A hashtag is defined as a word or phrase preceded by the pound (#) sign. Hashtags are used on social media sites to generate exposure for various brands, topics or products. Many people use hashtags as a creative and trendy way to promote the things they care about. When you include hashtags relevant to your posts, you join real-time conversations happening around those topics.
Hashtags are not only a great way to talk about your interests, but businesses can strategically use hashtags for branding:
  1. Hashtags allow companies to expand their viral reach (number of people exposed to their messages through likes, shares, etc.) to people who are looking at posts related to their brand.
  2. Hashtags can amplify brands by providing an easy way for people to share information about them.
  3. Hashtags allow businesses to easily (and freely) promote specials and events.
Gaining Popularity
Twitter HashtagsHashtags gained traction on twitter because they were a way for everyday users to post something quirky and hop onto trending conversations while sticking to the 140 character limit. Companies saw this as an opportunity to get their brand into the conversation, and it worked.
Since hashtags are such an easy method of branding, it makes sense that they gained such popularity on Twitter. In fact, incorporating hashtags on Twitter more than doubles a company’s likelihood of being retweeted. Naturally, Facebook noticed and introduced its own hashtag feature this past June without the same success.
Facebook hashtags were found to have zero impact on viral reach, and can even create a negative impact. According to Facebook analytics service EdgeRank, posts with hashtags are less likely to have viral reach than those without them.
According to EdgeRank, not many people click on Facebook hashtags because brands only use them promotionally. People tend to filter out information that they consider to be advertising. If they aren’t seeing it, they obviously aren’t liking or sharing it.
Facebook isn’t the only one jumping on the hashtag bandwagon. J.C. Penney is offering a $10 off of $25 promotion to those who verbally say the phrase “hashtag offer” while checking out. The promotion is in response to Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s video, which poked fun at how absurd conversations would sound if people spoke in hashtags.
J.C. Penney HashtagsJ.C. Penney is probably trying to use this promotion to positively brand itself in a fun and trendy way. Hopefully J.C. Penney is mindful of the lesson learned from Facebook – hashtags designed for promotion alone have zero viral reach.

Photo Credit (1): https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=c2E6qPsEB6S0aM&tbnid=quRbwv94uFe3CM:&ved=0CAQQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.resonancecontent.com%2Ftwitter-tutorial-hashtags-101%2F&ei=WiVPUr30IYiqrAf-loGYDw&bvm=bv.53537100,d.bmk&psig=AFQjCNENoDhebq_DWDTykOg2KeHpJOht5w&ust=1381005012713262

Photo Credit (2): http://www.buzzfeed.com/sapna/jc-penney-offers-discount-for-verbally-saying-hashtag-at-che

Kayla Krebs, Harrisburg Intern

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