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Hashtags: The Real MVP of Social Media

We’re gearing up for the ultimate showdown on the field this weekend. But do you know what’s equally exciting? The plays many brands will make to put their products and services in front of game viewers.

Each year, the Super Bowl captivates millions of viewers worldwide. As the excitement builds, so does the opportunity for brands to score big. Even if your brand can’t spend millions on a TV spot, you can still make an impact on social media.

Related Content: Tackling Super Bowl Ads: The Media Guy vs. The Creative Guy

By crafting a well-thought-out hashtag strategy, businesses can amplify their brand message, connect with their audience and make a lasting impact.

Let’s take a peek into our hashtag playbook and look at the most compelling reasons why using hashtags during the Super Bowl (and during the off season, too!) can be a game-changer for your online presence.

But, first, let’s talk about how these unassuming symbols became #therealmvp of social media.

The Origins of the Hashtag

The year was 2007 — the year of Super Bowl 41 for our football aficionados — and Twitter (now “X”) was the happening spot. People were tweeting their hearts out, but it was starting to get a bit messy. Enter Chris Messina, a Twitter user with a big idea. He suggested using the pound sign (#) to group related tweets and create some semblance of order.

So, at first, hashtags were like digital filing cabinets, helping organize the chaos. But it didn’t take long for hashtags to transcend their practical beginnings. Soon social media users started incorporating them into messages as a form of commentary, humor or emphasis.

The trend caught on, spreading from Twitter to other social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and beyond. Soon, hashtags became more than just organizational tools; they turned into cultural phenomena, creating trends, movements and even viral challenges.

Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Or the #MeToo movement? These powerful social initiatives gained momentum through the unifying force of hashtags. Suddenly, a simple symbol could amplify voices, raise awareness and spark global conversations.

Hashtags Deserve a Starting Position in Your Social Media Strategy

Just as Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan are carefully considering who will take the field for kick-off on Sunday, marketers should also be carefully considering how to include strategic and relevant hashtags in their social media strategies.

Hashtags help social media audiences discover content related to specific topics of interest. By clicking on or searching for a hashtag, they can explore a wide range of posts and engage with content beyond their immediate network.

Hashtags typically fall into two categories: general and branded. General hashtags include popular, widely used terms or trends, like #NFL (coincidentally, #NFL is the most tweeted sports hashtag on Twitter/X). Using 1-2 of these “generic” options in a post can broaden the reach of your social message.

For example, if you post during the big game and include the hashtag #NFL, any user who follows or searches that hashtag has the potential to see your content. Using the right general or trending hashtags make you relevant and shows that your brand is in tune with the pulse of the internet.

Leveraging existing hashtags puts you in the middle of the conversations and opens the door for increased engagement with your audience. One word of caution, though. Don’t disrupt the conversation (that’s the equivalent of standing in front of the television during the last two minutes of the game!). Audiences will stop using a hashtag if they feel it’s been “taken over” by a brand. So be judicious in your use of general or trending hashtags — make sure they’re applicable to your brand and you’re adding value to the conversation. And pair them with a branded hashtag or two.

Hashtags Establish an Identity for Your Brand

A branded hashtag is a relevant, specific hashtag that is unique to your business, industry and/or campaign. It’s like creating your own digital signature.

During the 2023 Super Bowl, about 40% of advertisers introduced unique hashtags associated with their campaigns. You might remember #UltraClub (Michelob Ultra’s branded hashtag), #RealOrActing (from Pepsi Zero Sugar) or #MakeItBetter, the hashtag play by Avocados from Mexico. These memorable hashtags enabled these brands to invite people into the conversations and share experiences, thereby increasing brand visibility and engagement.

Branded hashtags can turn your audience into your biggest fans. When you encourage them to use your hashtag in their posts, you’re basically giving them the mic. They become your brand storytellers, spreading the word about your brand in an organic and authentic way.

With ongoing use of a branded hashtag (this is where post-season play comes in!), your brand becomes more than just products or services — it becomes part of the digital culture. People will start to recognize your brand, share about it and even seek it out. The brands mentioned above that introduced branded hashtags during the Super Bowl were able to keep the momentum (and the conversation) going well after the game clock expired.

Hashtags Tie Your Social Media Efforts Together

In the age of multi-channel marketing, consistency is key. Hashtags act as the glue that binds your campaigns across platforms. Whether it’s Twitter/X, Instagram or TikTok, a consistent hashtag strategy ensures that your message is clear and cohesive, no matter where your audience is hanging out. It creates a unified experience for your audience, making your brand memorable and easily identifiable. So, when they see that familiar hashtag popping up in their feed, it’s like a signal that your brand is in the house (or the stadium, if we’re keeping up with the football theme!).

But hashtags aren’t just about throwing words together. Using specific hashtags tied to your brand can help you track your overall social performance. Metrics like engagement, reach and user-generated content can be a guide to understanding what works and what needs to be tweaked in your social media strategy.

Hashtag success lies in simplicity and versatility. A well-placed hashtag can elevate your brand’s message and connect you with audiences across the globe. Incorporating hashtags into your social media strategy is crucial for expanding your reach, building communities and promoting your brand.

Oh, and if you want to connect via social on Sunday, do a quick search for #gotaylorsboyfriend. You just might find me there!

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