The word ‘hashtag’ officially entered the dictionary in 2014, and is of course a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign. For such a relatively new word, it’s buried itself deep into our shared vocabulary, both in written and spoken form.
Twitter didn’t invent this usage of the hash sign, but they can certainly be credited for providing the hashtag with the space to grow. The first ever use of a hashtag in a tweet was back in 2007, and the first widespread use of one was during the San Diego forest fires later that year.
They served a clear purpose; a way to connect conversations around a given topic, without the users needing to know each other. However they weren’t hyperlinked; they served their purpose when people used the search bar. Two years later Twitter caught up, and hyperlinked all hashtags automatically.
Hashtags allowed groups of people to connect over a shared interest, and in 2010 Twitter started highlighting trending topics in the sidebar, which suddenly made them interesting to marketers. Hashtags are now found littered across the majority of marketing campaigns, from labeling, tv, events, menus and more. But more on that later.
Since then, hashtags have actually become embedded within our language, rather than just as a tag to connect. They allow for a reflexive meta-commentary, signalling sarcasm, tone of voice, emotion or topic. They seem to have offered a solution for the long debated need for Irony Punctuation (a punctuation mark that signals irony/sarcasm). They’ve enriched and developed our ability to communicate online, as well as offline.
Back to marketing. Everyone dreams of a trending hashtag, but in reality this isn’t the purpose of a hashtag for most campaigns. If not to trend, why bother with an event hashtag then?
1. Connecting the shared content to your brand. If guests will be taking photos and sharing them online, you may want a branded hashtag to signal where they were taken. E.g. #GlamourAwards, #HMOxfordStreet
2. Enabling user-generated content to be located with ease. If you want to be able to view your guests’ social posts, promoting the use of a hashtag can help your team identify them.
3. Encourage connections before and after the event. By providing an event hashtag, guests can easily locate information and fellow guests both pre and post activation.
4. Extend the action online. If you’re lucky enough to be creating an event that people wish they could attend, or are curious about, a hashtag allows people to follow along at home.
5. Amplify the social buzz by adding some technology into the mix. Use a hashtag printer, or a live Twitter/Instagram wall to get more social posts and hashtag use at an event.
With these goals in mind, make sure your hashtag is easy to recall, not too long and easy to spell. Have it displayed very clearly at your event; this isn’t the time to be shy. Engage with it by talking to your guests online before and after the event.
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