Why random #hashtags fail in marketing campaigns

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 5.31.04 PMWhile marketers are increasingly looking for social media ready ideas, simply adding a hashtag to your campaign is not the answer argues Luke Ryan.

Ever wondered why no one is using your well-crafted hashtag for your new campaign? This might help.

Nearly every marketing campaign that goes out the door these days contains a hashtag, but hardly any of them have real purpose. It’s almost like marketers are being pressured into making their traditional marketing campaigns “more social”. But let’s be real, this is not getting the job done.

What I allude to will now be named #campaignhashtags, a word or phrase that belongs not necessarily to the brand, the product or to a larger organic conversation, but to the campaign itself. They usually garner very little social interaction, have no long term brand benefit and in some cases are not used in a way you desired them to be.

#campaignhashtags fail because they are completely forgetting where social begins – with the audience. Attempting to start a social conversation with a hashtag that is not linked to a larger social behaviour already taking place is like heading to the casino, putting all your chips on one number at the roulette table and expecting to win.

It is up to brands to understand the conversations already occurring and be relevant in this pre-existing context. The whole notion of social media marketing is there is already a conversation taking place, not to force one.

So where to start:

Listen to how your consumer communicates and interacts in social, what makes up their popular culture? Listen to what they are already saying about you and your competitors in social to give you an idea of what brand themes might resonate. The goal here is to understand how to integrate your brand with the pre-existing popular culture of your audience.

Instead of coming up with a big broadcast idea and then trying to socialise it (i.e creating a TVC then bolting on a hashtag), why not come up with a big social idea first and then broadcast it? By social idea I do not mean Facebook and Twitter, I mean an idea based on the understanding of social behaviour. Big ideas that people want to share, talk about, get involved in and belong to. A reason for the customer to communicate will naturally fit this strategy and your hashtag has real purpose

Define your purpose in social. #campaignhashtags come from brand-only thinking. Don’t just think about what the brand wants to talk about, focus also on what the audience wants to talk about. It is the middle ground between these two factors where you will find your value proposition for social.

This will help provide your brand purpose in social, help guide you on delivering your ambition and defines the value you bring to the audience. If you can’t define what value your social presence delivers to your consumer, you have no place hanging around.

Finally, keep it simple. For some reason we have an aversion to simple ideas. There is an underlying belief that simple means I haven’t worked on this hard enough, but in social, anything that is not simple more often than not falls short.

So now if you revisit your latest #campaignhashtag what does it communicate? Does it tap into an existing social behaviour already occurring within your audience? Does it provide any value at all?

If the answer is no, it is not social.

Luke Ryan is a strategist at We Are Social


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