The power of the hashtag is about to take off and businesses should be prepared. (Photo credit: danielmoyle)
Earlier this month, Facebook announced they were going to begin supporting hashtags, joining the ranks of Twitter,Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and other networks. These are keywords or phrases with the prefix “#” in front of them (i.e., #ThankYouForReading #Forbes). Sometimes words are mashed together, sometimes they’re independent. The hashtag essentially works as a filter—a way to see all responses that have included that specific word or phrase.
A new survey from ad platform RadiumOne found that 58 percent of respondents utilize hashtags on a regular basis, and 71 percent of regular hashtag users do so from their mobile devices. As the humble hashtag has become more ubiquitous businesses have found more creative ways to use them. Here are five reasons your business should embrace the hashtag.
The RadiumOne survey found that 51 percent of respondents would share hashtags more often if they knew advertisers awarded discounts for sharing product-based hashtags. These little symbols level the playing field for small businesses as well since the barrier to launching a campaign is simply your imagination. For example, you could send followers online discount codes for including a hashtag in their posts, for example. Hashtags also make it easy to track a promotion’s activity across all our social platforms. I was recently involved in a virtual award show and the hashtag made it simple for the nominees to participate while outsiders could follow all of the announcement in real time and engage in the conversation.
Since all of the major social networks are now supporting hashtags new tools like Tagboard are cropping up, which allow you to track a hashtag across all the major networks or filter them individually. How nice that you can promote your #NewProduct and engage with customers across all platforms without having to create special landing pages or campaign for each. Since the hashtag can be your own brand or product, you can very easily filter out the noise of the masses.
Of course, sometimes you want to see what the masses are saying. According to the RadiumOne survey, 43 percent of respondents think hashtags are useful and 34% use them to search/follow categories and brands of personal interest. Giving your customer your website URL doesn’t make it easy to begin a conversation, but hashtags do. While people like to talk about the conversation explosion that took place during the #SuperBowl this year, a record 4,064 Tweets per second according to Twitter, you’ll likely find it much easier to filter out a reasonable volume of chatter when you initiate the hashtag. Although, don’t ignore the social zeitgeist because that’s what the water cooler chit-chat is about.
If, for example, you want to reach people who own a dog, new marketing tools allow you to advertise based on hashtags. Twitter obviously lets you target ads on their network by category or interest, but so do other marketing firms. Unlike going after a general web surfer on the open web, people who use hashtags are likely those who are engaging in the social conversation and therefore more likely to share a positive experience with your brand once you’ve broken through.
It’s important to remember that the use of hashtags are still in their infancy. Because they’re so flexible, simple and ubiquitous, more businesses are finding creative ways to add power behind the hashtag. Earlier this yearAmerican Express announced a new program, Amex Sync, that lets cardholders make purchases by using hashtags. Now that hashtags are joining the billion-user Facebook platform, expect to see even more innovation around the hashtag before the year is over.