Happy birthday hashtag—#AndGoingStrong

The hashtag celebrated its 10th birthday in August and for good reason. It is estimated that an average of 125 million hashtags are Tweeted each day and not just on the highest ranked TV hashtag #TheWalkingDead; businesspeople are using it successfully, too. To celebrate the hashtag’s momentous milestone, let’s look at some of their most effective branding strategies. You will notice that all of them are simple but effective. They create or encourage user engagement and exemplify the brand’s message or personality and tend to last for a relatively long time:

  • While waiting in your local market’s checkout line you’ve surely glimpsed in the mini fridges between aisles and spotted Coca-Cola bottles with people’s names on them. Coke’s #ShareACoke campaign was a sweet success for the company, increasing their soft drink sales by 2% even while people are more health-conscious than ever.

The hashtag became the #1 global trending topic in after word of the promotion began to spread. Recognizing the success, Coke increased production to include 1,000 of the most popular names in the United States from their original 250 as well as 200 of the most popular surnames. This technique is so successful because it makes people feel unique when purchasing a product with their own name on it while at the same time making them feel as though they are part of something bigger.

  • Unless you’ve been hiding under an umbrella the past four years, you or someone you know has been doused by a freezing bucket of ice water to help spread awareness of of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Nominated participants in the #IceBucketChallenge have 24 hours to comply with the challenge or forfeit by way of a charitable donation to ALS.

Over 17 million people undertook the chilly challenge, raising $115 million dollars and helping to fund research that uncovered the gene responsible for the disease. This campaign’s success was helped by the trend of tagging or challenging friends to do the same and by countless celebrities and organizations joining in.

  • Denny’s #CollegeIn5Words hashtag is an example of a brand jumping on an already popular hashtag and making it their own. Using this hashtag, Denny’s targets a large portion of their audience (college students) and uses them to market the restaurant chain. This is far enough removed from the restaurant itself that it avoids any negative connotation with restaurant fast food (see McDonald’s #McDStories).

Expedia also had some success with jumping on a trending hashtag by asking their followers to tweet #throwmeback instead of #TBT for a chance to win a vacation; and KFC found the #NationalFriedChickenDay hashtag trending and offered promotions when their customers used to discuss their restaurants. These businesses had success in finding and jumping aboard hashtags with positive or humorous connotation.

  • Always’ #LikeAGirl hashtag changed the meaning of the sometimes-insulting, sometimes-vain phrase in 2014 and turned it into term of empowerment. The campaign had a massive 85 million views worldwide and afterward, when the public was questioned about the meaning of the phrase “like a girl” 76% of respondents implied it as being positive whereas only 19% had before. Two out of three men said they would “think twice” before using it in a negative way.

Using hashtags can help define and connect with a market’s target audience. It can also generate conversation on a product, event, or idea and help build your brand on the various social media channels. If your business has not used hashtags in marketing, start by incorporating them into your daily communications social media, especially Twitter and Instagram.

Create a hashtag that is specific to your product or brand and encourage your followers to use it when discussing your business or product in reviews and comments. Keep in mind that you should always keep your personalized hashtags brief but unique and clever enough to keep people posting. Keep your hashtags consistent with your brand and avoid double meanings including capitalization of words you may have overlooked. Follow these guidelines and we may feature your business in the next 10 years #dreambig.

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