Stop making a hash of hashtags with these 5 tips

Raising brand awareness with a popular hashtag, or with one that’s been created for a specific marketing campaign, can be a bit of a dark art. Creative agencies love to come up with branded hashtags to punctuate their marketing campaigns.

But with so many hashtags out there, bespoke tags run the risk of just being part of the social noise and not creating the desired brand engagement or response.

To help make your hashtags really hum, check out our top 5 tips below.


1. Get tooled up

Analytics are your friend, before and after your campaignable hashtag has gone live. We’re talking researching and measuring.

Research – know what the competition is up to, what hashtags they’re using, and how much user engagement these are generating. This should give you a better understanding of not only what works, but also the kind of content you’re going up against.

Measuring – after your hashtag has run, it’s time to see how effective its been. This data will help you design and strategise future hashtag campaigns. Three areas to measure:

  • Views ­– we’re talking organic impressions rather than paid, as these give a truer indication of how impactful its been.
  • Adoptions – Great hashtags get adopted and mentioned in users' own posts. So a sure way of measuring how successful your hashtag has been is the number of times it's mentioned.
  • Followers – If your number of followers has grown since you launched your hashtag campaign, you’re onto a winner. If they’ve stayed the same, it’s time to go back to the research stage.


2. Know your associated keywords

It shouldn’t be any surprise that using hashtags that are trending on social media will help boost impressions. But don’t just stop there.

Just like improving your SEO involves using the most effective keywords and their associations, hashtag efficacy works the same way. If you’ve got a hashtag in mind that you’d like to use or want to piggyback on one that’s currently trending, research its related keywords to see which are the most frequently or widely used.


3. Incentivise

A branded hashtag is a delicate thing. Many brands make the mistake of just putting them out there into the social universe and hope they get adopted by the public. Of course, this can work. If a campaign is extraordinarily successful at connecting and engaging their audience, the hashtag will be shared. Just look at Coca-Cola’s success with #Share a Coke.

But this isn’t the norm. In recent times, many commentators have heralded the death of the hashtag. What’s clear, is that scatter-shooting hashtags without purpose won’t make them as effective as they'd be if people are encouraged to use them. 

This is where incentivising comes in. Want your hashtag to be adopted by more of your audience? Then make it worth their while.

An easy way to do this is with a good old competition mechanic – post with your branded hashtag, the user is in with a chance to win something nice and shiny. It’s not especially elegant, but it works. Simples.

Some brands have achieved hashtag adoption with a more nuanced approach. Lidl got their #LidlSurprises hashtag shared and trending with a fantastic campaign that included using customers’ own social media mentions as in-store advertising. Which of course went viral, creating a cycle of positive reinforcement and encouragement for more people to adopt the hashtag.



4. Get in with your influencers

Your hashtag isn’t going to trend if people don’t know about it. So make sure they do. Get it into the hands of your audience’s influencers and partner with them to create as much exposure as possible.

Planning is key to this method’s success – researching the reach of each influencer, the timing of the influencer launch and the brand activity that supports it should all be taken into account before the campaign goes live.


5. Your calendar is king

The big holidays aside – Valentines, Easter, Christmas – there doesn’t seem that a day goes by without it having been adopted as the National Day of Something-or-Other.

Social media doesn’t usually miss a trick in highlighting the more obscure and fun national days, often with their own hashtag. Smart brands will jump on the hashtag train and either adopt it themselves as part of a campaign, or create their own variation (see tip 2 – know your associated keywords).

And yes, National Unicorn Day is a thing.


Picture of National Unicorn Day tweet

Picture of Alex Allston, Senior Copywriter at The Sharp Agency

Alex Allston

Senior Copywriter