Okay, hashtags are not a new invention, and we have all seen how they can be used to a brand’s advantage. We also know how hashtags can go horribly wrong (but this is not likely to happen to any digital agency that has done its homework).

We thought that in this post, one of the best things we can do is look at a process that you can go through every time you consider the use of hashtags. Call it an acid test if you will.

One that you can use the next time you consider jumping on a hashtag, or when you make an effort to create your own. The following steps will help you protect against failure.

The One Question You Should Ask Every Time You Consider Using Hashtags In Your Brands Posts

It can be a minefield

This is perhaps even more relevant to the current social media landscape than ever. The most common way in which a brand utilizes a hashtag is the ‘jump’. This is where a company finds a hashtag online that is trending and bringing other brands to the forefront.

It looks like a cool idea and an easy way to bring your brand more reach and engagement. In other words, it feels just like it did at school with cool catchphrases that make you popular.

If you jump on a hashtag that has a negative connotation or has little to do with the brand, you could be facing a huge amount of trouble. To illustrate how this can happen (and how it can impact upon a brand), we thought we would look at KFC.

KFC is often held up as a shining example of a strong and successful brand on social media. And it is. For around 99.9% of the time it produces high quality, engaging content that boosts its image and the engagement it receives. And then every now and then it produces content that threatens to bring the brand to its knees.

The brand, on its Australia Twitter account, used the popular and effective #NSFW hashtag. That hashtag usually points the audience to a video that can’t really play in the workplace due to its unsavoury (usually raunchy) content.

It’s become a bit of a thing online, where brands use the hashtag as an indicator that the attached content is risque but also cool. Nothing really bad happens because the hashtag does usually link to something that people are sensible about. They know not to have their computers open on that link and usually click outside of work hours. So everyone’s happy.

KFC

This doesn’t mean it can’t go wrong. KFC Australia tweeted a very suggestive picture that showed a woman reaching out for a KFC meal. The box happened to be directly in front of her companion on the sofa, and the image suggested that the woman was reaching out for his privates.

Hence the hashtag #NSFW, and a ton of innuendo. Oh, and let’s not forget the message in the Tweet: ‘Something hot and spicy is coming soon’. The whole thing was a disaster, and ensured that KFC had to pull down the post.

The lesson here is to always think and analyse the hashtag before you use it. Popular doesn’t mean appropriate.

The one question you should ask every time

Before you dive in and jump on a hashtag without thinking and because ‘it’s cool’, think about asking yourself a question. This one simple question will protect your brand from disaster. The answer to the question itself is pretty much all you need to know:

Does this hashtag look like it belongs on my page?

And that is it. So many brands out there use hashtags in a quick-fire way. They don’t think about whether or not the hashtag they are looking at fits with what they are doing as a brand. With the KFC example above, KFC should have recognised that, as a brand, they are not expected to use NSFW posts. It is not part of their image, not least because KFC is a family fast-food chain. The brand is compromising itself when it creates anything that children can’t watch.

So the NSFW hashtag simply does not belong in their feeds. It jars with the ethos and approach of the brand. A parent would not expect to see such a tweet and especially not if they were choosing what to have for dinner and then came across a social update like that one.

Choosing Hashtags

Every hashtag decision you make has to pass the above test. Does the hashtag look like something you would talk about, discuss comfortably? Would your audience expect to see it on your social feeds? If there is any doubt as regards to the natural placing of such a post, pull it as an idea before it becomes bigger.

After the test, monitor

After you have asked the question, then focus on making sure that you are vigilant. If you watch what happens to the hashtag in the first few hours, you should be able to spot any problems before they arise. Or worsen.

If you start receiving some negative comments about the use of a hashtag, first ask yourself if these opinions matter. Of course, the audience (like the customer) is always right. But brands are sometimes guilty of going on ‘high alert’ as soon as anything negative pops up in comments. There is an easy way to manage this.

As comments start appearing, respond to them. Even the troll stuff. As long as you are positive and respectful when you reply, you can’t go wrong.

But monitor what is happening. The instant you take your eye off the ball, you’re either missing an opportunity or you’re making yourself vulnerable. You jumped on a hashtag for engagement potential. So engage.

If you can pick a hashtag or create one that naturally has a place on your feed, you’re making good use of your time. If you’re monitoring and engaging, you’re making good use of your time. Stick to this approach, and you’ll have a sound strategy.

Relevance and engagement. If you’re planning on using hashtags, make sure both of these factors are in place.

Monitor Hashtags

If you’re using hashtags and you need to get high quality metrics that prove their impact, why not use some of the best metrics software around? Try Locowise for free, for a whole seven days.