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Twitter Hashtag Strategy Tips for Online + Offline Events

Let’s say your brand is hosting, participating in, or simply wants to aggregate conversation about a particular event. Social media is the perfect place to do this, right? Plenty of people are talking about what’s happening in their communities, on the internet or on their televisions. But without the proper measurement tools, how can you facilitate and aggregate conversation about your brand online? Well, one way (one of our favorite ways) is to use hashtags on Twitter.

Just in case you’re unaware of how hashtags work, here’s a quick rundown:

–Twitter started the phenomenon and Instagram and Pinterest have picked up on the tactic to aggregate conversation by subject

–They begin with the pound sign (#)

–Hashtagged words do not have any punctuation or spaces (examples: #MTVawards #Eredcarpet #MadMen)

–They’re mostly used as a frame of reference, but in different ways

(examples: The #Grammys live performances are awesome; Justin Timberlake killed it on stage! #Grammys)

Now that you’re up to speed on how hashtags work, let’s go over a few tips for using them to aggregate conversation about online + offline events.

1. Use the most popular and obvious hashtag for events

You want the information you post to be easily found by others. This means you need to use the hashtag everyone else is using. To find out which hashtags are the most popular, do a quick Twitter search, check hashtags.org and check Twitter’s Trending Topics. If you’re trying to establish an offline event on Twitter, create a hashtag that is easy to remember and branded. For example, The South by Southwest festival simply uses #SXSW because that is how they’re known. Adding locations or numbers can often be confusing, so when in doubt, keep it simple. Lots of people are tweeting from their mobile devices and don’t want to type a long phrase.

2. “Bonus” hashtags for live events

A fun way to measure engagement and impact of an offline event is to throw in what I like to call “bonus hashtags.” FOX sitcoms do a great job of this. If you’re watching Glee, for instance, you can always use the hashtag #Glee. But let’s say something particularly crazy happens on that episode. The show will prompt you to talk about it on Twitter by promoting a bonus hashtag on the screen–like #SingItRachel or #SueIsCrazy (these aren’t real examples, but you get the idea). Longer events like the Olympics, X Games, or even just award shows can also take advantage of the bonus hashtag strategy to measure at what times or during what specific events people were most engaged over the course of the evening, week or month.

3. Live tweet chats

Brands, celebrities and politicians have all jumped on board live Twitter chats. It’s a great way to create social momentum around your brand and aggregate conversation with people around the country and around the world. Live tweet chats just need a little extra promotion beforehand. A great example of this is in the 2012 Presidential Election when President Obama utilized Twitter as a Town Hall to answer policy questions. He only needed to promote the event time, date and hashtag in order to get lots of participation. Celebrities like Taylor Swift do live tweet chats as well as webcasts in order to connect with their fans, and all they need to use is a simple hashtag to get people involved.

4. Promoting your hashtag

You don’t have to limit yourself in ways to promote your branded and/or event hashtag. You can send out a promotional email to fans and followers, of course, but you can also put your hashtag into offline marketing materials. Especially if it is an event people will attend, put it in the brochures, pamphlets, on the presentation screens, or even billboards. People will be discussing your brand or event on Twitter, so it’s best to give them the “place” to do it so it’s easier for you to measure results.

5. Measuring results

Once your event or specific hashtag campaign has transpired, it’s important that you take a look through the event’s storyline. What actions or events prompted a lot of conversation? What elements were people tweeting negatively or positively about? What was the main behavior of people using your event’s hashtags? Were they simply checking in, tweeting quotes or facts from the event, sharing photos or videos? What percentage of attendees tweeted their experience? These are just a few questions you can ask and seek to answer using aggregated conversation from your hashtag. There is much insight to be gained from Twitter conversations surrounding your campaign or event and these insights can help you plan your next event or campaign for an even better response.