Long live the hashtag. At least, that's what every brand hopes, despite the lightning-fast exchanges and 15 minutes of fame that characterize the world of social media. After all, trends are by nature transient, and an overnight sensation can be "so yesterday" in just a span of a few hours.
When creating a hashtag that will represent your brand, your community, or your event, think of it as dating: You want excitement, you want intrigue, but you also want something that will last, at least for a while. If you're looking for a one-night hashtag, you're probably not trying to build real relationships with your audience.
Just as in the dating experience, you want people to get to know who you are. To do that, you've got to stop chasing what you think your date/market will want to see, and instead switch the camera to selfie mode. Who are you? What are you all about? That may seem like a daunting exercise at first, but the exploration can be fun. Hopefully, you'll find that you're fundamentally proud of and empowered by what you're trying to share via your event hashtag.
Consider these five tips while you're active on the hashtag scene.
1. Use the hashtag as an ice-breaker
Casually throw in the hashtag to start conversion. On Twitter, for example, ask your followers a question that incorporates your hashtag. People will respond using the hashtag, because they know it will increase the visibility of their response.
As more people respond, it will spread; and, before you know it, there's an entire community surrounding your hashtag—and ultimately, your event. You can even encourage people to use the hashtag to connect with and meet other attendees at your event.
Your ultimate goal is to get people to feel comfortable using that hashtag so that it spreads.
2. Don't come on too strong
You want people to feel comfortable, so you mustn't be overbearing. People naturally shy away when they're bombarded by up-front demands.
It's awesome to be enthusiastic, but just be sure to avoid pushing your hashtag in an annoying way: "post on Twitter!"; "post on Facebook!"; "don't forget to use our awesome #hashtag!" Such requests, rather than encouraging participation, will come across as impositions.
The more you allow a hashtag to function as a natural conduit that authentically helps your audience to learn and connect, the more people will use it.
3. Steer clear of oversharing
Dating rule No. 1 (hashtag rule No. 3). In the offline and online worlds alike, less is more. People's attention spans are short. They want the gist, not the saga. Just tell people what they need to know; then, if they want to learn more, they'll ask.
That keep-it-short-and-sweet phenomenon is even more prominent on social networks, where the amount of text people can share is often limited. Use that fact to your advantage; let it guide you to a memorable phrase or word that truly represents your event.
4. Make a lasting impression
The most effective hashtags live on. A hashtag that begins as a catalyst for creating buzz around your event can naturally go on to define your brand, your community, and your future events.
As in the world of dating, it's a matter of quality: The time comes when you've got to see the stuff your hashtag is really made of in order to understand whether it can add value to your cause. That means coming up with hashtags that don't just describe something in your event... but speak to a larger, more universal attribute of your brand or community.
5. Get a (dirty-minded) friend's advice
Before you saunter out the door with your fresh new hashtag and a glimmer in your pound sign, get a quick second opinion.
On the scale of cutesy to racy, there's a nice medium. To achieve that essential balance, you'll want to ask your most immature friend (you know who we're talking about) to take a blunt scan of your hashtag to see if they can make anything awkward out of it. Why? You don't want a repeat of SNL Celebrity Jeopardy's #analbumcover. (Poker face).
* * *
The bottom line in rocking the hashtag scene: don't let those precious octothorpes go to waste! Use them to epitomize what it is that you want to share, and make sure they warm your audience up to your brand/event, not turn them off. So it's essential to craft a hashtag that piques people's interest and naturally stimulates conversation.
Be a bit mindful to not push your audience away with too many demands, overwhelming information, or inappropriate content. Be memorable, be yourself.
In the spirit of Gandhi, #BeTheHashtag you want to see in the world.
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