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The Secrets Behind Successful Hashtag Campaigns

There isn’t a more dominant symbol for social content than the hashtag. It represents it all: social, content, trends and vibe – all in 4 straight lines. But a hashtag is much more than just a symbol, it holds a powerful reach extension for any tweet, campaign and cause.  Brands are built from emotions, not […]

Eytan Avigdor
October 28, 2015

There isn’t a more dominant symbol for social content than the hashtag. It represents it all: social, content, trends and vibe – all in 4 straight lines.

But a hashtag is much more than just a symbol, it holds a powerful reach extension for any tweet, campaign and cause. 

Brands are built from emotions, not logos, products and ads.

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. A #hasthag campaign is a great opportunity to make an emotional connection attached to your brand.

It’s how you move from “selling sports apparel” to Just Do It.
From “take a picture” to a Kodak moment.
From “chocolate bars” to Have a break, have a KitKat.

But although it seems simple to use, we often see hashtag campaigns that fail to resonate. Your hashtag must immediately make sense to the audience, arouse curiosity and connotations that would make people simply want to engage and react. How difficult can it be?

We decided to take a deep look into successful campaigns that utilized hashtags and figure out what made them so great.

We ran a deep research about 3 completely different campaigns that drew a lot of social attention. Here are the campaigns we’ve analyzed:

1. #IFightFor

Twitter just launched the first campaign for Moments, its mobile app feature that shows today’s trending topics. The first promoted campaign for Moments focused on the upcoming movie Creed. Creed is a boxing drama, starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. The promotion for the movie included images and short videos using the hashtag #IFightFor.

#IFightFor was mentioned 1,025 times on launch day. It’s worth noting that although the campaign evolves around a boxing movie, which is usually dominated by men, women took lead in this campaign (52.8%).

Here’s a taste of the top tweets for #IFightFor:

 2. #OptOutside

REI’s campaign idea was absolutely brilliant. The outdoors clothing and equipment company launched a campaign announcing it will close its doors on Black Friday, sending its employees to head outdoors.

Along with a dedicated site, and an open message from the CEO, the campaign was launched with scenery and motivational videos and tweets that encourage customers to #OptOutside and take this year’s Black Friday off the stores and into the wild.

The campaign took off immediately with great news coverage and social talk. In just two days the hashtag was mentioned 27k times. One of the tweets quickly made it into REI’s hall-of-fame with more than 2k RTs.

3. #PricelessSurprises

MasterCard’s #PricelessSurprises is a highly successful campaign that was launched in January 2014 and is still running.  MasterCard offers its cardholders to enjoy perks and upgrades, simply by holding the card.

A quick look into MasterCard‘s social hall-of-fame reveals that not only was this a huge success, it overcomes any of their other social efforts by an exponential factor. BTW, this would turn to be their most shared tweet ever:

The 6 Factors for a Successful Hashtag Campaign

After analyzing the campaigns, we gathered the ingredients that made them go viral:

1. It’s not about you

A campaign that goes viral is not about the brand – it’s about the audience. The campaign is not even treating the audience as customers, but as individuals who should join a conversation. All three campaigns put the audience first – their experiences, their pains, their hopes.

2. It’s about a cause

Creed’s hashtag is the perfect example for this idea: it offered an open space for people to tell the world what they truly care about. People used #IFightFor to raise awareness for good causes they care for – cancer, censorship, equal opportunities. The campaign didn’t direct people to create content about sports, boxing or anything specific. It was about whatever they cared about. And it worked. It enabled people to easily become social activists and raise awareness to something they believe is worth fighting for.

3. Get emotional

On social, emotions move people to take action. These actions can be sharing, commenting, and even creating their own content.

The key ingredient to success is to strike an emotional chord. MasterCard used happiness; REI used the basic wish to be free and gain new experiences outdoors; and Creed made it about good causes.

4. Timing is everything

The campaigns were timed perfectly with other events. REI didn’t wait for Black Friday to start their hashtag campaign. They launched it a month before, making enough room for PR and news coverage to join the party.

One month in advance proved to be right on time – just when the holidays season starts with Halloween and way before Black Friday’s massive promotions start.

MasterCard also synch’d its campaign launch with an exterior event. The campaign was launched at the 2014 Grammy awards with a short video documenting Justin Timberlake surprising a fan by popping up at her door. Timberlake himself was a Grammy nominee, so having him star the campaign specifically on that day ensured that the wide news coverage of his music that evening will amplify his feel-good campaign at the same breath.

5. The initial ripple is on you

Even well-planned campaigns with great copy need some initial boost to set it on the right track. Using influencers to talk and share the campaign’s hashtag will likely get some positive traction for it and help it lift-off.

Take the Creed campaign for example. Creed’s marketers invited two influencers to join the campaign: The surfer and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton and the US national soccer goalkeeper, Tim Howard. The two shared inspirational tweets with the #IFightFor which were part of the most retweeted tweets of the campaign.

6. It’s part of the plan

Though it seems easy to launch a hashtag campaign, all successful ones were part of a strategic plan.

Let’s take a look at REI’s campaign. 2014 Black Friday’s sales were not a great hit. Sales, online and offline, dropped 11% in comparison to the previous year. Surely these numbers had their impact at the REI headquarters and the marketing squad thought how to stand out this year, and not with the standard 50% discounts.

REI has gone from the red ocean of Black Friday to the blue ocean of the month before. It’s a well-planned strategy that requires planned ahead PR, employee advocacy, social teams efforts and more.

Test It On Your Own

Whatever your cause is, you can gain a huge benefit from using a hashtag in your campaign. A catchy, positive and actionable hashtag can do great for any campaign.

Use this analysis of hugely successful campaigns and try to understand what you should do – and what you shouldn’t. Remember none of these winning hashtags included names of the brands behind them, and none were over-promotional. It’s about your audience and their hearts. #BestofLuck.

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