Where did hashtags come from? Who decided that the pound sign in front of a word should be a trend, and why?
The hash key has been used in information technology to highlight special meaning long before the social media era. The now popular trend was only introduced to social media in 2007 by former Google developer, Chris Messina. He came up with the idea as a way to organize similar topics online. Another tech specialist suggested calling the symbol a hashtag, and Messina liked it.
The trend didn’t really takeoff until 2009 when Twitter adopted it, and now it has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon across social media platforms. The marketing world has enthusiastically taken to it, and some brands are gaining worldwide notoriety with their trending hashtags.
Using a hashtag can be very powerful. It can garner awareness and attention to your brand when done correctly. It has the same power to impact your brand negatively. To avoid a hashtag failure, check out the list below of some of the most successful brand hashtags and why they worked so well.
1. Coca Cola #ShareACoke
Who hasn’t secretly rummaged through their local supermarket fridge trying to find a coke can with their name? The ‘personalized’ coke campaign was introduced mid-2010, but swept over global social media in 2015 when Coca Cola added a hashtag, #ShareaCoke.
In just 7 days, the hashtag had reached 179 million viewers and generated 155,108 posts. The most interesting fact about the campaign is that most of its engagement did not come from the brand’s social media accounts, but from users sharing it.
The hashtag was so successful because it encouraged users to create their own media content. It gave consumers complete creative control of the campaign as they were the ones deciding what story they wanted to tell. People didn’t feel like they were promoting a brand. Rather, they were starting their own conversations whenever they used the hashtag.
The hashtag further engaged consumers through competitions. For example, users could submit a can or bottle with ‘Ryan’ on it to enter a competition to meet Ryan Seacrest.
2. Charmin #tweetfromtheseat
Toilet paper is not the most palatable subject of any conversation. Products like that can be quite hard to advertise and require some creative genius to make a memorable campaign. Charmin took advantage of Nielsen statistics saying that 40% of young adults use social media in the bathroom, and promoted their products in a playful and humorous way.
The hashtag raised Charmin’s twitter followers from a mere 10,000 in 2013 to 69,000 by 2015. That was a great feat for a toilet paper company account, putting it at 50% more than any of its competitors. The campaign worked because it used actionable language. It gave customers instructions to take an action. Giving an instruction is like a call-to-action for your hashtag; it clearly tells customers what to do.
3. TOMS #Withoutshoes
TOMS’ compelling business strategy already tugs at the heartstrings of many. With every item you buy from them, they help the needy with new shoes, clean water, eye surgeries, prescription glasses, and other necessities.
In May 2015, the company launched their #Withoutshoes campaign where users just had to Instagram a picture of their bare feet with the hashtag, and the company donated a pair of shoes to the underprivileged. The hashtag campaign resulted in 1 million pairs of shoes being donated, beating its goal of 500,000. It earned 500 million impressions and a 300% traffic spike to TOMS.com
The campaign was successful because it appealed to their audience’s compassion without asking much from them. All users had to do was take a photo and Instagram it; they didn’t even have to be a TOMS customer, and they could still help somebody in need get a pair of shoes.
4. Audi #WantAnR8
An Audi R8 is definitely not in the budget for a majority of people, but the brand didn’t let that stop its audience from enjoying some time with the sleek luxury car. They launched the #WantAnR8 campaign in 2011, which offered audiences a chance to loan the R8 for a weekend just for tweeting the hashtag.
The campaign was a great success: 50,000 people tweeted within the first 24 hours, raising the brand’s Twitter account followers by 200%. The campaign also garnered 100,000,000 impressions since it was launched and it created one of the most engaging tweets of all time, with 50.4% audience engagement.
The campaign’s simplicity was what made it so successful. The hashtag was started by a fan who kept tweeting it to Audi. The brand lent her the car for a weekend, proving to its audience that it listens to them. They then created a competition for the hashtag, where users had to tweet it for a chance to get the car for a weekend also.
It tapped into the consumer’s desire to drive a luxury car like that and got an overwhelming response, while drawing attention to its product.
5. Expedia #ThrowMeBack
#ThrowbackThursday, the nostalgic sharing of your old photos every Thursday is as famous as can be. Just about everyone indulges in the wistful practice once in a while. Expedia piggybacked on the popular hashtag and came up with their own version, #ThrowMeBack, in 2014.
The campaign asked users to share photos of their favorite summer memories with the hashtag to enter a contest. They stood a chance to win a travel voucher to wherever the photo was taken. The hashtag got over 5 million impressions and the engagement of 500,000 users. It brought the brand’s Instagram page a 96% increase in followers during the 10-week campaign.
Using a hashtag that was already famous greatly increased the chances of a successful campaign because people were familiar with it and loved it. The bonus chance to win a trip was just the cherry-on-top needed to encourage more users to take part.
These awesome hashtags demonstrate the importance of promoting audience involvement when you create a hashtag for your brand. Some used contests. Some used emotional appeal. Others used call-to-actions. But all had the ultimate goal of getting users involved. Find creative ways in which your audience can interact with your brand and turn them into catchy hashtags that will remind users of your products or services whenever they see them.