The main purpose of hashtags across social channels, including twitter and Instagram, is to pull together conversations around a topic, campaign or event, in to an easily searchable stream.
As well as collating a brands campaign reach & temperature, they should be used by brands, regardless of size, to locate people talking about the things that matter to you and your business, in addition to allowing you an insight into what competitors are doing.
So you have a campaign idea, the purpose and projected outcome, and now you need a way to measure success, and discussions across social channels by creating a new hashtag, there are a handful of important things to consider;
1. Be original
Searching Twitter and Instagram for hashtags couldn't be more simple. In fact there is no excuse for not researching if your potential hashtag is already in use.
Although in recent times there have been hugely successfully 'hashtag takeovers' where a campaign with one initial purpose, is then taken over by another. This has been seen happening in cases of feminism, politics & body shaming. Campaigns include #whyvoteukip - initially set up for UKIP supporters to share their support for the party, in fact more than 60% of the tweets including the hashtag were sarcastic, ironic & mocking tweets against the political party.
This infographic from Twitter might just help you along your way!
2. Bigger isn't better
Twitter offers only 140 characters, that isn't likely to change any time soon, with that in mind why monopolise its entirety with a hashtag?
Remember, as mentioned earlier the purpose of any hashtag is to instigate and allow conversation, by dominating a tweet with the hashtag alone you're limiting that discussion and therefore the reach and potential of your campaign.
3. Create discussion around hashtag
Imagine a campaign with numerous end goals, how do you begin to amalgamate the success? Honestly, you don't. The same can be said of hashtags, pick one and stick to it.
Consistency & clarity is key when it comes to campaigns whether on or offline, this should ripple through every aspect of it to ensure the most traction
4. Keep it clear
There have been some absolute shocker hashtags, ones that although considered to be thought out most certainly missed the mark. The one that comes to mind near enough instantly is #susanalbumparty, hoards of social networkers were quick to spot the letter sequence could be read as "Su’s anal bum party" instead of its intended meaning: "Susan album party."
With this shocker in mind, take the time to consider not only the length of the hashtag, but also how it could be read or misconstrued.
Great examples of quick & snappy hashtags include; Travelocity and their #iwannago campaign described by Bradley Wilson, chief marketing officer, as a way to "celebrate the universal truth of wanderlust and to encourage travellers to share their travel dreams with others,"
So keep it easy to read, easy to use & easy to share. After all if people can’t understand it, then why would they use it?
5. NO SPACES
No spaces and no special characters, including “!, ?, %, &, *, +, .” can be used in a hashtag, doing so will break the search link and make the hashtag useless. Budweiser prove this, although the campaign was great #saluteahero - they failed to ignore the grammatical need for spaces and in turn rendered the hashtag entirely pointless.
Keep your hashtag to simple letters and try to only use numbers where necessary, such as movie titles or event dates; #50shadesofgrey, #GE2015.
7. Display loud and proud
Make it easy for people to use, have it on all marketing material, whether that be magazine or television advertising, websites, newsletters, etc. Also suggest if it's supporting an event that you have it front and centre to remind people to use it throughout.
8. It's not just Twitter
Instagram: used as on Twitter to support and compliment photographs. Not only as part of campaigns but by way of finding new followers and interested accounts.
It would be foolish to ignore Instagram for digital campaigns, especial where there is chance to share imagery and inspiration. It also increases your campaign reach, by allowing for users to interact across various platforms in a variety of ways.
Whilst on Twitter it's recommended to only use one hashtag, on Instagram it's acceptable to use more than just the campaign hashtag as long as they're all in keeping with the image. Examples include #throwbackthursday #selfie #fromwhereistand.
Google+: Google+ has a search function for hashtags that's collates results including the original hashtag as well as posts with similar tags and keywords. Google search results display on the left side of the page, while hashtag results from within Google+ appear on the right. Google also gives you the option to search within Facebook or Twitter if required.
Tumblr: Tumblr posts have a special “Tag” section where you can enter tags. These tags function like Twitter hashtags, organizing posts by topic, but are not transformed into links.
Pinterest: The hashtag in a pin description allows navigation to results that contain the exact hashtag, plus pins with the same word or phrase in the description.
Great for continuing a campaign hashtag long after it may have ended on Twitter, due to the nature of sharing on Pinterest.
9. Report, report, report
These tools can help to measure hashtags success
http://www.hashtags.org/ – also great to see if your proposed hashtag has been used previously
http://tweetreach.com/ – provides reports on the estimated reach of your hashtag