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What Makes for an Effective Visual Hashtag Strategy?

Recently, we launched our Earned Content Strategy series with our first post, “4 Ways Earned Content Is Impacting Brand Marketing.” Now that you understand the landscape, we want to tackle the natural next step, how do you tap into visual user-generated content, or earned content, and turn it into meaningful brand assets? It starts with an intelligent hashtag strategy, to collect high-value images from your audiences. In order to choose hashtags that are likely to perform, there are a couple of important considerations:

Develop hashtags that are unique and on-brand.

Creating hashtags that instigate consumers to post photos in an aggregatable and trackable manner is critical to increasing brand assets. Having a call to action and focused hashtags will help guide consumers on how to submit new content and where they can engage with content their peers are also generating. From our experience, we’ve come up with a set of recommendations to help guide your hashtag strategy:

  • Create a simple and straightforward hashtag. It should be easy to spell and remember.
  • Make sure your hashtag is on brand and one that all stakeholders will be comfortable using for the long term.
  • Research the usage and popularity of your idea prior to implementation. Remember, you can’t “put the toothpaste back in the tube,” and while it’s possible to shift your earned content strategy through new hashtags, it’s a challenge that is best to avoid through some up-front legwork.
  • Use capital letters when necessary to make the hashtag more easily understood.

Of course, there are also some areas you’ll want to avoid when considering a hashtag strategy.

  • Avoid generic hashtags (i.e. #LoveIt or #Happiness). You’ll lose the connection to your brand and open it up to an enormous amount of spam potential.
  • Don’t solicit answers or content from open-ended questions without considering the responses you may receive.
  • Don’t use too many hashtags at a given time.
  • Choose hashtags that don’t have an adverse meaning in different languages.

Evergreen Hashtags: Create one or two hashtags that can live alongside your brand indefinitely (read: not tied to specific marketing campaigns). These hashtags may already exist or you may have to create them. Don’t be afraid to do some testing to determine what works best. Once you discover it, you’ll need to make it part of your brand’s DNA, so make sure it is one you like!

Campaign Hashtags: You also will likely need campaign hashtags that don’t live forever, but are tied to marketing programs with a finite scope. When selecting these, the same rules apply that we’ve discussed for evergreen hashtags.

Distribute the hashtag across all relevant channels, including offline.

Now that you’ve got a hashtag (or a couple) chosen, it’s time to promote it to your loyal audience to begin gaining traction. Obviously, the primary place brands typically promote their hashtags is on social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Generating quality earned content, however, requires thinking beyond social, and truly integrating the hashtag as part of the brand DNA. For that reason, our clients often choose to promote their hashtag across both digital and offline marketing channels, leveraging in addition to social:

  • Email Newsletters
  • Shipping Inserts and Packaging
  • Brand Website and Micro-site
  • Paid Search
  • In-Store Locations
  • Television
  • Print
  • Outdoor
  • Business Cards

You get the picture (no pun intended). Hashtags are essentially becoming the connective tissue between all the various channels through which a consumer can experience a brand. For a complete picture of how to activate visual earned content across all marketing efforts, download our whitepaper, “Unleashing Earned Content for Modern Marketing Success.”

Image Source: / By: Tim Gouw