Using Hashtags in your social media strategy

In our recent Twitter for beginners webinar, many of our listeners had questions about using hashtags and best practice for using them, so we thought we’d share some insights in this blog.

What is a hashtag?

According to Twitter, ‘A hashtag—written with a # symbol—is used to index keywords or topics’’. Hashtags turn phrases and words into searchable links. You just click on the hashtag and you can see all the posts that are centred around that topic or subject. 

We’ve categorised some of the ways Marcom profs can use hashtags in their social media marketing.


Whilst we can use our brand name as our hashtag, this may not be a good idea if our brand has a long name or is already associated with other words. E.g. Meltwater also is a geological term. Choosing to hashtag a slogan or word associated with our brand is great because it can tell our brand story.

Here at Meltwater, we use the hashtag #OutsideInsight (our tagline). We use it for events, webinars and when discussing our brand online to encourage social buzz and increase our following. Whilst many companies currently look at inside data to form a strategy, here at Meltwater, we believe that business strategy will be increasingly shaped by data from the outside (job postings, competitor SEM data, social/ editorial footprint etc). Outside Insight is a conversation we want to be a part of, and so we associate ourselves with this theme through the hashtag.

User-generated content

ASOS uses #AsSeenOnMe to persuade customers to tag outfits they’ve purchased through ASOS on social media, particularly on Instagram. This particular hashtag helps increase user-generated content. In exchange for engagement, their fans are rewarded with the chance to have their photos featured on ASOS’s website and social media. It’s a win-win situation all round!

Using hashtags

Promoting competitions

Using a hashtag can also fuel awareness for competitions. #WinItWednesday is a good place to start if we’re a smaller business. This is because the hashtag is already established and we can simply tweet our competition followed by the hashtag. Alternatively, we can also ask users to tweet a particular hashtag to win. Innocent ran a competition during the 2012 Olympics #TweetForaSeat inviting their followers to tweet who they would take to the Olympics and why.

Using hashtags

Join conversations

Lot’s of brands also jump on trending hashtags (when appropriate). Trendjacking involves associating our brands with a hashtag or event even if there’s no real correlation. This has the potential to help our brand seem more human, increase our reach, and if done well, create a viral success. Oreo is commonly cited as pioneering this trend. During a blackout at the Superbowl in 2013, they tweeted the following. As you can see from the huge number of retweets and likes, this was very well received.

Using hashtags
To be successful when newsjacking, it is vital we jump on the trend immediately. Once everyone knows about a story, or when it becomes yesterday’s news, we won’t have the impact we want. How can we know immediately of breaking story online? Keep an eye out on trending topics on Twitter and regularly check news sites for breaking news. Keep up-to-date on big sports & tv events, as often these are good opportunities to trendjack! 

A word of warning though- piggybacking off bad news is not a good idea. There are countless examples of brands who have tried to jump on hashtags about natural disasters, terrorism and deaths. A few years ago AT&T (an American mobile provider) was accused of using 9/11 to promote a phone. Whilst it may not have been their intention, it certainly led to very bad press. We should definitely avoid this.

Using hashtags

Connecting with similar professionals

Additionally, we can use hashtags to join Twitter chats about our industry. These are hosted every week at a particular time. So, keep that hour free to get involved. Boost brand exposure by sharing best practice and connecting with influencers. Discover trends surrounding our industries and the Twitter chat topic to help position ourselves as thought leaders, therefore improving brand credibility.

Raising awareness

Using hashtags

Hashtags are also being used more frequently to raise awareness about important issues. For example, #movember, where men are encouraged to grow moustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues. Using Meltwaters social listening tool we discovered that last November the hashtag #movember was used an astounding 142,379 times on Twitter. In contrast the year before, it was only mentioned 59,264 times. Which brings us nicely onto our next point…

Track campaign success with media monitoring

Using hashtags

Example dashboard within our platform

Another benefit of brands using hashtags is that we can use media monitoring to easily view the traction of a campaign. It’s pretty simple. Pop the hashtag into the tool and we can then view analysis such as spikes in conversations, who our top posters are, trending themes around the hashtag etc. In addition, we can discover whether more males are responding to the hashtag compared to females, where in the world people are engaging with the hashtag… and so on.

Hashtags- Best Practice

  • Avoid using more than 2 or 3 hashtags in a tweet. Whilst it can be tempting to try and reach as many people in one tweet, it can just look like we’re spamming.
  • Check a hashtag before using it. Other brands could already be using it, and we might end up accidentally promoting their products! When you’re choosing a hashtag, put it into your chosen social media site, to see who else is using it already. 
  • If we have a brand hashtag, ensure it isn’t being trend jacked.
  • Avoid long strings of hashtags. Not only are they annoying, but they take up crucial word count, making it difficult for people to comment around the hashtag. #MeltwaterMediaMonitoringOutsideInsight
  • Keep hashtags easy to spell #pronunciation (commonly spelt pronouciation) Oxford dictionaries cite words commonly spelt wrong here:
  • Hashtag on the right platforms – not every platform allows you to search using hashtags. 
  • Capitalise individual words to avoid potentially awkward interpretations- see this blog post on hashtag fails, for the kind of things we’re talking about.
  • Have a plan in place in case hashtags do cause a crisis. Sometimes our marketing campaigns are wrongly interpreted or go viral in the worst way. Read our eBook- media intelligence for crisis comms for advice on how to deal with a PR crisis.

Using hashtags