Hashtags: Evolution in Marketing

Some clients tell me they do not understand hashtags, and feel these little devils are only used to confuse people who are already leery about social media. These clients want nothing to do with them, until they learn that #hashtags can be important to the way they advertise or market their business. What are they and how can these folks better understand them?

I like to think of them as a natural evolution of the Tagline. Taglines and slogans  are familiar enough in traditional advertising. “Just Do It” for Nike, “Snap, Crackle, Pop” for Rice Krispies, “Don’t Leave Home Without It” for American Express. Tags like these make the ads we see or hear more memorable, more easily shared in conversation. Think of the water cooler chats after the Super Bowl; usually the banter comes down to the ads and clever one-liners!

Hashtags behave in a similar way; they make content online in social platforms more easily sharable. Take this another step for business advertising, and the content becomes more easily found and catalogued for access by the web crawlers and search engines. Topics of interest are grouped under a hashtag and can be accessed by anyone who has an interest. This format was introduced on the Twitter platform first, in 2007, but has been adapted to other online spaces such as Instagram and sometimes Facebook.

Above, taglines and slogans are described as easy to share in conversation; hashtags facilitate the same level of sharing but in this case, it’s online. Specifically, hashtags make a topic searchable across various social platforms and search engines.

It is not mandatory to use a #hashtag but it can be a helpful-and fun-way to convey messaging to an audience. Reserve it for social media (usually Twitter and Instagram), so that its benefits can be put to good use. Although a really clever print or video campaign could easily contain an ironic use of tagging that creates a life of its own, #trending #forever, online.