#DoYourResearch When it Comes to Hashtags

If you use social media, chances are you have seen examples of brands who fail to think before they speak (or tweet).

Recently, pizza brand DiGiorno came under fire for doing just that. They neglected to do their due diligence, and as a result, horrendously misused the hashtag “#WhyIStayed”. The context of the hashtag was meant to mobilize twitter users to share their stories of abuse. It’s safe to say DiGiorno majorly missed the mark by not doing some much needed background research.

While this tragic branding mishap and others like it call for a greater attention to detail, and frankly, common sense, it also brings up a bigger question: Why are brands using hashtags simply because they are trending?

From an exposure perspective, it absolutely makes sense. When a certain percentage of twitter is exposed to a trending hashtag, there is a good chance those users will then become exposed to brands that use that hashtag, as a result.

But does the hashtag make sense to the brands intended audience? In the case of DiGiorno, obviously not.

Oreo often uses this strategy of capitalizing on a trending hashtag using a humour approach, even when the trend would not be traditionally associated with the cookie brand. Is it worth it for Oreo to latch on to a trending hashtag like #fashionweek for the humour of it, even if their target market may not be interested in the event? Vice versa, is someone using the #fashionweek hashtag going to be interested in what Oreo has to say?

In the words of Michael Patterson of Sprout Social, “It doesn’t make for a good experience to be seen as an irrelevant ad”.

In times like these when virality and exposure are so highly valued within internet communities, it’s important for brands not to fall into the pattern of capitalizing on a hashtag without a strategic purpose behind it. So how should a brand make sure that the content and hashtags used are relevant to their audience? Two words: social listening.

Social listening as defined by Jennifer Bees at Sprout Social is ”tracking conversations around specific phrases, words or brands, and then leveraging them to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences”. This keeps brands in tune with what matters to their target market. Within the conversations that are “listened to” lies a data mine of information about a brands target market. It can show what that group cares about, and what kind of content style they are susceptible to. Within that information could be trends (or trending hashtags) that are relevant and useable to a brand. Social listening is just one of many other great ways to research social media content strategies, but is nevertheless useful.

The moral of the story here is that even within the spontaneous and sometimes casual atmosphere involved in social media, researching your audience never goes out of style in marketing, ever.

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