Dated event hashtags are so passé

HashtagHashtags are the lifeblood of conversation around your exhibition or conference, so it’s important to choose the right one. Just like a Goldilocks social media breakfast, it shouldn’t be too long, too obscure or too tricky to spell.

But what about timely? If you want your hashtags to live on in post-show engagement and discussion, it’s best to steer clear of dates, for example #yourevent13. And by choosing a hashtag with year-round appeal and relevancy, you don’t need to coach the community on using your #2014 tag – it’s already embedded in the conversation.

Also consider how you use your brand within your hashtag – or whether you leave it out altogether. A good hashtag is often one which is absorbed into the community and used in discussions not directly related to your event, but around the show’s topics or focus area.

We’ve seen this around #Ecobuild which is being used by the community as a synonym for sustainability in the built environment, and #thinkcircular on our Resource Event. #ThinkCircular is not only arguably a more interesting and appealing hashtag compared with #ResourceEvent, but has year-round relevancy for the community – it’s really taken on a life of its own since the show team started using it.

However not using your brand within a hashtag does carry its own risks, after all there’s nothing stopping a competitor jumping on your successful hashtag bandwagon, but I would argue that if you’re the first to adopt this as your event-related hashtag (obviously don’t pick something really generic which is already in use within the community, such as #furniture) you’ll be claiming it as your own and sending a signal to the community that you’re in social for the right reasons – to foster conversation, share knowledge, and be useful – not just to talk about your brand 24/7.

Thwarting the Hashtag Pirates

Hashtags, what a magnificently simple way to link together content in the noisy world which is Twitter. But what can you do if your skilfully created hashtag associated with an in-depth campaign is hijacked by some naughty scallywags intent on spreading mischief and mayhem?

McDonalds have been in the press this week after their #McDonaldsStories tag was picked up by users to spread their horror story experiences at the restaurant chain. McDonalds, a company not without its fair share of detractors, was perhaps a little naive to think that members of the social audience wouldn’t jump on this opportunity to pan the brand. Sticking with its first hashtag #MeetTheFarmers may have been a better idea.

This week, one of our brand-related hashtags started being associated with some rather unsavoury content – perhaps not intentionally by the specific Twitter users involved – but it’s not something we want our B2B audience to be associating with our Olympics content. So, we’ve taken the decision to change the hashtag part way through the campaign.

Fortunately it’s still early in the campaign and we don’t have much of our own content associated with the original tag, so it was a fairly easy decision to take. If it had been later in the campaign we would have had to weigh up exactly how damaging the rogue tweets would have been within a sea of our brand-related tweets.

Hashtags can also attract the spammers, people who’ll jump on your popular hashtag to promote their own products or services – this is something you’ll see a lot around exhibitions and big public events. And yes, it’s very temping, and yes, it gets your message and brand seen; however social media is like real life, no one likes people who don’t play by the rules and try to push themselves to the front of the queue. In other words, this is massively damaging to the spammer brand, so just don’t do it. But the good news is, this kind of behaviour is less damaging to your hashtag – at least it means you’re popular – and Twitter users generally ignore these messages.

The key takeaways from this are to firstly check whether the hash tag you want to use is being associated with anything else, then try to make it as non-generic as possible to try and avoid anyone else thinking of it half way through your campaign, choose a tag which is closely aligned with your product so it’s easy for users to identify as being linked with you, and finally, if you’ve got a lot of disgruntled customers out there, don’t invite them to #telltheirstories.