in my opinion.

shareacoke

Want to talk more about online marketing and hasthtags?  Contact me here.

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?
It’s also a good idea to know how many hashtags to use on each of the social channels.  After all, part of using hashtags effectively is including the right amount. For example, Facebook and Twitter posts see the most engagement with 1-2 hashtags while Instagram posts get the most engagement out of a whopping 11 hashtags.  When I think about the number of hashtags, I can’t help but remember this popular skit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon featuring Jimmy & Justin Timberlake.  Take a look…

In all seriousness, I didn’t pull the recommended number of hashtags to use on each social channel out of thin air.  Here’s an extremely helpful infographic from the folks at Quicksprout called The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags that has these numbers plus much more info.  Take a look and use this as a resource to help your posts get seen more and monitor what’s going on in your particular niche.

Want to talk more about online marketing and hasthtags?  Contact me here.

Ultimate-Guide-to-HashTags-How-Many-Which-Ones-and-Where

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