#TheBasics

Budweiser used a hashtag campaign to name the newest edition to its herd of Clydesdales.

Budweiser used a hashtag campaign to name the newest edition to its herd of Clydesdales.

A hashtag is a simple way for people to follow a specific topic or trend on Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and soon Facebook. For brands, hashtags can be a fun way to get exposure, engage with fans and allow customers to share and promote the brand’s message.

But not every hashtag has legs. To create a successful hashtag campaign, brands first have to come up with a catchy, unique tag – preferably something short – and they need to share it across platforms so it can start trending. Here are some trends and campaigns that have been successful.

#Humour

Kmart recently revived its brand with a campaign that centered on the hashtags #shipmypants and #biggassavings. Kmart used the campaign to promote its new free home shipping option and its gas savings promotion.

The videos have each received millions of views on YouTube and thousands of likes and shares, but while the promotions themselves are innovative and exciting, it’s their juvenile humour that has made people fall in love with the brand.

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” song and dance was impossible to escape last year. The nut brand Wonderful Pistachios, piggybacked off the song’s success with an ad featuring Psy, which aired during last year’s Super Bowl.

The ad featured the hashtag #crackinstyle, which thousands of people shared on Twitter during the game and which was part of a multiplatform campaign that also involved 50,000 life-size cardboard cutouts of Psy in grocery stores, flash mobs on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street on Super Bowl weekend and contests where applicants submitted #crackinstyle photos for the chance to win $10,000.

Months after the campaign, people are still tweeting about the popular ad.

Whoopem "crackin style" #GetCrackin #GangnamStyle lol ;)

Whoopem “crackin style” #GetCrackin #GangnamStyle lol ;)

 

#Incentives

Budweiser, the American beer brand, joined the Twittersphere last Super Bowl season with their #clydesdales hashtag campaign.

One of the best ways to get people to share your hashtag is to offer them some sort of incentive, and it doesn’t have to be cash.

Budweiser created a television commercial and encouraged people to submit suggestions via twitter, using the hashtag #clydesdales to help the brand come up with a name for the Clydesdale foal shown in their ad.

Thousands tweeted name suggestions and praise for the commercial and the brand. There continues to be a consistent flow of tweets despite the fact that the ad aired over four months ago. And in case you’re curious, the baby Clydesdale has been christened “Hope.”

 

 

Tugging at people’s heartstrings with cute animals worked for Budweiser. Head & Shoulders and Old Spice, meanwhile, have teamed up to create a new 2-in-1 dandruff shampoo, and they’ve taken a slightly different approach. For their hashtag campaign, #whiff, the brands partnered with Major League Baseball.

For every strikeout the brands will donate $1 to Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), an initiative with the mission to promote baseball among underprivileged youth. The MLB club that sends out the most #whiff tweets each month will get an additional $10,000 donated to the RBI league in their city.

 

Villarreal's first big league pitch...strike 1 #whiff

Villarreal’s first big league pitch…strike 1 #whiff

#Mystery

There’s a recurring theme here. Brands are using sporting events to reach a mass audience – but it doesn’t always work out. In Canada, Visa teamed up with the National Hockey League for its new campaign #smallenfreuden.

The campaign has had an interesting life cycle. It started off with the tag #smallenfreuden being used and promoted on Twitter with no explanation or brand association. Then a video was released that cryptically explained the made-up history of the word to generate more interest.

Finally, Visa revealed itself, sending out this tweet:

 

Initially, people weren’t too pleased with the campaign, which aired during NHL games.

Eventually, Visa introduced a contest where viewers voted on their favorite hockey plays for a chance to win prizes. Now the meaning of #smallenfreuden has been lost, and today it means more for hockey fans than it does for Visa users.

 

 

This raises an important content marketing question: If your hashtag catches on but nobody knows your brand is behind it, can you really call it a success?