They accompany almost every caption on our Instagram feeds. We talk to each other on Twitter using them. And more recently, they've been lifted out of the digital world and utilised in print and billboard campaigns. But how can the humble hashtag be used to start a movement?
In the social media world, hashtags serve a number of different purposes. They categorise content, invite like-minded people to take part in wider conversations and they make powerful, impactful statements.
When something profound happens in the news or media, people are quick to translate the key message into a hashtag. Think #BlackLivesMatter or more recently, #MeToo. Shifting the conversation to social media gives everyone the opportunity to join a global dialogue. With enough momentum, these hashtags go viral - rapidly increasing the pace at which the conversation takes place. The power of conversation is incredible, but the power of turning this into real-world action is even greater. This is where the movement really begins.
The hashtag alone is relatively powerless. Hashtags have become so ubiquitous in the social media landscape that, without a strong message, they're just another search mechanism. To create a meaningful movement using hashtags, brands need to first define their key message. They need to have something valuable to say - and they need to say it in a way that feels authentic to their audience.
For a hashtag to have a real impact, it needs to resonate with the people you're talking to. It needs to feel like the brand is making a statement and doing something different.
Turning an insult into a message that champions confidence is no easy feat. Especially when that insult is directed at women who are going through puberty. Launched in 2014, Always's powerful #LikeAGirl campaign challenged both men and women to do things "like a girl". When the brand spoke to young women they quickly realised that these girls were already empowered. Doing things 'like a girl' meant being tough, fighting hard and running fast.
From a Super Bowl commercial to social media advertising, the campaign rapidly went viral. But one thing stuck long term - the powerful message attached to the hashtag.
The benefits for Always were endless: increased visibility (over 90 million YouTube views to be exact), stronger brand positioning, strengthened brand loyalty and a complete change in people's perception. In a study conducted in December 2014, almost 70% of women and 60% of men claimed that "the video changed my perception of the phrase 'like a girl'".
Combining politics with advertising can be complex territory, but if the message is in line with your brand's ethos the result can be incredibly powerful. Airbnb's politically charged #weaccept campaign is a testament to that. Showcasing people from a range of cultures, ethnicities and genders, the global hashtag campaign focused on the sentiment that all people belong. Launching at the peak of the global refugee crisis and closely coinciding with Donald Trump's immigration ban, the campaign was always going to make a statement.
So strong was that statement that by half time at the Super Bowl, the campaign had already gone viral. The campaign got people talking, significantly strengthening brand awareness and positing Airbnb as an inclusive brand.
Not all successful hashtag campaigns are political or emotional in nature. Some focus on the simple sentiment that experiences (and products) are best when shared.
The #shareacoke concept was incredibly simple: buy a bottle of Coca-Cola, personalise the packaging and enjoy. Beyond the packaging, Coca-Cola's global campaign encouraged people to join the conversation at #shareacoke.
The simple hashtag definitely delivered. It delivered more than six million virtual Coca-Cola bottles, created and shared by fans. 25 million additional followers for the global Coca-Cola page. And considerable brand awareness and loyalty.
Most brands don't have the budget for a Super Bowl commercial. Not all brands can afford packaging that can be personalised. But what all of these highly successful campaigns have in common is the hashtag. A simple, straight-forward sentiment shared online to millions of people. With the right message and the right creative execution, all brands have the ability to start a hashtag movement. That's where we come in.
A successful conversation starts with a considered social strategy. At Being, our social media team works collaboratively to take ideas and transform them into excellent campaigns. Starting with an ideation session, we work through the best message for your brand. Our copywriters and designers then turn this into incredible content that, with the help of our Digital Content Manager, has the power to reach plenty of people. Who knows? You might even start a movement.
Get in touch to find out more.