Back in 2007 when Chris Messina—then a designer at Google—suggested the use of hashtags on Twitter for creating “groups”, no one thought the little pound symbol that could become as widely adopted for news feed sorting and searching as it has today. For some, the mechanism is used satirically on social media for the purpose of entertainment with nonsensical, random hashtag wordings. For others though, it serves as a device for sifting through the content clutter and narrowing in on conversations relevant to interests and/or brand initiatives.
Marketers have jumped at the use of hashtags since in long term campaigns, short-term campaigns, and everything in between. And while they can lead to major flops once put into action, with the right concept and execution, they can play out as an effective way to track success of a campaign and the brand conversations being had around it. Especially with contests, giveaways and events, these unifying social media symbols give brands the power to track influence and engage in relevant discussions.
The issue is, as with most things involving social media, how do you track hashtags? To begin tackling this question, consider a few things with regards to what your brand hopes to get out of hashtag tracking (or hashtracking if you want to #savetime), such as the number of mentions, reactions, reach and overall performance. After understanding the hashtag analytics most relevant to your brand’s goals, the use of third-party tools and smart searching will help successfully guide your analysis efforts towards the most useful metrics.
Every minute of every day, millions upon millions of content nuggets are being consumed and created by consumers and brands alike across the Internet (and on social media alone). In order to break through the clutter, hashtags—as mentioned above—allow for greater focus into both what’s trending and relevant to someone at any particular point in time. You can think of it as a loose organizational filing method for things created across social networks.
Similar to tags or labels used in blog posts, when clicking on a hashtag, you’re redirected to a page feed of all content containing that particular hashtag. They can also be seen as similar to keywords for SEO. Search a keyword on a search engine and you’ll receive the most relevant results.
The social media factor is what makes these mechanisms so unique because aside from finding the relevant material built around various topics, you’re able to find the people talking about them. From this perspective, it becomes more about the conversations that can happen as a result of connecting on similar interests and serves as a way for people to share thoughts openly on timely happenings, products, brands, etc. And if people are talking about your brand, you most certainly want to know about it if not talk back to them yourself.
Choosing a Hashtag for Your Brand
When creating a branded hashtag, consider that this will be your dedicated hashtag in creating branded assets across all social media platforms. You want to think long term and concept something that is both unique to who your brand is but also recognizable enough for consumers to readily connect with and take action. The general rule of thumb is to try and keep hashtags under 11 characters—the longer it is, the more jumbled the message becomes and easy to forget from a consumer perspective once it comes time to use.
Some brands will go the route of taglines when building out hashtags as opposed to including their brand name. Others will use the tone of their targeted audiences to help develop something memorable. A great example of this is when Netflix adopted #NetflixAndChill in response to millennials sharing out their weekend and date plans on social media.
Charlotte Russe #CRItGirl social media contest.
Your best bet is to do your research. Hop on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. and do a hashtag search of various words and popular phrases. See where the conversations lie and the varying tones around certain topics. When you search hashtags on Instagram for example, you’ll be given a list of top hashtags related to your search based on a number of posts that include it. You can then dive into individual posts for greater context. In general, though, keep them short and simple, avoid generalities, and make sure they invoke a sense of action.
Let the Tracking Begin
Once you’ve settled on a hashtag worth promoting, the real fun begins. Begin building out content and consider the use of trending and popular hashtags in conjunction with your branded materials. Doing so can be a great way to boost visibility and spark adoption of your own hashtags since many will turn to search by general/trending topics to start. Popular tools for conducting these kinds of searches on Twitter include Sprout Social and Hashtagify.
The real value of all these efforts comes from your brand’s ability to perform a hashtag analysis and track the performance of conversations across platforms. Both Instagram and Twitter provide insights that allow your brand to measure the basics. However, they offer very limited data on hashtag stats. Because of this, consider the use of a more comprehensive analytics tool.
For deeper numbers on hashtag performance across Instagram, Pixlee’s free Instagram Analytics platform provides everything you need as a brand to get a handle on the numbers that’ll influence next steps. In addition, it provides Instagram analytics on the individuals conversing about your brand and the content proving most engaging. By knowing which messages are resonating, your brand is able to fine tune and tweak content for further optimization.
Another important aspect of a successfully branded hashtag campaign comes from the social media influencers spreading your message. These individuals help bring visibility to your brand initiatives and invoke people to take action. Using Pixlee’s Instagram tools, you can track both current and emerging influencers in your brand sphere so as to best take advantage of engaging them for present and future distribution. Working with these individuals sooner rather than later allows your brand to better build out a team of ambassadors willing to spread brand love and build relationships with the audiences you care most about.
Monitoring real-time conversations as the unfold is perhaps the best way to stay involved and on top of branded hashtag opportunities. Doing so in addition to using the data tracked from previous social media hashtag campaigns will help your brand develop more impactful strategies and lead to a greater boost in ROI.
Whether on Twitter, Instagram or elsewhere, be present in your campaigns on the day-to-day with tools to help track conversations and for more information on the insights yet to be gained, contact Pixlee today.