Step 9: Smart use of hashtags

For the private sector and the fast moving consumer goods industry hashtags have become the new URL. What can councils learn and do better with their use of hashtags?

A question: How many hashtags appear across all of your social media profiles in any given week?

It takes time to calculate as you'll probably have to count them up manually by flicking through each account timeline. You could be surprised by the number.

A review of accounts in this way will often highlight 30 or 40 different hashtags being used by larger organisations in a week. Take a closer look and it can become apparent that many of these hashtags are throw-away, jokey or untargeted. A fun hashtag, used appropriately and at the right time, can be engaging and conversational and fit with the tone of social voice that you're aiming for. But the advice is don't overdo this.

Your hashtag should be your ‘call to action' – the thing you want your target audience to do as a result of seeing your posts, messages or wider campaign.

When you're developing a social media campaign, or a campaign which will also feature on social media, it's become really important to create a short, memorable hashtag which is ideally ‘clean' (i.e. it hasn't been used before – do a quick search on Twitter or Instagram to check)

Good examples of call to action hashtags are:

  • #SupportAdoption - used by Sheffield City Council to underpin their online support for, and promotion of, adoption
  • #WheelieBlueandGreen - used by South Cambridgeshire Council to remind residents the night before bin collections
  • #RestartAHeart – used by the British Heart Foundation to promote what to do if someone has a cardiac arrest
  • #WasteLessSaveMore – is Sainsbury's campaign to address food and packaging waste
  • #ComeBackToNursing - used by Health Education England in a recruitment drive to target ex-nurses

Top tip

If you don't already, allow yourself a bit of time to think creatively about the hashtags you use to underpin a campaign on social media. It could make a real difference having something memorable, well publicised and easily understandable when you're trying to be noticed in and amongst wave after wave of social competition online.

If you want to monitor the effectiveness of your campaign hashtag check out TweetBinder and TweetReach which will create free hashtag reports going back 7-days and up to 2k worth of tweets. These reports will also highlight who has been sharing your content most and which of your engagers are most influential.

Did you trend?

@trendinaliaGB is a useful account to identify trending Twitter topics in the UK. If you've run a successful hashtag and want to know how it's performed take a look here too.