To unlock your brand’s hashtag marketing potential, you must first understand why they were created to understand their proper use to truly make you a marketing contender in your industry.

Chris Messina was the first person to use the hashtag in a social media context as a way to group conversations.

How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina, (“factoryjoe”), August 23, 2007

After Twitter, many major social media networks have begun to implement the hashtag as well in their platforms. This is why, as a brand, it is imperative that you understand how to leverage this tool.

People use the hashtag to monitor specific conversations. It is nearly impossible to keep up with all the noise that surrounds digital conversation. They are determined by topic, location, popularity, and time. Many marketers’ dream scenario is when their own hashtag campaign has gained sufficient traction that it has begun to “trend.” That is, there’s so much buzz about a topic, product release, service, announcement, or competition they started that their audience is not only taking notice but they too are promoting the use of it; and thus increasing their reach.

Why You Need Hashtag Campaigns

Filter

Hashtags will allow you to filter noise communication and deliver a specific message to a highly targeted audience. Say that you’re a wedding photographer and you know the warmest weeks of the month are wedding season. Your services could be pitched with #newlyweds, #engagement, or #weddingplanning.

Visibility

Then, excited couples that are about to take the plunge are more likely to find you since this is the conversation they’re having as they try to plan for their big day. Before you go crazy, do a few searches of your intended hashtag on the social networks you’re planning to post. For example, Facebook might be trending with #weddingphotography and Twitter might be faring better with #weddingphotographer. Remember to be direct and succinct.

Brand Control

Before you start any hashtag campaigns that will be centered on seasonal products and services you’re offering, you should have a set of hashtags that will always be relevant to your company. Your company name and main product lines should be a start. This way, you can track the conversations taking place around your brand. There is no way avoiding this.

Customer Service

The conversations will take place whether you’re there to listen or not. And by knowing, it allows you to engage them. Whether it is to thank a happy customer for the shout out or address any grievances they have.

Competition

As much as you want to know what your target audience is saying about you, you want to know what they’re saying about your competition. From your list of researched hashtags, focus on those related more to your industry rather than your brand. With that, you’ll start to see what is being said about your competitors. Study their complaints about them and look for the opportunity to leverage your unique value proposition and win them over.

Events

Remember that hashtag trends are also time-sensitive. Are you launching a public event? Come up with a simple yet memorable hashtag and incentivize your local audience to participate. Perhaps there is something major about to happen in your city. If their event is related to your brand’s offering, ride that hashtag to let that audience know you too have something of value to offer during that event.

Ok, so you’re getting a better idea of why you need to start using hashtags in your marketing campaigns. Going a step further than the social networks’ search engines, there’ a particularly awesome Twitter tool to find relevant keywords around your intended hashtag. I went over to Hashtagify and searched for “#weddingplanner.” Their free version gave a simple glimpse of surrounding keywords related to my search. Use it to brainstorm your own strategy.

hashtagify.me

Another great website for Google+, Instagram, and Facebook is Tagboard. Tagboard uses hashtags to search for and collect public social media within seconds of being posted to networks.

tagboard.com

These are great resources to find trending hashtags and launch the potential of a great trending hashtag. But remember, nobody knows your business better than you. So you, as the expert, need to take a moment to brainstorm hashtags you may want to use, then use the resources mentioned in this post to both validate your hashtag and/or find other relevant hashtags that will boost the success rate of your campaign. Above all, value and consistency are key to paving your way for hashtag domination success.

How useful were these tips? Are they actionable enough to get you started or do you need clarification? Let me know in the comments section below.

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