5 Hashtag Strategies To Boost Brand Awareness

It's easy to misuse hashtags in marketing if you don't know what you're doing. Try these strategies to create hashtags that work.
October 30, 2013

Hashtags aren’t just for Twitter. They’re now used across the social networks, including Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. Used correctly, hashtags can be a powerful tool for enhancing brand awareness and engaging online audiences. Don't know where to start? Try these strategies.

1. Create your own branded hashtag.

Creating your own catchy, branded hashtag is a valuable method for gaining brand awareness, but it takes some legwork to get people to start using it. Blake Jamieson, director of social media for 30MilesNorth, says you should include your hashtag in your email signature, on your website and even on a window decal if you have a physical location. It should also span your social media networks—not just Twitter.

“Also, it helps to offer incentives to customers who use the hashtag. For example, you could give away a coupon to one randomly selected hashtag user each day. This encourages people to use your hashtag daily,” Jamieson says.

2. Run a hashtag-branded promotion.

Jeju West used a similar tactic by asking customers to post photos of themselves wearing the company’s beauty sheet masks. “People look like they are in a Halloween crossover between Jason (Friday the 13th) and The Silence of the Lambs when they wear the mask,” says Jessica Shin, president of Jeju West.

“We set up a gallery where people can submit pictures of themselves in beauty sheet masks using hashtag #JWmasqueball. We use Woobox to power the gallery; since pictures can be submitted automatically via Instagram or Twitter using the named hashtag,” Shin says. When #JWmasqueball shows up in users’ news feeds, some click out of interest and learn about Jeju West in the process.

3. Host a Twitter chat.

Hosting a Twitter chat is another way to generate a lot of interest in a short time using hashtags. “The company posts questions using a unique branded hashtag, and people answer questions, ask questions and add their comments using the chat hashtag,” explains Erin Cushing, social media manager for inSegment.

The brand serves as the moderator, asking questions, engaging participants and retweeting posts from others, resulting in a connected conversation that can be easily followed by anyone searching the hashtag. “When executed correctly, Twitter chats build a loyal group that engages with every brand chat and with the brand directly,” Cushing says.

4. Tap into trending hashtags.

If your goal is to accumulate new followers rather than create buzz among your current audience, Jamieson recommends tapping into current trending hashtags rather than creating something new. The key is to find the most popular and frequently searched-for hashtags that are relevant to your audience.

A quick Instagram search reveals the number of times a hashtag has been mentioned in posts. A few hundred mentions isn’t enough. “On the other end of the spectrum, a hashtag with tens of millions of uses might also be difficult to gain traction with. If something is getting mentioned that many times, your post is likely to get lost in the noise. I find it best to leverage hashtags with 10,000 to 500,000 mentions,” Jamieson advises.

Jamieson recommends a few tools for finding trending hashtags, including:

· Twubs.com: Lets you register and discover hashtags.

· Hashtags.org: Searches for hashtags and discovers currently trending hashtags.

· TrendsMap.com: Shows you trending hashtags based on location.

· TagDef.com: Provides an explanation of what popular hashtags mean, such as #tbt, which stands for Throwback Thursday.

5. Keep it short and memorable.

Instagram allows users to include up to 30 hashtags with a single image. But overcrowding the space is overwhelming—the goal is to grab attention, not lose it. “Instead, use one or two hashtags in your image descriptions, then put other hashtags in the comments, which still make your image searchable for those keywords,” Jamieson says.

Donna Raphael, social media manager for Chatter Buzz Media, says one to three hashtags is the right balance for Twitter. “Any more than that is overkill and lessens the value of the message you are trying to get out,” Raphael says. She also warns against using irrelevant hashtags just to boost your post’s visibility in searches. Like using too many hashtags in a single update, irrelevant hashtags cheapen your message and users tend to associate it with spam.

Hashtags are a powerful marketing tool if used strategically to build your audience. Follow these simple strategies to generate brand awareness using hashtags.

Angela Stringfellow is a freelance writer, social media strategist and complete content marketing junkie obsessed with all things Web, written word and marketing.

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Photo: Getty Images