Should You Join in on That Trending Hashtag?

Not too long ago, the common request from businesses to social media teams was “make this viral”. Going “viral” is not something you just make happen. If the goal is to increase awareness on social media, an effective strategy – when done correctly – is to create content around trending hashtags.

Identifying and engaging with popular hashtags is a great way for brands to increase visibility and showcase personality. On Twitter, for example, active trending topics and hashtags are prominently displayed on the landing home page (desktop) or from the Search option (app), which help increase both topic visibility, and influence involvement in popular discussions.

On occasion, a brand or business may not grasp the proper usage of hashtags, resulting in the wrong sort of exposure. Want to use hashtags correctly? Check out these helpful tips:

1. Understand Why and How It’s Trending

If a trending hashtag or topic seems interesting to you, it’s important to review the hashtag’s origin and why it’s trending. While the word or phrase may appear to be innocent or relevant to your business, there may be a negative reason it’s trending. One brand learned this the hard way several years ago after attempting some playful engagement with a not-so-playful hashtag.

Research will also help you avoid misreading a hashtag. In 2013, the Twitter hashtag #nowthatchersdead was created around the death of former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher (Now Thatcher’s Dead). Unfortunately, due to lack of capitalization, many users misread it as “Now That Cher’s Dead.” Cher, the legendary singer, did not appreciate that.

In addition, review the way people are using the hashtag. By reading both the most popular and the most tweets, you may realize there are multiple campaigns or contexts. For example, #COPPA is often used for US legislation surrounding children’s privacy. It is also used for an Italian meat.

2. Don’t Try to Celebrate Every National Day

There are nearly 1,500 National Days, Weeks, and Months — and that’s not including actual holidays. And unless you’re a company that sells calendars, it’s unlikely most of them will actually be relevant to your business.

Rather than create social media content to celebrate them all – including Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day, Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf Day, and Sneak a Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day (yes, these all exist) – think quality over quantity. Choose the National Days that actually connect with something about your business, your brand, or your employees, and create something unique that your fans will appreciate.

3. Cut Out the Sell

Use trending hashtags as an opportunity to add fun and personality that others will appreciate. Users browsing the hashtag are looking for unique, creative content, not products to purchase. Don’t hesitate to tie in your company culture, values, or mission, but resist the urge to tie in products or services, as these types of tweets are likely to be perceived as disingenuous.

4. Be Tasteful and Respectful

It should go without saying, but never use trending hashtags about breaking news or disasters as a way to get your brand in front of more users. It’s safest to avoid engaging around these topics entirely. If you do decide to engage, be extremely respectful and avoid trying to tie in your brand or products. Learn from others’ mistakes on this one (unfortunately, there are plenty out there).

Done right, hashtags can be part of an effective social media strategy, especially on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Done carelessly, they can create a headache for your public relations team and drive new followers away, rather than draw them in.

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Talk Back

Posted on August 11, 2017

“Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf Day” wha what? I missed this?? 🙂 Great tips.

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