You only get so much space and attention in a social message. Every character counts. It’s frequently necessary to take stock and you may be asking, “Do Hashtags Still Work?”
As our options to track and monetize our social messages become more diverse (stickers, emoji, etc), it makes sense to question whether our old friend the hashtag is still earning its keep. And a few recent inflammatory headlines proclaiming “Hashtags Don’t Work!” have sent some marketers into a tailspin.
Read on before you panic, and throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Hashtags, which have always been free and largely unmonitored, are a blessing and a curse to platforms that wish to sell their own tracking systems for brands to use with marketing messages. Hashtags are difficult to control, and nearly impossible to monetize.
This is not the only reason that hashtags are ripe for scapegoating. They’ve been oft-misused and to some extent it has sullied their reputation. Studies have shown that too many hashtags, or inappropriate hashtags can be detrimental to your posts.
But is this really news: Too many inappropriate hashtags don’t work? The common reaction to this assertion is one word. Duh!
It’s no surprise that random sales and marketing oriented hashtags crammed into your tweets, don’t produce results. That’s called spam. Spam has never been a particularly effective marketing tool. Spam sandwiches will always suck, with or without a hashtag on top.
This doesn’t change the fact that hashtags, when used properly, are still a valuable and important social media invention.
Hashtags still work.
Here’s 10 ways you should still be using and thinking about hashtags.
- Use hashtags to unify campaigns. There are no cross platform ways to brand your efforts. Cute emojis and stickers are great fun, and useful ways to boost engagement, but you have to start from scratch each time you switch platforms and that can leave your audience confused.
- Use hashtags to build community. Communities still rely on hashtags to communicate and communication = engagement= trust = authority and sales. There are no better ways to id/sort and participate in conversations, engage with experts and communicate with communities
- Use hashtags to organize your content. Content is king, and relevant hashtags are the best way to find relevant content. There is no better way to quickly find what you are looking for.
- Then use hashtags to auto-curate and re-purpose your content. Hashtags make it easy to sort and filter content streams for repurposing your own and your community’s shared content. Whether that is a gallery of customer contributions (via instagram widget) on your website or a latest tweets wall in the lobby of your hotel or event, hashtags deliver the messages.
- Use hashtags for contests. Hashtags are one of the easiest ways to drive contests and boost customer engagement. Hashtags are the mechanism that drive both awareness and entries, and can be used across more than one platform, magnifying your impact.
- Use hashtags to create custom portfolios. Hashtag use creates a living legacy of your brand or blog, allowing you to pull up a portfolio of past campaigns, product types and post types from thin air, from anywhere on the planet. Create your own and you can show off.
- Use hashtags to play detective. Hashtags provide valuable marketing clues. Clever detectives know how to follow the trail of a good hashtag to identify parallel communities, influencers.
- Use hashtags to track and measure your efforts. Hashtags provide a very easy and accurate way for brands to track and measure their efforts, on multiple platforms. Broad listening is also important but hashtag analytics provide far deeper and more detailed analysis. If you are not specifically tracking hashtags, you are probably missing out on a lot of important insights about your community and brand.
- Use hashtags to ID influencers and experts. Browse topical/industry hashtagged conversations and dive into communities via hashtag and you will quickly come up with the thought leaders and experts. These people get retweeted the most and have the most shared links. Befriend them and watch who they speak with, what they have to say. This is a great way to predict trends as well.
- Get creative with hashtags. Hashtags lend themselves to creative and clever use – whether it’s a scavenger hunt or cookie with your motto on it. Use them both in social messages and in real life, printed in your marketing materials and on promotional items that are likely to be shared and seen.
Marketing, when done right, is not just a steady broadcast stream of #BUY this and #FREE gift messages. While sales are the ultimate goal for many, marketing efforts exist to nurture communities and nudge our way towards smaller incremental goals of building awareness, and community growth. Hashtags are a vital part of that ongoing process.
If your hashtagged marketing efforts are not working, it may be time to refine your strategy and re-tool your tactics. But keep hanging on to your hashtags. Hashtags still work, and for many social media users and communities they’re essential!