An Essential, 3 Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing

 In Social Media Today

Are you looking for a fairly inexpensive way to get your brand name out in front of your target audience quickly? Then a hashtag campaign may be right for you.

In this post, we’ll look at the basics of running a hashtag campaign, the traps to watch out for, and some key notes on how to maximize your branded hastag efforts.

First off, let’s start with the ‘why’.

Why Hashtags are a Good Marketing Tactic

Getting people to use a unique hashtag related to your brand on social media can help you to expand the reach of your message without spending a lot of time or money.

Consider this – When one of your customers posts a picture of your product on social media it acts as free advertising for you.

A picture on its own is nice – friends of your customer will see it and may want to learn more about the product. However, a picture with a hashtag is even better because connections of your customers can then explore the many different ways your product can be used beyond what their one friend posted about. It also enables friends of your customer to see other products you may offer.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

Example of the #HaveABreak hashtag from Kit Kat

This type of word-of-mouth marketing can be highly influential, particularly with people aged 34 and under – more commonly referred to as Millennials.

Considering that the Millennial generation is the largest living generation, with population estimates reaching 75.4 million, this is an important group for brands to reach, and increasingly so as Millennials advance into their careers and increase their purchasing power.

But How Does It Work?

When you think about hashtag marketing you may think:

“Okay, so I pick a hashtag such as #CompanyName and start adding it to all of my tweets.”

You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to do that – in fact Frank Body does this really well with #thefrankeffect hashtag campaign. 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

A sample of Twitter results for #thefrankeffect

But what if you want to make an even bigger splash with your hashtag campaign? What if you’re dreaming about going from almost no Internet buzz to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people talking about you and using your hashtag?

Then it’s time to put together a super creative, engaging and fun hashtag campaign.

Like all great marketing campaigns, this requires some forethought and planning, but it can pay huge dividends – for example, in 2011, Coke celebrated its 125th birthday by launching the #ShareACoke campaign

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

Thanks to many people taking pictures of their cokes, the hashtag generated 12 million impressions and increased young adult consumption by 7%.

Now that’s how you create effective buzz.

And while that’s awesome for Coca Cola, it’s likely you don’t have Coke’s marketing budget. So what can you do along similar lines?

How to Come Up with Your Own Hashtag Campaign

If you want to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing via hashtags, you’ll need to set the groundwork for getting it trending. After all, a hashtag that no one uses results in zero impressions and zero sales.

1. Come Up with a Clever Phrase

The best and most popular hashtags all have something in common: they’re creative.

In 2015 Charmin launched their successful #TweetFromtheSeat campaign making something utilitarian and boring like toilet paper seem playful, fun and entertaining. This was important because the company wanted to reach 18 to 24 year olds, and they knew the best way to do that was through social media platforms that young adults spend a lot of time on.

Laura Dressman, Charmin’s communication manager says, “We’re looking at social channels to drive advocacy for our brand and drive buzz and conversation. We’re constantly evaluating new platforms to see if they are a right fit for us.”

According to a Nielsen report published by the Wall Street Journal, 40% of 18 to 24 year olds admitted to using social media in the bathroom. This, combined with the fact that 37% of young adults use Twitter, and it was a no brainer for Charmin to launch a fun hashtag campaign to get the Internet buzzing about toilet paper.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

No one wants to see a tweet that says “go buy Charmin today”, however, a funny Twitter campaign can get people to choose Charmin the next time they are at the store and need to buy toilet paper because the campaign is memorable.That’s the kind of result Charmin is looking for.

On the flip side, Make a Wish Foundation made a child’s dreams come true with the #SFBatKid campaign, in which they helped a 5-year old cancer survivor become a superhero called BatKid for the day. People followed the hashtag all day while they watched BatKid, dressed in full costume, save the city from Riddler and Penguin.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

This clever and emotional campaign resulted in 1.7 billion social impressions and drove 1,400 website visits per second to the Make a Wish Foundation website, much more than the foundation is used to.

According to the Make a Wish Foundation, “We saw an increase in offers to help across all areas, including donations, volunteers, referrals and other services” as a result of the hashtag campaign.

Charmin and Make a Wish are still pretty big brands though – what if you want to take your much smaller brand to the next level with a hashtag campaign?

2. Reach Out to Influencers for a Jump Start

Without the help of several influencers to jumpstart the use of your hashtag campaign it’s unlikely to take flight.

An influencer is a person who has a lot of followers or fans. Famous actors and actresses have long been considered influential, but with the advent of social networks a new crop of digital influencers has emerged. These days an influencer can be a YouTuber, CEO, or even a mom with a blog.

