Hashtag Harmony: Five Rules to Make Your Hashtags Sing



Social media is now so slick and sassy that the once humble hashtag has become a powerful marketing tool. Every media platform now uses hashtags to engage their audience because a well planned hashtag campaign can take an idea that is good in its inception, and elevate it to extraordinary. Take the ALS charity organization – their hashtag,  #icebucketchallenge took their campaign to another level this year, and made it one of the most used and retweeted hashtags ever.

Hashtags emerged organically on Twitter as a simple way of enabling people to share information and connect with ease. But don\’t be fooled – just because they\’re fun to spit out, doesn\’t mean they are easy to construct. Many hashtags have bombed or backfired but with a little knowledge you can use hashtags to take your marketing campaign to the next level and reap real results.


Hashtags are not just about being cool or clever, they are information gatherers. They allow publicists and marketers to track an entire connected conversation across all social media, which is a truly valuable asset. By keeping track of your hashtag\’s flow and use, you can break down trends, discover what your audience is thinking and how the campaign is being received by your competitors. These results will have a huge bearing on not just your bottom line but how you plan future social media campaigns. So tag and track, every time.


Don\’t let the hashtag lead you. Your campaign is the core of the message, so it\’s important that the hashtag be consistent with your branding – but remember, it\’s never the star, just the vehicle. That said, being ninja sharp about the focus of your keywords will help make conversations around your hashtag more wide-reaching. Also, by using your hashtags throughout your traditional media (such as print campaigns) as well as online, you can strengthen the impact of your overall message. The best hashtags are the ones that support your core message; KitKat  use #haveabreak (their tagline) across all media. Genius.


Informative hashtags will always win out over hashtags that are cryptic or obscure. If you have 140 characters – make them count. Burger King tried #WTFF (what the French fry) but it failed because consumers didn\’t understand the abbreviation. On the other hand Nike\’s #makeitcount (asking people to step up in their endeavors), was highly visible, made perfect sense and quickly went viral. We used #sunsetsavor when we were co-ordinating this year\’s Sunset Savor the Central Coast Food & Wine festival, in San Luis Obispo, and it was a huge success, purely because it was short and sweet. No need for #food #wine #festival or anything else – the hashtag #sunsetsavor said it all. And as a rule, don\’t go over four words in a hashtag – any more and you\’re using up precious characters.


Have a crisis plan in place because once your hashtag is out there, it is out of your control. If it goes bad, often you can do two things; respond very quickly and seriously, or quickly with humor (and humor often wins out). Not responding is a no-no. Jenny McCarthy got more than she bargained for when she asked her Twitter followers, “What is the most important personality trait you look for in a mate? Reply using #JennyAsks.” It opened a floodgate of sarcastic tweets criticizing her anti-vaccine beliefs. No-one from her team chimed in, and no-one responded until Jenny herself later tweeted, “Thank you to all the haters who tweet my name you make my Q score higher, it\’s because of you I continue to work.” It was a petty school-yard reply and didn\’t do her any favors. If you\’re going to invite people to ask questions you\’d better be ready to answer the questions, no matter what. On the other hand, President Obama\’s hashtag #ObamacareIsWorking was also co-opted by many vocal opponents before his team quickly switched it to #IlikeObamacare. Lesson learned.


You think that #JennyAsks was a disaster, then spare a moment for these now classic examples of how a hashtag can become a major fail or laughing stock. In 2012, the hashtag #susanalbumparty was used to launch the then new Susan Boyle album. It was misread and almost immediately pulled (but not before it went viral). Huge fail. Luxury pen retailers Pen Island Pens have amused the masses with their hashtag #penisland and #expertsexchange #whoreviews #childrenslaughterhouse and #bigbustycoons didn\’t fare too well either. Use a tool such as www.hashtracking.com to find out whether or not your hashtag has been used, and once you come up with an idea, read it from every angle, or risk being banished to #penisland forever!

\"hashtag-comic\" Photo John L. Hart FLP

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