A branded hashtag, meaning the one that follows the majority of your social media posts and you encourage customers to use, is a great way to gather your community in one place online, listen to what people are saying about you, and spread brand awareness through your network. You want to try to keep your hashtag consistent through the entire lifespan of your business to avoid fragmenting your audience so it’s important to put some time and effort into coming up with a good one.
Here are five tips for creating a great hashtag for your brand’s social media profiles and posts.
1. Keep it short.
Long hashtags are hard to read and people will likely misspell them. Too long of a hashtag on Twitter will limit the space you have for a cohesive message.
2. Make sure it’s unique.
This may require some creativity, but it’s the only way to ensure the brand “owns” the hashtag. Make sure you always test your hashtag with a quick search. You don’t want to use one that is already populated with unrelated conversation.
3. Pick a name that is descriptive and uses a portion or all of your brand name.
If you’re just starting out and building a brand from scratch on social media, a good rule of thumb is to choose something that’s descriptive and clear. Clarity over cute should be your motto–although if you can accomplish both, even better! Picking a hashtag related to your name will help you build brand equity and name recognition, which is the first step. You can always add more clever hashtag campaigns later once you’ve built an audience.
4. Include a call to action, if applicable.
People love to share; they just need to be asked to do so. A hashtag that prompts someone to share how they use your product or service is essentially free advertising for you. It also offers an opportunity to extend your brand beyond the life of your product into a lifestyle realm. The more you can connect your business to a lifestyle, the more timeless your brand becomes.
5. Be cognizant of potential backlash and use your hashtag to listen to your customers.
When McDonald’s asked people to share their #McDStories, they were hoping for fun and light-hearted tweets. Instead, they got horror stories from people who worked there or had bad experiences. They pulled the hashtag from promotion immediately, but it didn’t stop the horror stories from taking on a life of their own. However, #hashtagfails can also be a source of learning for your business. Say customers commandeer your hashtag to complain—that’s an opportunity to reach out directly in an effort to win back their business and to show spectators you practice good customer service. Righting a wrong can often be even better for a brand than all rave reviews.
Why Your Brand Needs a Hashtag
The truth is that what most people want from social media is a good story to follow and/or contribute to; there’s no better way for a campaign or cause to do this than by creating a hashtag that will encourage people to engage. In order to do this, the hashtag must be unique, brand-specific, and compelling. Even better if it also includes a call to action. If it takes off, customers and followers will start telling the story for the brand.
Brands can proliferate hashtags by putting the hashtag on their site and in profiles, using it themselves, and providing incentives to customers that use it. You can encourage user-generated use of your hashtag by liking and commenting on posts and surprising and delighting customers who use the hashtag.
Here are a few brands who won the hashtag game:
Always – #LikeAGirl
Here’s an example of a brand standing for much more than its products through a campaign. Since its inception, the hashtag has taken on a life of its own, making the feminine hygiene company part of a larger story around female empowerment.
Coca-Cola – #ShareACoke
A few years ago, Coke put 1,000 different names on its label with the #ShareACoke hashtag. Today, there are over 659,000 posts on Instagram with that hashtag.
Calvin Klein – #MyCalvins
Calvin Klein went back to a classic ad from the early 1980s to encourage followers to post pictures of themselves wearing Calvin Klein underwear. There are almost a half a million Instagram posts with that tag today.
West Elm – #MyWestElm
Following a similar construction, West Elm leverages user-generated content (UGC) to sell its wares. According to a report earlier this year, click-through rates for UGC were 2.6 times higher and converted to a sale three times the rate than traditional advertising methods for the brand.
@Walltraveled – #Walltraveled
Here’s an example of an individual spinning off a personal brand around a hashtag. In this case, the hashtag actually came first then the savvy designer and social media influencer started curating other Instagrammers who share a love of brightly colored walls.