How and why should a brand use a Twitter Hashtag?

In ancient days, businessmen would promote their business by sending a drummer and crier into the city. The drummer and crier duo would go around the city shouting out the promotions, repeatedly, to the masses until it became the topic of discussion (read: trended).

Now, switch to the era dominated by internet, Facebook and Twitter. In our times, there are immeasurable mediums to promote a business. This includes Facebook ads, Google banner ads, as well as Twitter trending topics. This article and henceforth, is all about twitter trending topics, its use and misuse by brands.

The entire concept of trending topics was to add a fun element to twitter and the life of tweeters. A trending topic would allow like-minded people to get together and have a healthy conversation. For instance, if Christopher Nolan trended, all Batman fans could get together, praise the master filmmaker, and end up following each other. Like-minded people attract each other, and follow too, in this case.

It all worked according to the plan, until one day, a businessman saw the opportunity to use trending topics as a promotional platform. What was fun in the beginning has now become a sort of grievance to the users.

Let us look at an example:

Consider a lazy Sunday. As many as thousand people tweet about having #BurgerForLunch. This hashtag is seen as an opportunity by Burger King, McDonalds, and preferably a local brand on twitter to sell their burger.

From a business POV, the scenario still holds relevance in my opinion. That is unless the following brands would come in picture and promote themselves:

  1. Local gym trying to convince you that a Burger can make you as fat as a buffalo
  2. A TV channel promoting their matinee show with a cheesy line, “tasty Burger and our highly rated show is a match made in heaven”
  3. A cold drink brand suggesting you to “beat the afternoon heat” with a burger and their icy cold drink
  4. A search engine providing you at least 10 local burger joints in your area

The above promotions hold no relevance in my opinion for a #BurgerForLunch trend. Who cares about fats and calories on a lazy Sunday? Why would anyone take your opinion on what should one watch on a Sunday afternoon? Who needs your suggestion where one needs to order his burger from?

All said and done, most brands do not understand the functionality of trending topics/Hashtags and end up either marring their brand or incurring the wrath of the users.

The question now is:

How and why should a brand use a twitter Hashtag?

While it is fascinating to see so many brands embrace social media, the first question a brand should ask themselves is whether or not they are needed on social media. For instance, do we need a company manufacturing nuts and bolts on twitter?

Twitter might be a great communication tool, but it is NOT a great platform for EVERY brand that sees the morning sunshine. Let’s get this right first and then move on to the following:

  1. Start a hashtag for your own brand: Most brands will engage in a trending hashtag, purely to attract followers. 90% of the times, the hash tag is not relevant to their business. If you own a bakery, and engage in a #FootballIsBetterThan trend, you might end up with wrong followers. If you own a bakery, you might just want to start a #LifeIsSweetWhen trend.
  2. Rome was not built in a day: Having said that, brands need to grasp this firmly in their head that a hashtag may not trend immediately. The results may not show up instantly. The follower numbers may not shoot up in a day. But then, the idea of a hash tag never was to provide these results. The idea was to get people talking about you, use your hashtag in their conversation so you can build a relation with the users. Slowly and eventually, the results will begin to show.
  3. Engage, don’t promote: Most brands will promote their offers wherever the opportunity arises. What the brands need to understand is that Twitter is an open platform. If we don’t like you, we ain’t talking to you. Spamming brands will often get blocked, and end up losing followers. Trending or not, the idea is always to converse with the audience and not shove discount coupons in their faces.
  4. Be funny and interactive, not boring: Follow @HelloMeHippo and you will know what funny is. A brand on twitter needs to have its own personality, tonality and manner of communication. What does your brand stands for? Define these parameters before you begin interacting with users. Use images and videos to better portray your thoughts. Finally, in my opinion, every brand should add a tinge of humor to their communication. Especially, if you must enter an irrelevant conversation, better be funny than be stupid. People love laughing, don’t they?
  5. Use of Hashtags in a tweet: This is no rocket science, but brands need to be careful how many hashtags they use in a single tweet. #Tagging #every #word #can #be #very #annoying.

Here’s the finest example and a hands down winner of best usage of hashtag in recent times:

#KFBeerUp: Hey, it’s free beer. Need I say more?

Results:

Here’s another example:

#Faaslocal: This one started right after #Faastweetup. Only the later did not trend. Now, the hashtag #Faaslocal did not suddenly emerge out of the blue. Puma, the brand behind the strategy, and its Social Media agency did a lot of marketing to get the word out. For instance, check out this teaser video involving one of the well-known twitter influencers, Roycin Dsouza.

Puma used #Faaslocal to engage users in a small quiz. The details of the quiz in exact words of its host @thebigbhookad .

Result:

The quiz ran for ten minutes, the engagement for over 10 hours and now it trends across India.

Even the local radio station participated.

Irrespective of how big or small a brand is, they should understand that twitter is one platform where you got to play by the rules of the audience.

In my next article involving brands and their marketing strategies on twitter, we will look at the following:

  1. Top 5 failed brand hashtags
  2. How agencies trend a brand hashtag?
  3. Top 5 mistakes agencies make while trending a hashtag.
  4. What agencies can learn from these mistakes

Stay tuned…

Featured Image courtesy Rousaura Ochoa

 

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