So, you’re doing well with your first forays into corporate social media, but you are struggling to develop and institute a hashtag strategy. More importantly, no-one can really explain to you what the benefit of doing so really is!
Hashtags are the words, or group of words, that follow the # symbol and are commonly used across Twitter, Instagram, as well as Facebook (increasingly) and other social sites like Google+ and Pinterest. They’re a way to group or link material, to create a basic ‘taxonomy’ which helps to draw attention to your brand or organisation, or to an incident, event or campaign.
Hashtags can be long-standing or quick hits that appear from the world of social media then quickly disappear. So how might they be useful for your corporate comms and marketing?
It will help your search success, and help to build more engagement around your brand or organisation if you start to tag your own content with a specific hashtag – it’ll also make your content easier to search and segment. Think #ABNAMRO, #Natwest, #Westpac and #schroders as examples from the banking sector.
I notice that EY is using #EYITEM across its Pinterest boards at the moment, as well as a liberal smattering of #EY to group its own content across multiple social media platforms. The website ‘hub’ for this content includes a feed of Tweets on the right hand side of the page, constantly refreshed and driving engagement around the hashtag discussion.
It’s straightforward to build a hashtag around a particular product. Intel has the marketing muscle and engagement already to do this successfully – this may be possible if you have a unique product, or if you wish to develop a corporate ‘story’ around a particular invention or development you have made (for instance, #postitnotes).
Intel is building a content campaign around its Intel tablets, using its own #inteltablets. The company has created content on Facebook – and the company PR team appears to be working with some Mummy and technology bloggers to share this technology (the bloggers I came across were disclosing this relationship) and are sharing videos on Vine and encouraging their network to share stories and posts on Twitter.
Corporate Social Responsibility hashtags
Your organisation might be considering building PR and comms messaging around its corporate social responsibility – there are multiple hashtags in the CSR arena to which you can affiliate or link your organisation’s work or activity. These include #socialgood, #volunteer and #CSR.
Walmart in the US, for instance, has used #feedingamerica and #socialgood on its Pinterest page to aggregate and link its name/work/content to these campaigns. There is a balance between hijacking hashtags for the corporate good versus using them in a considered manner against credible, bona fide corporate social responsibility activity. Make sure you opt for the latter approach to ensure you’re maintaining an authentic and credible dialogue in your social media spaces.
Chat or webinar hashtags
These sit alongside the ‘event hashtags’ as another way to group or ‘tag’ your content. Create a hashtag around a particular event (the SXSW2014 is as good an example as any) and solicit ideas, content and questions around this.
I was at the News:Rewired conference in London last month where delegates were able to link up with each other, and share content for others to follow in their networks, using the targeted #newsrw.
Take a look at Bechtel’s use of #webuildrail to garner questions for its webinar from one of its rail experts.
Thought Leadership/Sector Hashtags
Whatever your business or sector, you have insight and a story to deliver. Consider the trend in wearable technology – if you tap #wearables or #wearabletech into Google you will see a feed of the most recent posts on Google+ containing that hashtag, to see who is promoting or posting on the subject. This provides a great opportunity to share research and insight across any relevant subject where you know your organisation can add value to the discussion and potentially build reputation and advocacy as a result.
BP uses this technique with its #BPstats on Twitter and beyond – a way to group discussion around its brand and help to build more positive engagement around its reputation.
So if you are in the financial services industry and you would like to gain more attention for your content, you might want to tag it with a hashtag that is popular within those circles and groups that might favour and share your content.
Google+ enables you to explore different hashtags (via the search box at the top your account page) and will provide alternative options for hashtags that you might want to use – this can be useful if you’re building a campaign or content and want to use a selection of hashtags, for instance.
Corporate Crisis Hashtags
If you work in an organisation that needs to manage crisis or reputational issues, hashtags can be extremely useful when created carefully and managed well.
A good example referenced in a blog by humanitarian technology expert Patrick Meier is the hashtags used by the Filipino government during the floods that took place there in December 2012. There’s some more great insight from Meier on his website here. If you or your organisation has a crisis response plan, then inclusion of a hashtag strategy is a vital component of that plan. In this instance, the Government prescribed the hashtags it was planning to use to share vital information – before a hashtag was created elsewhere.
Corporate community hashtags
Finally, as a small business owner, I value the network discussions I can generate, and take part in, on social media. I am also keen to hear stories and gain guidance and insight from other small business owners. In the UK we have a Government-backed scheme called the Growth Accelerator, and there is a #growthaccelerator hashtag associated with the scheme that allows members to share stories and news. Building community is such a vital part of why corporates use social media – whether for B2B or B2C communications; consider what types of community (whether local, industry, sector etc) you can build?
BUT before you start…please go watch the hilariously funny #hashtag video from Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon on YouTube. Fab.
Gay Flashman runs Formative, a UK-based content marketing agency helping businesses tell corporate stories. Formative creates compelling, intelligent, multi-lingual content for clients – everything from long-form insight & thought leadership, to infographics, memes, videos and webinars.