A key element most influencers have in common are their thousands, or even millions, of social media followers – but even more important than that is the engagement rare on their posts. The benefit of working with influencers is that they have the power to get their communities to buy the products and services they recommend.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

According to Forbes

“In order to get a hashtag to trend, there needs to be a somewhat simultaneous push from influencers for several minutes, so that the hashtag starts gaining traction. For this you will need to send out a message to your influencers and sync up with them on an ideal time to launch the hashtag.”

Cosmetic brand, Burts Bees, recently used this tactic when it launched its new lipstick range – they had their team of influencers use the hashtag #LipstickThatLovesYouBack on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and other social media sites on launch day.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

Above, you can see the top posts using the hasthag #LipstickThatLovesYouBack are from beauty bloggers and vloggers like Estee Lalonde, who shared her post with her 709K followers on Instagram where it quickly racked up over 11,000 likes and 80+ comments:

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

Estee Lalonde gets a lot of engagement on her posts and her community loves her – and because of her popularity, she’s a well-known influencer in her space. Working with influencers of Lalonde’s caliber can boost your brand’s awareness almost immediately.

Lalonde also uses YouTube and she shared the #LipstickThatLovesYouBack campaign with her 1 million+ subscribers, and on Twitter with her 260K followers.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

Combine Lalonde’s reach with the handful of other beauty influencers that Burts Bees worked with and you can see how working with influencers leads to fast spreading awareness for brands.

To find influencers for your own campaigns, there are several tools you can use.

On Platform Search

Each social network has a search function that enables you to look for people to follow and engage with by keyword. For example, search Twitter for #running and it’ll show you a list of people who frequently tweet about running.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

Instagram also has a search feature that enables you to look for influential people on a particular topic.


Buzzsumo has an Influencer search tool which enables you to find people with a lot of followers by topic.

Here we can see people who may be passionate about running. The information is also accompanied by their bio and follower count.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

From here you could click on the influencers’ names to see their full social media profile, then reach out via DM or a comment.

Google Search

Another great way to find influencers is by doing a good old fashioned Google search for your industry.

For example, to keep with the theme, if you’re a running shoe company you could search for running bloggers.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

You would then need to click through to visit each blog, check out the blogger’s content and find their social media links. This requires a few more steps than using a social search or Buzzsumo, but it may bring up results that you otherwise wouldn’t find using the first two tools since it reviews web content and not just social channels.

When evaluating influencers, there are several key factors you’ll want to dig into before offering a contract:

  • Reach – First, you’ll want to know that an influencer can help you reach a relevant audience to increase awareness for your brand. To do this, look at follower numbers, but also note who those followers are. Do some analysis to ensure you’ll be reaching the right audience, not just the biggest.
  • Engagement Rate – Next, look at the engagement rate the influencer commands. If someone has a million followers but only gets ten likes on each post, then they might not be as influential as their follower count would suggest. As a basic barometer, try and look for influencers with an engagement rate more than 10%.
  • Quality of Content – When working with influencers, they’ll likely be coming up with their own content to promote your brand – that means photos, graphics and possibly even videos. Is the content they’ve produced high quality? Does it fit your brand personality? Does it come off as trustworthy? Remember, when working with an influencer they’re representing your brand.
  • Posting Frequency – Next you’ll want to look at how often the influencer posts. Do they post every day, or at least every other day? It’s best to work with influencers who have consistent posting schedules because this shows that they’re close with their audience, which gives them extra influence.

Working with influencers can give your brand a giant lift all at once as long as you put in the work ahead of time to find the right influencers and coordinate your hashtag campaign.

3. Amplify Your Own Message

Influencers will help you get your hashtag campaign off the ground, but then you’ll need to take matters into your own hands. One way you can do this by crafting funny (if appropriate) replies to some of the tweets that come as a result of your campaign.

If possible, carry this humorous personality into all of your tweets moving forward.

For example, Wendy’s found itself in the news earlier this year when it started “roasting” people and other fast food brands on Twitter:

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

You can also retweet some of the best uses of the hashtag to encourage others to keep using it in the hopes of also earning a retweet (this works best if you already have a large following).

Paid ads can also help keep your campaign trending, and can result in inexpensive impressions and reach.

For example, if you’re seeing good traction on Twitter, consider running a Twitter ad campaign to encourage even more people to use your hashtag.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hashtag Marketing | Social Media Today

Most social ads are cheap and don’t require a minimum spend, so you can literally start with $10 or $100 and scale from there if it makes sense to do so.

Getting Started

Getting started with hashtag marketing is as simple as brainstorming the right hashtag. Remember, you give yourself the best chance for success if the hashtag is memorable, so think creatively.

After you’ve decided on your hashtag, find a way to get people talking about it and using it. The fastest way to launch your hashtag campaign is by working with influencers who can get their communities not only using your hashtag but also learning more about your products and services.

If you have any questions about how to kickstart a hashtag campaign, leave me a comment below.

This post was originally published on Social Media Today

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