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Rehashing the Hashtag

By Mira Brody - Last Updated on 06/19/2016
Hashtags are a way businesses can tag their posts with keywords, making them easier for social networks to organize and users to search. It’s a great marketing tool embraced by major brands, such as Coca Cola, Oreo and McDonald’s and is supported by most social media platforms now, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How do they work? If you add a hashmark (#) before a word, phrase or sentence without punctuation or spaces on a social media site, it will link you to the conversation about that hashtag. For example, #LoveWins went viral last summer after the Supreme Court ruled it legal for same-sex couples to marry, sparking an outpouring of status updates, posts and photos, all united by this single hashed phrase.

Hashtags are a great way to market, express an opinion on a trending topic or be humorous, but there are a few dos and don’ts to be aware of, especially if you’re a company trying to maintain a positive reputation.

1. Overdo it. Hash-tagging an entire sentence makes your post obnoxious and illegible. No one cares that #WeGotANewPrinterAndItPrintsLikeBobRossPaints — it probably won’t match any trending topics and the specificity deems it useless from a marketing standpoint. So is: #I #love #hiking #outside #trees #grass #birds #sunset.
Solution: Posting about a company retreat or summer camp? #YNP #FindYourPark to accompany your Instagram shot of Yosemite Falls will suffice and benefits the marketing campaign of our National Parks.

2. Use a tragedy to market. Don’t think it needs to be said? Entenmann’s made the unfortunate mistake of using the hashtag #notguilty, not knowing it was at the time trending as a response to the Casey Anthony verdict. The Lesson? Check the context of a hashtag you are about to use! We will cover how to research trending hashtags further down.
Entenmanns tweets the wrong hashtag.

3. Create a hashtag you don’t want to know the answer to.
JP Morgan launched a marketing campaign via a question and answer session with the hashtag #askJPM. Over 54,000 inquiries attacking the bank’s business practices and legal troubles drove them to cancel the Q&A session.
Solution: Don’t go out of your way to invite negative attention.

1. Research hashtags in your market. Post Planner has a pretty useful list of safe, popular hashtags used in various industries and Sprout Social offers a program that will track your business’s trending topics on social media. It is also helpful to check an industry partners’ social media pages to see which they are using.
Oreo's Twitter won the Superbowl.
2. Jump onto the trend bandwagon. Trendy topics are usually morphed into a hashtag — use it to your advantage! Oreo Cookie’s Twitter account was one of the first major brands to use #SuperBowl #blackout and it left a lasting impression on consumers.

3. Be humorous. Although it is important to stay professional, when you’re representing yourself on social media, people are looking to connect in a more down-to-earth fashion. Charmin’s #TweetFromTheSeat and Denny’s #CollegeIn5Words were hugely successful marketing campaigns driven by hashtags.

Jimmy Fallon's hashtag sequence.
On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon features a segment called #Hashtags featuring the week’s funniest trending hashtags.

So don’t find yourself intimidated by that little thing we used to call the pound key. When used correctly, it is an extremely powerful marketing tool on social media and can earn you followers, shares and likes, garnering more traffic and recognizability for your brand.
Mira Brody:

About Mira Brody

Mira Brody is an editor, writer, and marketing expert with 12+ years of experience. She has worked as a local news reporter, a writer/editor, and as a leader in large-scale branding strategy. Mira worked at JTech as the staff writer and editor for internal and client projects from March 2015 to December 2019.

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