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are-hashtags-bad-for-your-businessUsing social media to promote your business is vital in today’s digital world.

However just having a social presence isn’t enough anymore. Instead, companies want their content shared and their brand message spread across all forums. So when Twitter initially introduced hashtags to unite users through individual topics, it is no wonder than we, as businesses tend to jump on the hashtag bandwagon.

It doesn’t stop there either, hashtags have grown to be so popular that other social channels such as Instagram and Facebook have adopted the hashtag.

But what if I told you that using hashtags could damage your social profile – or even worse, your brand as a whole?

As the popularity of social media only continues to blossom, it also opens doors to many exterior issues such as spammers and hashtag hijackers. One little mistake in your social marketing campaign and your profile you have spent years building can easily crumble and fall to pieces.

Scared yet? Don’t be! We have ways you can avoid these disasters so you can ensure your social profile is doing wonders for your business.

Hashtag Spammers

The purpose of hashtags is for lots of users to share and converse about a particular topic. Yet this popularity also opens an opportunity for spammers to push people towards harmful sites or manipulating trending hashtags and then sharing them.

This information comes from an interesting study carried out by Venngage, where they suggest that bots and spammers are leveraging these popular hashtags. The effects of these spammers are quite damaging as Venngage concludes that these spammers are causing “businesses to make important decisions with bad or incomplete data”. Pretty worrying, huh?

Their research showed just how many spammers are out there:

venngage-stats

With more people joining social media every day, the number of spammers will only rise. So what can we do about this spamming issue?

Venngage has said that businesses should stop using hashtags and start talking i.e. begin conversions that lead to more connections. Not only more connections but quality connections who have a genuine interest in your brand and what you have to offer.

Marketing Campaign Gone Wrong

There are many PR twitter campaign disasters out there but this one from McDonalds highlights how a branded hashtag can be hijacked. Using #McDStories, their intentions were for many customers to share their delightful McDonald’s stories and then create a hub of positive reviews about their service/food.

mcdonalds-pr-mistake

The outcome of this marketing campaign had the opposite effect of their intended objectives, as people starting tweeting about their worst stories from the fast food brand. The hashtag then went viral for all the wrong reasons, sending their marketing team into a panic. Below are some examples of the hijacked hashtag found by Daily Mail:

mcdonalds-response-tweets

How to avoid this the PR Fail?

Creating a hashtag that is so widely open to criticism will most likely backfire and the hashtag will be used as leverage against your brand instead of promoting it. However, this is more of an issue for big brands, as more people are likely to know the company and have the ability to make the campaign go viral.

Sometimes it’s hard to predict the future so if this does happen to you then stop the campaign and be honest with your customers. Tell them that you messed up and that this wasn’t the intention of your promotion. 

Don’t be afraid to create your own hashtag, though. You can promote a competition by using a hashtag with your company name for example. This will encourage your followers to like/share your post, which will increase your brand awareness but in a positive light.

Sharpie is a great example of a company who got their branded hashtag right. They encouraged their audience to share images of their own artwork by using #Sharpie. This was great brand exposure for Sharpie and generated quality followers from their target audience, as young teenagers were sharing their amazing drawings. Consequently, their social following has grown leaps and bounds – beyond any of the marketer’s imaginations.

sharpies-excellent-campaignUsing Hashtags in the Wrong Way

Although hashtags can be used on most social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, they work in different ways:

  • Twitter, hashtags are used mostly used to drive a particular topic to start conversions.
  • Instagram, they are used to describe the photo that has been posted than one general theme.
  • Facebook, used as a personal network rather than to find a particular topic or image.

It is important to think about whether you need to use hashtags on all of your social media channels. As you can see above,Facebook is the odd one out in comparison to Twitter and Instagram. It is also widely suggested that you should not use hashtags for this particular channel, mainly because its purpose is to connect friends, family and acquaintances through shared personal posts. Not only this but a Facebook user would not search for a particular hashtag, but instead, they would share content that they see in their feed.

On an engagement level, using hashtags on Facebook  can actually inhibit your chances of connecting with your customers, as your posts will become less viral (0.80%-1.30% less in fact) and you will also have less audience participation.  

So maybe you haven’t been using hashtags on Facebook but maybe you have been a bit hashtag happy? This is another common mistake that companies make. There is nothing wrong with trying to increase impressions by incorporating hashtags into your posts. However using #every #word #as #a #hashtag is a little too much… Not only will it annoy the hell out of your followers but you won’t get genuine followers either.

Just remember, you are the driver

You're the driver of your content.Using hashtags correctly and for the right reasons will positively impact your business. Try to think of hashtags as a little helpful nudge to get noticed by other users. You want genuine followers who want to take an interest in what you have to say and that being said – produce content that they are interested in. Don’t let hashtags be the driver of your content, only you can steer it in the right direction and in return you will be providing your followers with good quality content that they can rely on and trust.

For more help with your social media channels, posts and more, get in touch today with one of our friendly advisors!

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