Getting Social Media Right: How to Hashtag Your Brand

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Five top tips to help you market your brand on social media and avoid making any hashtag fails.

Our spotlight is on social media this month, which is a great way to communicate with your customers in real time and gain invaluable insights into what they’re feeling and thinking about your company or brand at any given moment. You can adapt this knowledge to improve your customer processes and create a great customer experience.

Besides instantaneous communication, it is also a useful tool to market your company and brand; both to existing customers that already follow you online and are a ‘fan’, as well as new ones that find you through social word of mouth and your digital marketing campaigns.

One way to utilise social media for your marketing efforts is by using hashtags and earlier this week we shared with you a snappy infographic outlining some of the biggest do’s and don’ts when using hashtags. But how do you actually ‘create’ one? And what are some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid? Read our top tips to find out.

1. Know the technicalities

Creating a hashtag is a free for all and so you can be as creative as you want when thinking up one. However, while you can use any combination of letters and numbers to create the text that will make up your hashtag, you cannot include punctuation (except for the underscore) or spaces, as they will break the automatic link the hashtag turns into when clicked on.

And as hashtags are mainly used for promotional purposes or to find a series of Tweets/posts easily through the social platform’s search ability, make sure that the message you’re sharing is posted through a public account, not a private one, as you won’t show up in searches if your account is locked and that defeats the whole purpose of adding a hashtag in the first place.

2. Keep it short and clear

Though hashtags aren’t limited to Twitter, they are an important part of the social sharing site and with each Tweet being limited to just 140 characters in length it’s understandable that it is better to keep your hashtag concoction as short as possible to allow people to write a message to accompany the hashtag.

However, don’t forgo clarity for the sake of length! Make sure that the hashtag is understandable and can not be misinterpreted as something else. If your hashtag is comprised of more than one word, try adding a capital to the start of each one for added clarity. Social channels don’t differentiate between lower and upper case when it comes to hashtags, so it doesn’t make a difference to showing up in searches.

And check, double check and triple check how the hashtag can be read. When UK singer Susan Boyle launched a new album, the PR company created a matching hashtag that read #SusanAlbumParty. Using the capitals at the start of each word it is clear what they wanted to say, however, not everyone uses uppercase and having all letters in lowercase it got confusing to see where one word started and a new one began, creating a wholly unsuitable hashtag.

3. Make your hashtag unique

While you can use hashtags such as #offer or #discount within your message, you’re likely to get lost in the thousands of messages that get posted each day and include the exact same one. Having your own unique hashtag and ensuring that your friends/followers start using them as well, will set you apart from your competitors and will make it easier for you, or your customers, to find all the messages related to your company or the one thing you’d like to promote.

So if you are creating your own hashtag, which is specific to either your brand or a special promotion you’re currently running, you have to make sure that it hasn’t been used before. Go into the search function of the social platform(s) you’re using and enter the hashtag to see if anything else pops up. If it does, don’t use it. Past, or even future uses can be embarrassing if you’re trying to look professional but the hashtag is filled with unrelated or even inappropriate comments.

If you think your hashtag is too generic, add in an abbreviation for your company. For example, if your company name is XYZ, you can call it #XYZoffer.

4. Use existing hashtags

There’s a reason that Twitter’s list of trending topics (subjects most discussed on the social network at that very moment) mostly consist of hashtags. Once users see the hashtag pop up in the sidebar they’re more inclined to use it as well and add their own comments to the topics at the heart of the discussion. As a company you can jump on the bandwagon by using the hashtag in your own messages and show up in the search results.

However, make sure that you know what the hashtag stands for and your message isn’t inappropriate as that can backfire and result in a loss of customers. For example, when #Aurora was trending because of the shooting in Colorado a clothing store Tweeted: "#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress". Needless to say, the insensitive message was not responded to well.

5. Don't go overboard

Whether you use existing hashtags or you create your own, make sure that you don’t comprise a message that looks to be solely made up of hashtags. Not only does your true message get lost in the sea of hashtags, but those who read your message can wrongly assume it is spam. They will not only ignore the message you so carefully put together, but it my even results in them unfollowing/unfriending you, which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

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