Love ’em, hate ’em or simply don’t understand them, hashtags can be an inexpensive way for your business to make an impact on social media.
Why? Because hashtags are simply a form of word-of-mouth marketing.
Specifically, hashtags cater to the infamous Millennial generation (who are about 34 and younger right now, give or take).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers in 2016 as the nation’s largest living generation, so they are a big chunk of today’s market that you simply can’t ignore.
Back to hashtags.
If you’re looking to increase word of mouth in this era of social media, you have to look at hashtag marketing — and there are two ways you can jump in: adopt a trending hashtag or create your own.
Adopt a trending hashtag
If the idea of creating your own hashtag scares the bejesus out of you, the best baby step is to monitor trending conversations and keep an eye out for an opportunity to be authentic within the conversation while also reflecting your brand.
Let’s talk examples.
If you didn’t already know, there are a number of less formal national holidays out there that social media has fallen in love with, such as #NationalFriedChickenDay.
Kentucky Fried Chicken completely took advantage of the day (and the hashtag), tweeting photos that were a play on the holiday — and their products. The effort was well received with high engagement, while also getting the KFC name in front of a bigger audience.
Some trending hashtags on Twitter will ask users to sum up an activity in so many words, such as #CollegeIn5Words.
Denny’s Diner took advantage of this with the following successful tweet: “procrastination: a 3am denny’s run” #collegein5words
So, how do you monitor trending hashtags? There are a number of tools that are either free or offer free trials, including Sprout Social, Trendsmap, TINT, Keyhole, Talkwalker, Hashtagify, RiteTag, Twubs, Hashtags.org and more.
Once you identify a hashtag you’d like to use, think through your post.
What is the voice of your brand?
Wendy’s sees its voice as that of Chris Pratt in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” who is funny and sarcastic but still just a normal guy, according to Brandon Rhoten, Head of Media for Advertising and Digital/Social at Wendy’s.
If humor is an attractive voice for your brand’s social media presence (and this might sound obvious), make sure that you’re actually being funny. There are too many examples in the graveyard of offensive tweets to cite here.
Create your own
Looking to go all in and make your mark? Why not create your own trending hashtag?
Social Media Today offers three tips on not only how to do that, but be successful with it as well:
1. Get creative. Think your company’s product isn’t exciting enough for a trending hashtag? Just ask toilet paper-maker Charmin, which launched its wildly successful (and just a little bit gross) #TweetFromtheSeat campaign. According to a recent Nielsen report, 40 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds admitted to using social media in the bathroom. Looking to target a younger demographic, Charmin rolled with it (get it?) and got the Internet talking about toilet paper.
The takeaway: Hold a brainstorming meeting with your team and encourage everyone to think outside the box.
2. Launch it with influencers. If you’re looking for a jump start or even just a strong start, you’re going to want to consider working with social media influencers, who are really anyone from celebrities to YouTubers to bloggers to a local newsmaker in your community. These days, it’s anyone with a large (and engaged) following. You can identify influencers with a number of different tools (such as BuzzSumo) or even just a basic Google search for must-follow blogs on your topic of choice. You’ll just have to do a little extra digging onward to the connected social media accounts to see if the audience is there. Coordinating with at least one influencer can give your hashtag an immediate boost.
The takeaway: Be aware that any influencer you might work with would be representing your brand. Go through that person’s posting history, not only to confirm consistent posts, but also to make sure the content is in line with your company’s image. Also, don’t get stars in your eyes just because of a large follower number. Do the math — their average engagement per post should be at least 10 percent of their following to reflect an active audience.
3. Maintain the momentum. Let’s say you got creative, brought a handful of influencers on board, and your hashtag got the strong start you were hoping for. What now? Engage with your audience, of course. Reply to users’ posts (the wittier the reply, the better). Continue posting relevant content with your hashtag and keep that momentum going.
The takeaway: You can’t set it and forget it. You must feed it.
Above all, whether you’re jumping in with an existing hashtag or creating your own, don’t be afraid to experiment. A failed tweet, Instagram photo or Facebook post (unless offensive) simply doesn’t get traction. And that’s OK.
Keep an eye on those metrics — what worked, what didn’t — and let that help guide your next move. But you have to start somewhere.
Looking for a bit more guidance? Contact my colleague, Brook Bentley, social media and content manager at Sierra Nevada Media Group, for a free social media consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org
Caren Roblin is director of content at Sierra Nevada Media Group, which publishes the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. You can contact her at email@example.com.