Believe it or not, hashtags are hardly a modern Instagram phenomenon. In fact, according to AdWeek, hashtags were first used online back in the ’90s. Designer Chris Messina brought the hashtag back to the forefront of pop culture in 2007 when he became the first person on Twitter to use the pound symbol as a way to organize his conversations and tweets.
Today, hashtags aren’t just for keeping digital thoughts neat and tidy. When used strategically as part of your branding and social media strategy, branded hashtags can deliver amazing results.
What is a Branded Hashtag?
As its name suggests, a branded hashtag is a custom hashtag that simply aligns with your brand.
Whether you’re a creator or an influencer, it is a word related to your business name, online personality, personal/corporate slogan or catchphrase.
It can even be the name of a social media campaign that you’re currently running.
Popular examples of branded hashtags from some of the world’s biggest brands include:
- Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke
- ALS Association’s #IceBucketChallenge
- Nest’s #CaughtOnDropCam
- Charmin’s #TweetFromTheSeat
Benefit #1: Increase Your Brand Awareness
A branded hashtag can help you expand your reach and grow your brand’s exposure. Once you’ve decided on a branded hashtag, encourage your audience to post using it, leveraging the reach of their audience. A brand may ask any paid influencers to use the branded hashtag in posts to reach their audience or an influencer might even ask her followers to use her branded hashtag so she can engage with their content.
If you have profiles on different platforms, a branded hashtag can help create continuity across your accounts. A branded hashtag will undoubtedly enhance your cross-channel promotions and increase your visibility on different platforms.
Benefit #2: Visual tracking
A quick glance at the branded hashtag’s individual page on Instagram (or the total number of posts under that hashtag’s feed on Twitter) can give you a big picture view of how a campaign is performing without running actual analytics. Branded hashtags will allow you to quickly see how many posts are going up and give you a visual of how the content is coming together.
Benefit #3: It Creates “navigation” for users
If you think of a branded hashtag as a collection of related posts, you can quickly give your followers an easy and obvious way to navigate through specific themes in your social media channel. For example, an interior design brand may have branded hashtags assigned to themes like paint palettes, seasonal trends, and thrift shopping. Users can quickly tap a hashtag to see all related posts, essentially helping people to self-select their interests and dive deeper into your content, concurrently increasing your engagement!
How to Create a Branded Hashtag
Convinced you need a branded hashtag now? Here’s how to get started:
1. Research Other Branded Hashtags
Piggybacking off of popular hashtags with your own unique take can help drive traffic—but when it comes to a branded hashtag, make sure you aren’t A) competing with another big brand or influencer who is already using that branded hashtag, or B) using a branded hashtag that carries meaning that doesn’t align with your brand.
Case in point: DiGiorno pizza. They decided to use the hashtag #WhyIStayed in reference to pizza. If their social media marketers had taken a little extra time researching this hashtag, they would have learned that it is actually one used by survivors of domestic violence and abuse. They quickly apologized, but not before social media caught wind of their mistake.
2. Keep It Simple
Make your branded hashtag simple, short, and easy to spell. After all, if it’s complicated to use, your audience, fellow influencers, and brands will be less inclined to use it. For example, #FoodBloggersOfToronto could potentially be shortened to #TOfoodies or #FoodiesYYZ.
3. Think Beyond the Obvious
If your brand is all about humor or creativity, find ways to use your hashtag to delight or surprise your fans. For example, Vancouver-based Herschel uses the branded hashtag #WellTraveled. It ties into the sense of exploration and adventure that encompasses the brand, and is much more inspiring than simply using a hashtag like #HerschelBags.
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By day, Josh Duvauchelle is the co-founder of Frey Union, a marketing firm in Vancouver, BC. By night, he’s a health and wellness coach featured in Teen Vogue, Men’s Journal, Shape, Men’s Fitness, and more. Find him on Instagram under @joshduv. Josh is a member of #ThePaidCrew editorial team.
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