As Twitter use increases, so too does the urgency to distinguish ones social voice. Saturation of the social marketplace can make it difficult for even the most unique individual or corporate brand to stand out. What’s a tweeter to do? For many, the short answer to that question is hashtagging. Hashtags came on the social scene as a distinctive and trackable brand identifier. While they remain useful for monitoring real-time trends, hashtags have tried taking a turn for the funny ha ha; tried being the operative word. With the exception of Charlie Sheen’s #WINNING, hashtagging for the sake of 140 character humor is hampering the marketing and targeting power of the symbol. As is true of any social trend, there is a right way and a wrong way to hashtag.
The Origins of the #Fail
When hashtags first came on the little blue bird scene, their primary and proper marketing objective was categorizing and organizing tweets from events, conferences, contests and webinars. Hashtags facilitated and streamlined engagement between Twitter users around a certain topic making it easier for marketers to target followers moving forward. It was all going so well. Then social users decided that although hashtags served a definite marketing purpose, they weren't truly representative of the overall brand ambassador voice. They weren't hip enough, which gave rise to inane rhetorical hashtags like #allergictofalafel, #hypedoncaffeine and #alligotforxmaswasastupidhat.
If Useless, Why Use It?
The Twitterverse moves at break neck speed. Tweets come and go making it hard to get noticed. Irrelevant hashtags get noticed and if that is your only aim, bully for you. Be advised that you’re getting looks for all the wrong reasons. Unless you've built your brand on comedy, silly hashtags can detract from your online reputation. Hashtags, like tweets, should be authoritative, meaningful and, yes, humorous within reason. Establishing a follower base is no easy task. It requires strategic thinking, which should be reflected in your message and hashtag. Injecting some personality into your hashtag is fine but there should still be relevance after the #.
Ways to #WIN
For brand and event marketing, it’s best to err on the side of caution when hashtagging. Using an official event hashtag will enable you to circle back on conversations relative to your role in the event; thus, making it easier to answer questions or participate in topic discussions.
If you want to add some creative flair to your hashtag, be sure to consult with experts in your marketing and social media departments. This will help you avoid the kind of messaging mishap that befell Entenmann’s during the Casey Anthony trial. The baked goods company incorporated #notguilty into their tweets, which was the hashtag being applied to verdict-related tweets.
Don’t Be Rash When You Hash
Effective social media marketing is highly calculated. With regard to Twitter, every tweet must have an end goal. The same mindset should apply to hashtagging. Before you insert #, think about why you want to use it. Will it reinforce the message of your tweet? Will it reach your desired audience? Will it simplify pre- and post-event engagement? Or will it get a quick laugh or shrug and dissolve into the Twitter ether without making a positive brand impact?