The Power of the Hashtag

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Recently, the office has been buzzing with talk of the latest trend to consume the social media spectrum, as more than a few of our SEO experts and creative minds abandon their makeup bags in favour of something a little more au natural.

If you’ve logged onto any of your social networking sites recently — and let’s face it we probably all check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram a little too often — you will have come across feeds filled with photos of women who have wiped off their makeup and gone barefaced to raise money and awareness for Cancer Research UK.

Even chaps have been jumping on the selfie bandwagon: keen to do their bit for charity, some menfolk have interpreted the selfie craze in their own way, donning a full face of slap for the cause.

In less than a week, the campaign managed to raise an incredible £8 million for Cancer Research, much to the astonishment of the world and the charity set to receive the donation.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support people have been showing us through the #nomakeupselfie trend.”

Cancer Research UK receives no government funding, and from the success of this campaign and the generosity of the public, they’ve been able to fund critical research that they didn’t have the money for, in less than a week.

This astounding result has everyone at Mediaworks discussing the power of the little symbol that has become synonymous with social media and communication: the hashtag. Without it, the results of this now-global charity campaign might not have been achieved.

For those of us who enjoy uploading pictures of food, fluffy animals and flattering selfies on Instagram, experience has taught us that the more hashtags we use, the more likes we get. The same principle applies when we’re being ever so witty on Twitter.

Hashtags expand our readership and audience, whether we’re posting statements, pictures or links to content. Therefore, the more you employ hashtags in a post, the wider the demographic you’re targeting. The hashtag is one symbol that can link us to others and enable us to carry on a conversation with a diverse audience.

That said, inserting them here, there and everywhere won’t necessarily ensure that the world can access your posts. Hashtags should be used selectively, especially on Twitter. By identifying the hot topic of discussion in a specific area or worldwide on Twitter, we can offer a comment or opinion to what people are searching for and increase our visibility in the process.

Online Marketing Executive Beth Dennis is never a fan of overusing the powerful hashtag. She says:

“There’s no point in putting a hashtag in front of every word. It might increase exposure, but that’s not to say it’s reaching the people you want to target.

“What’s more, when you overuse it, you can run the risk of looking that little bit desperate for likes and followers.”

Trending hashtags allow our Tweets to reach as many people as possible. Add to this the chance of your post being shared or Retweeted and the chance for exposure becomes even more obvious — it’s also easier to understand how £8 million can be raised in little over a week!

Of course, hashtags aren’t the only way of getting your brand talked about in the online community. A rounded and successful marketing campaign relies on a variety of techniques, including the likes of competitions and glamorous blogging events to increase exposure — although these events themselves are all the more visible with the use of hashtags to promote them.

Before you make a grab for your mouse in pursuit of hashtag glory, give a thought to the hashtags that haven’t exactly worked out as planned.

In 2012, Susan Boyle’s promotional team sent out a tweet advertising the launch of the singer’s new album with the following Tweet: “@SusanBoyleHQ: Susan will be answering your questions at her exclusive album listening party on Saturday. Send in your questions #susanalbumparty Susan HQ.” Notice anything peculiar about this?

The PR team responsible were left red-faced when they realised that their choice of hashtag had the potential to be read in a very different way. Soon it was trending worldwide — though perhaps not for the right reasons! Still, you can’t deny the brand exposure this inadvertently chuckle-worthy Tweet garnered for SuBo and her new album.  There are debates to whether this was the act of a PR genius, or just an utter fail — we’ll leave that for you to decide.


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