Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2006, you should at least know what Twitter is, and chances are you’re one of the social network’s 304 million monthly active users.

With such a staggering number of people blurting and scanning their way through 140 character opinions every day, it’s no surprise that PR companies are utilising the platform in their campaigns. Since Twitter started linking people’s views via hashtags, it wasn’t long before their popularity trickled through to other social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

With every online campaign there is hope that it will go viral, and what better way than this ever-so-popular symbol: ‘#’. Hashtags allow for people to be unified under one focal point; everyone can engage, everyone can have an opinion, and everyone can feel included in the campaign, rather than be a target of it. With word of tweet spreading more speedily than word of mouth these days; a hashtag has much more potential to spread further and quicker than any advert. The problem is, controlling what the world does with your carefully thought-out hashtag when it’s in the realms of cyberspace.

We’ve seen an endless number of PRs trying to infiltrate the timeline and get their client trending, with some of the most memorable trends backfiring from their original purpose, after all, they do say bad news travels faster.

However, when done properly, the hashtag can be a PR’s best friend, snowballing for days across the World Wide Web. Some of the best cases of this include the #Selfie craze, with companies capitalising on our unashamed vanity. Wired Magazine’s iPad issue from February last year successfully curated the tag #WiredGoesViral with an app that allowed readers and fans to feature on the cover, encouraging sharing and selfies galore.

Another hash to trump all tags was Beats, with their #SoloSelfie, focussed on Instagram videos. The tag had customers and fans around the globe filming themselves wearing the Beats headphones, and when your fans include so many megastars and famous faces, it’s no surprise that this tag took over the trend board.

While many of these tags are temporary and run the short length of a campaign, others are effective at encouraging their customers to tag them in regular posts that are associated with the brand, producing surprising longevity in the quick paced internet environment.

Online clothing store ASOS fittingly jumped on the #Selfie wagon. However, they took the steering wheel with their #AsSeenOnMe which wasn’t just a trend, but is an ongoing tag that has their customers tweeting and intagramming pictures of themselves in ASOS garments for the chance to be featured on the website.

So how do you get the hashtag right?

There are always going to be those smartarse’s who can put a bad spin on your genius tag, but there are certainly tips that can help you encourage the good over the bad.

  1. Be fun – as much as we’re all prone to a twitter rant, people like to spread happiness. If it’s fun and playful, it’s more likely to be shared.
  2. Have a clear purpose – if no-one quite gets it, no-one will join in. Be concise and keep it simple. You have a limited number of characters to work with, you don’t want to use them all so that no-one has space to add and share their tweet.
  3. Language encouraging a call to action or a beloved memory triggers involvement, get people doing or remembering an experience and you’re more likely to engage your audience in participation.
  4. Play on words – if you can cleverly incorporate your brand into a hashtag sentence, you could be onto a winner.

By Kiri Gray


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