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14 Ways to Use a Hashtag

Hashtags are multi-purpose: they group, organize and tag content, and as Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon captured so well, they let people put humor and commentary into life’s moments.

Officially added to Twitter in 2009, Instagram in 2011, and last by a long shot, Facebook in 2013, hashtags seem to be here to stay. But for all the ubiquity they enjoy, users—brands in particular—are still learning how to use them well.

Which begs the question, from the brand side especially: Do hashtags really matter? Do they do anything? Do they drive engagement? Do they inspire? Answer: YES, we can use hashtags to engage people in the moment and amplify events. It’s just a matter of using them well.






1. Promote in Big Ways

Ever been to a trade show booth and noticed a small stack of fliers with a hashtag-powered giveaway or sweepstakes? Yeah, something like that is easy to miss. Go big and bold, using scale and impact to drive usage of specific hashtags.

2. Hashtagged Photo Ops

Consumer-stopping photo ops should integrate hashtags to drive further engagement upon sharing of photos. You’re already creating share-friendly branded content—take it the rest of the way with a hashtag that can tie that content together.

3. Hashtag Printing

Physically print Instagram or TwitPic keepsakes at your event using specific hashtags to trigger the printouts. It’s a perfect marriage of social amplification and a personalized takeaway.

4. Vine Flipbooks

Another way to create physical event keepsakes driven by event-specific hashtags, in this case attached to Vines. The 6-second clip is broken into a series of stills and printed into a physical flipbook—again, a digital/physical marriage that’s just plain cool.

5. Art

Leverage hashtags to create artwork from those who engage, letting all be part of something bigger. TED organizers turned the #TEDWomen 2010 Twitter feed into art by combining active hashtag users’ profile pictures into a searchable collage.

6. Curated Content

Don’t underestimate the enthusiasm of loyalists: leverage them to create and curate content for your brand. In the “Max it Now” campaign for Pepsi Max, users created over 16,000 brand-inclusive social posts in a blend of brand-love and competition.

7. Showcase Me

Larger-than life displays of social content give attendees a reason to engage and amplify your programs. A couple of strong recent examples: Excel’s #Gumergency in downtown Vancouver and Toronto and Miller Lites’s #MillerTime at SXSW 2014.

8. Visualize Trends

Use hashtags to visualize trends and conversations relevant to the event activation. SAP brought their data capabilities to life at Superbowl XLVIII, using hashtag metrics to analyze and visualize social chatter around Denver vs. Seattle and offense vs. defense.

9. Voting

Use hashtags to drive voting: it gives people a meaningful reason to engage. Doritos has used this at SXSW to determine not only who would be the opening #boldstage act, but which songs that band would perform.

10. Interactive Enhancement

Use hashtags to enhance a live experience in big ways. Again, Doritos #boldstage is a standout: the more concertgoers posted with hashtags to support smoke, lasers, pyro, balloons, confetti, or beach balls, the more intense each of these special effects became.

11. Social Vending

Let social media unlock real world engagements with hashtag-powered vending machines, like Telus did to support the World Wildlife Fund. This is the same brand that created pop-up cafes serving complimentary espresso via hashtagged orders.

12. HashJacking

Promote relevant content into already-active conversations through the fine art of hashjacking. DiGiorno’s got it down to a science. But be careful: the social audience has a refined palate when it comes to authentic playfulness vs. trying too hard.

13. Surprise & Delight

Track hashtags and use something real to reward people who engage with them. For example, HP’s recent #72hoursofyes campaign, which said “yes” to conference attendees’ ‘when in Vegas’ wishes.


14. Skip the Line

How about a contest monitoring hashtags and delivering exactly what the moment calls for? Sometimes that’s as simple as skipping to the front of the line—especially when the line is hundreds deep, outside of Best Buy, on Black Friday. #givethepeoplewhattheywant

Miss Our Speakers?

GMR's Event Marketing Summit presentations also included:


‘Addictive’ Activations for Intangible Brands and Products

Chris Lee, Senior Manager of Brand Partnerships (Esurance)

Dave Mullins, Director of Brand Development (GMR)


5 Ways to Engage Sports Fans Through Event Technology

Bryan Rasch,Chief Digital Officer (GMR)

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