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10 Years of Hashtags on Social; Is it Time for the “Ten Commandments” Yet?

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It all began with the use of the pound sign to mark metadata tags in Internet Relay Chats to categorize channels. Back in 1988, it helped users find topics of their interest. Two decades later, Chris Messina initiated a discussion on using the same sign to group all relevant conversations on Twitter. The rest of that story, is kind of history in itself.

At present, hashtags are integral to every social media strategy. Almost all leading social networking platforms use this marketing tool to advertise their ideas and products.

What does it do that nothing else can?

A hashtag is the most important clickable search tool, helping an audience search, follow, and subscribe to content from a particular category or source. It helps:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Increase reach and visibility
  • Track and quantify content
  • Increase followers and engagement
  • Aid promotions for events, contests and product launch

But, do we all get it right?

Of course not! Even with the tall waves of hashtags that flood our feeds every day, it is rare that we see a hashtag campaign, whichcan achieve all or any of the above-mentionedtargets to its desired potential.

Over these past ten years, we have seen brands across the globe achieve new highs as well as lows with their hashtag campaigns. The British singer Susan Boyle is still recovering from the #susanalbumparty arranged by her social media team. On the other hand, Joanne McCay’s hashtag #WantAnR8 turned out to be a wish that came true – for her and a few others who decided to join the social ride.

From Where I See it…

The perfect hashtag needs to pass two fitness tests

  1. Is it an accurate fit?
  2. Is it a unique fit?

While the first one is something that needs to be answered from the campaign’s perspective,the second one needs to be answered from the brand’s perspective.Now, you have half your job done!

What follows up is just hygiene. In less fortunate cases, marketers are unable to apply these basic filters. It ismore unfortunate, when one realizes that a custom checklist could guide them out of the unprecedented.

The Essential Do’s and Don’ts Guide

When put into perspective, endless factors play a role when it comes to what makes a perfect hashtag campaign. We at White Rivers Media, have always been discussing about how it is possible for marketers to learn from campaigns of the past. It means, customizing a checklist that will help brands avoid past mistakes, and up their hashtag game.

The basic Do’s include:

  1. Capitalizing first letter of each word for better readability
  2. Avoiding a series of words that create misunderstanding
  3. Customizing the hashtags for better relevancy to campaign/brand
  4. Using words that are legible, simple to understand & remember

The basic Don’ts include:

  1. Never insert special characters in the search terms
  2. It is safer to not exceed the character limit beyond 12 characters
  3. Avoid using words that create a parallel meaning
  4. Do not ever plug a hashtag related to a tragedy to promote your brand

We recently celebrated the 10thanniversary of hashtags and came up with an ultimate guide for marketers on everything they need to know about hashtags. It showcases how a brand should capitalize on the burgeoning trend and build strong traction beyond the basic do’s and don’ts mentioned above.

Hashtags are here to stay, and it will be interesting to see how its usage unfolds in the coming times.

Shrenik Gandhi, Chief Executive Office and Co-Founder, White Rivers Media

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