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The Hullaballoo Over Hashtags

Hiren Panchal
by Hiren Panchal  |  25th May, 2015 in Life

….and how it can make or mar your brand

Hashtag is not just a “#” sign that you place in front of a word. When associated with a brand, it has the power to make or mar your online reputation in the shortest span of time. Therefore, there is a crucial need to put in a lot of thought before coming up with a hashtag that is well-crafted for your brand and resonates with your core audience.

Although a recent innovation, hashtags have gained maximum popularity, especially in social media. Lots of people use these on Facebook and Twitter to tag their posts and make them search-friendly. Companies and advertisers have also started using hashtags in their ad campaigns to show how integrated they are. Their main objective is to interact with their customers in the best way possible. Pity they fail to use the right techniques, which is why most such campaigns run out of gas and go on to become ‘misses’ rather than ‘winners.’

A few examples will illustrate this point:

Cottonworld: #OnlineAzadi was the hashtag Cottonworld Clothing Company opted to use right after the Supreme Court suppressed Section 66A of the IT Act. Nevertheless, one thing Cottonworld failed to establish was a proper connection between “Online Azadi” and natural clothing. Apart from failing miserably, the campaign put off several potential customers too. A classic case of a misfired campaign.

Wrangler Denims: While one well-crafted hashtag could have taken their campaign towards success, Wrangler Denims chose to use five in their trending topics. This annoyed not just their followers, but also those who tried to voice their opinions using these hashtags. All this did was to make the company sound desperate and unprofessional. It is okay to hijack one trending topic; but if you want to hijack more, you might have to find a smarter way.

DiGiorno Pizza: DiGiorno Pizza failed to understand the main purpose of hashtaging #WhyIStayed before they tried to hijack the trending topic. The purpose was to find out what made people stay in abusive relationships. DiGiorno Pizza interpreted it as “Why do people stay back at a party or an event?” They went on to use it in their tweet ‘#WhyIStayed You had pizza’. It infuriated the people so much that it compelled  DiGiorno to coem out with a long stream of heart-felt apologies, in their effort to make up for their blunder.

McDonald: #McDStories was the hashtag McDonald chose to use to help their customers share their sweet and syrupy stories about the Happy Meals offered by McDonald. However, the campaign turned out disastrous when it attracted negative tweets from unsatisfied customers. Although McDonald took steps to remove the hashtag as quickly as possible, the damage was done.

The moral of the story?

Hashtags do improve the engagement of people in conversations on Social media platforms. However, the right use of hashtags is very important.

Here are a few Dos and Don’ts that will help you use this tool strategically:

The Dos:
Always be specific while using hashtags: Specific hashtags can engage our audience with your campaign in a meaningful way.

Always club the hashtags you use to a specific social network: For instance, In case of Instagram these are often used to describe a photo or broaden a particular theme or a story. In Twitter, it’s more about focusing on a particular topic of conversation or a group of users you would prefer to engage with.

Always choose unbranded and relevant hashtags: If you want to personalize your brand, it is better to use an unbranded but relevant hashtag that people can easily associate with.

The DONTs:
Don’t use hashtags that are too clever or too long: Although they may be relevant and specific, they will still lose its usage value. They also need to be easy to find.

Make sure you don’t use too many hashtags: This will only result in diluting your message and make you sound very desperate.

Don’t try to hashtag everything: It might be an overkill.

Hashtags can help in making your content unique and discoverable. However, it is always better to do away with hashtag in case your comment is not adding much value to the conversation.

You can create hashtags in many situations such as while launching a new product, starting a new campaign, getting feedback for some of your previous offers and while promoting an upcoming event. Get your brand a cool #Hashtag today and engage in some of the interesting conversations online.

Hiren Panchal

Director, Litmus Branding Pvt. Ltd.
Ahmedabad, India
Hiren Panchal co-founded Litmus with Kapil. Hiren owns an exhaustive character and sharpens his views with an analytical mindfulness. He observes every creative with a conscious magnifier. Just as his doer attitude wins over his believer attitude, his thought leadership aims at creating leaders and not followers on his team. His creative insights have created brands worldwide and he has been commanding in the industry for +20 years. Come to the point, he’s already there.