Monday, August 31, 2015

Choosing a Hashtag for your campaign

Being active on Social Media is no longer a competitive advantage for your brand. Everyone is doing it. Everyone is also focusing on content marketing, native ads and to add to your woes as a marketer is the ever increasing clutter on social media. So how can you differentiate and make your campaign stand out? How can you make sure that the message reaches your audience?

One possible solution is in the construct of your campaign. The insight and the construct of your campaign plays an important role as it determines how effectively you'll build brand recall and facilitate positive word of mouth. The construct of your campaign should translate in to a hashtag, which communicates the message effectively (A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content). A hashtag is so recognized that in 2010 it was added to Oxford dictionary.
But how do you go about choosing the perfect hashtag?

The most common question is - Should your brand's name be part of the hashtag?

Branded Hashtag

One of the benefits of plugging your brand's name in the hashtag is that when it trends (or when your content spreads), the probability of users being exposed to the message (and brand) while they are consuming the message is high. Having a branded hashtag however limits the reach of content. People are particularly immune to branded content. With decreasing attention spans on the internet, and a tendency to skip branded content, a branded hashtag can reduce the organic spread (or sharing) of content. However if the content is very good, users will have a higher recall for the content and the brand.

Unbranded Hashtag

An unbranded hashtag can lead to a relatively higher level of curiosity among users. The probability to explore the hashtag, and conversations around it will be relatively higher than an unbranded hashtag. Also, there are relatively lower barriers to co-create content. Over time as a brand you can end up creating rich cultural capital. However the drawback is that till the time people click on it and explore, they would not associate your brand with the hashtag (which is not the case with branded hashtags). Unbranded hashtags here have a relatively higher probability of moving beyond the first lot of mobilized community but they come at the cost of an overt association with the brand. It is analogous to the experience where you remember a great ad, but don’t quite remember the brand. An unbranded hashtag can also be ambushed or hijacked by a competing brand.

So how do you decide on which hashtag to choose?

A hashtag should aptly represent the message. If you have an established brand, having your brand's name in the hashtag can help you leverage on the equity. However if it does not blend with the message, it is preferable to not use it. If the hashtag (without your brand's name) has the power to generate enough curiosity, users will definitely explore.

The choice of a hashtag will determine how effectively your message spreads. It'll determine the efficacy of your media spends. At the end of it, the objective is to facilitate positive word of mouth for your brand (and not just the content). Remember that the hashtag and the message is only the means to drive positive word of mouth and build a positive perception for your brand.

Keep the following 6 points in mind to make sure the your hashtag is a #Win and not a #Fail.

1. Hashtag is NOT your campaign in one word. It should communicate your message effectively.
2. It is for the people.
3. Open ended Hashtags or hashtags with your brand name can backfire (Remember the #myNYPD hashtag).
4. Gauge the sentiment of users effectively before using a branded hashtag. It can quickly build a community around your detractors (Read Bashtag)
5. There is a higher probability for an open-ended or an unbranded hashtag being hijacked or ambushed (since your brand association is still not built)
6. It is important to ride on to trending topics (or trending relevant hashtags for your brand). This will help build cultural capital.