By now, you’ve probably seen the hugely popular Jimmy Fallon-Justin Timberlake skit poking fun at social media hashtag overuse (If you haven’t, check it out below). And chances are, you’ve seen hashtag abuse yourself in your friends’ social media posts. While misusing hashtags can be annoying on an individual level, it can be downright destructive for brand marketing.
Before we get into best practices, let’s talk about the different types of hashtags. What I like to call novelty hashtags are those used as a form of self-expression or a punch line to content (If you still haven’t, watch that video above to get the idea). Younger generations, in particular, tend to use this type of hashtag more often.
Functional hashtags are used to help audiences search and track specific topics quickly and easily join the conversation on social networks. They also can incite action by giving audiences a reason to talk about that topic – or the brand behind the hashtag. Whole campaigns have been created around highly creative and strategic hashtags. These are the types of hashtags brands should strive for.
Tim McMullen, founder and executive creative director of integrated ad agency redpepper, shares hashtag best practices for brands in a recent Social Media Today article. Before you tap out that next Tweet, consider these brand hashtag do’s and don’ts:
DO keep it simple.
Limit the number of hashtags per post to no more than three; otherwise, they lose their punch. One powerful hashtag will make much more of an impact than two or three so-so ones. Make sure hashtags are easy to understand, memorable and short. Capitalization can help with readability (e.g. #getyourown versus #GetYourOwn).
DON’T use a hashtag just to get attention.
Using a popular hashtag will get your brand in front of people, but will it create a solid connection? And could it possibly backfire? Entenmann’s decided to use the hashtag #notguilty in a Tweet about eating baked goods back in 2011, when Twitter was on fire with #notguilty conversations about Casey Anthony. Backlash ensued, and the baked goods manufacturer ended up issuing an apology. The lesson: proceed with caution when it comes to hashtag hijacking.
DO think like a searcher.
There are a ton of general hashtags out there. #Shoes, #beauty, #electronics, #travel… the list goes on. But are they really how people are searching for content? Probably not. Be specific with your hashtag to create a more targeted – and memorable – online conversation. Bonus: your brand could become the unofficial “owner” of that hashtag as more and more people associate it with you.
DO examine your hashtag from all angles.
During the creative process, it can be easy to miss potential blunders or unintentional double meanings. When Margaret Thatcher passed away, a website dedicated to reporting on her health status began using the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead. Can you see why Cher fans everywhere fell into a panic? Be sure to also research your hashtag to see if it’s already being used and how so. The last thing you want is to inadvertently associate yourself with a controversial topic or a topic that doesn’t align with your brand values and personality.
DON’T forget your call to action.
A hashtag is only as great as the conversation it creates. Once you’ve developed your hashtag, be clear with audiences regarding how you want them to use it – and give them a reason to abide. Do you want to hear their opinions? Are you holding a contest? Don’t forget the details.
Come back tomorrow to learn how Facebook and television networks are partnering to increase engagement around different programs.