Is the #hashtag dead for marketers?

No. The hashtag has been a befuddling nuance of social media to marketers since the advent of Twitter. What is it? What do we do with it? When do we use it? How can we “own” it? These are but a few of the ever-evolving questions we’ve posed for years. Ironically, consumers – the folks we’re so desperately trying to reach – have always gotten it: The consumer continues to shape the hashtag’s purpose.

I remember back in 2006 when I was first trying to explain to a client what a hashtag was, while still trying to figure it out myself. “It’s a way to categorize conversations,” I said weakly.
But it was more than that. It’s a way to understand the root of a conversation and get into the consumer’s head about a topic – is it funny or relevant? All of this can be revealed by diving into hashtags.

But many brands fail to recognize the usefulness of hashtags. They therefore want a reason to write them off: “They don’t work anymore.” “They don’t have a long-enough shelf life.” These are all things I’ve heard around the industry for the past year.

So let me stand tall and just say it – hashtags aren’t dead.

If you think that, then perhaps you are just not doing it right. Hashtags aren’t meant to be owned by a brand or campaign. They are meant to plug you into the consumer zeitgeist and make you more relevant to your consumer, not the other way around.

They are also meant to offer insight into ideas and sentiment you had no way of accessing 10 years ago. An example of jumping on the cultural bandwagon is the #WinTheHolidays campaign. In years past, Best Buy’s #WinTheHolidays is almost what I would consider a fought-over hashtag – brands trying to “own” it (ugh) and consumers talking about how they did or didn’t “win” the holidays.

But Best Buy understood that, yes, people want to win stuff, and by employing the double-meaning of win, Best Buy cemented itself in consumers’ minds. Haven’t we learned by now that things don’t die – radio didn’t kill the concert, the Internet didn’t kill TV. Things evolve and survive. Just like good marketers. #LongLiveTheHashtag.


Read more at PRWeek. This article originally appeared in PRWeek on January 25, 2016. 

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