Hashtags: Look Beyond the Social

Hashtags: Look Beyond the Social


A lot has been written on the benefits of Facebook’s new #hashtag adoption and how it will benefit marketers and brands in general.

While it remains to be seen if this will actually work – and the sceptics have a good point, although one for a different discussion – there are a few things to consider either way, especially seeing as we have on average, 5.3 million Facebook users in South Africa, according to worldwideworx.com.

A separate social media strategy?

When it comes to branding, more and more people start talking about a ‘social media strategy’ as if it’s something separate from normal marketing activities.

The pro-hashtag movement on Facebook keep punting on as if this new way of brand-engagement on the social media giant is going to change our social media strategies for good. The thing is, social media is nothing more than a powerful, integrated and consumer-aware marketing strategy.

Yes, marketing strategies of the past used to include only brand and mainstream categories; which today make it seem like the addition of social media is a completely different thing. Truth is, social media is marketing and we have to look at them as one concise, interlinking idea.

How hashtags work

Let’s take a look at how hashtags work on Twitter – the alma mater of the hashtag – from a content perspective. With limited space comes the absolute need for crisp writing and a well-worded tweet can give you all the information you need and still drive traffic home with a link.

Marketers who know their product inside and out can use a single hashtag and just a few well-thought out words to pull in their target market. Too much and it just won’t fit, or even worse, will look sloppy and lose consumer attention immediately.

Facebook on the other hand relies heavily on imagery and text. Sure, you’ve still got a few marketers on Facebook who have the savvy to write attention-grabbing, compelling copy, but many flood activity streams with mediocre content and hope for a share – eventually resorting to pointless funny images that vaguely relate to their product.

Now, while we can’t and won’t paint everyone with the same brush, what’s to stop these ‘social media’ managers from riding the gravy train on other, professional and well-thought out campaigns by simply latching on? Or worse, #spamming #readers #with #endless #hashtags? Yes, we all know those people that get all too trigger happy.

For the time being the Facebook hashtag revolution looks set to steam-roll onwards; and the potential payoff for brands is a demographic of around 4 million people between the age of 18 and 34, the young professionals and aspirational students.

Rules for using hashtags

Here are a few things you might want to pay attention to, to help you navigate the straits.

  • Creativity

This starts first and foremost, as many other things in marketing do, with content. A solid foundation of ideas and interesting perspectives will guarantee you a great pool of words to pick your unique, creative and most importantly, relatable hashtag.

Remember, you’re still pitching to a demographic here, so do your homework.

  • Quality

Directly related to the latter; good quality content and imagery make for first class marketing material which immediately draw attention to your product.

Don’t allow yourself to become one of those brands that hang the success of a campaign or outreach on the virility and pulling power of a hashtag. If you know your media you’ll know that longevity comes from creativity and quality.

  • Engagement

While more of a result than an active task, valuable engagement is the product of the two points we’ve just looked at. When you have and ace hashtag with a ring to it and, more importantly, brilliant content to back it up with paired with beautifully rendered imagery; that’s when you have a winning, integrated marketing campaign that translates well into social.

In an environment that changes so constantly that most of us hardly even notice it we have to look beyond the go-to words of the day. Social media is fickle and the hashtag-hangers-on are too. Focus on quality and stick to principles; the rest will come.

Gerhard Jacobs
Gerhard Jacobs is a digital copywriter and journalist at GraphicMail. He has also worked as media project manager and copy editor for a UK-based NGO called Projects Abroad; and spent time in the communications departments at local government as well as on the newsdesk as a staff reporter for the Cape Argus newspaper.