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BizReport : Social Marketing : June 12, 2018

Expert: What businesses need to understand about hashtags

When it comes to social media, consumers love hashtags. The problem, for brands, is that in many cases consumers are more apt to use a brand's hashtags than a brand's handle, making it harder for other consumers to find the actual brand. One expert explains how brands can better use their handles - and their hashtags.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: In your opinion, why are consumers more apt to use brands' hashtags than their handles?

Heather Aponte, Communications Manager, DigiMind: The purpose of brands using hashtags is to give consumers the opportunity to engage with them on a topic or situation they care about in a meaningful way. Consumers are more likely to use brands' hashtags, rather than their handles because it gives them the opportunity to participate in larger conversations with the brand, public figures and other consumers. Using hashtags is a more casual and authentic way of communicating. Companies should continue to pose compelling questions and offer their own opinions on certain topics, as well as include hashtags for real-time consumer engagement.

Kristina: Does this mean consumers aren't attached/loyal to the brand?

Heather: Consumers' preference to use brand hashtags over handles in no way means that they aren't loyal to a particular brand. People are just simply going to engage on social in the most convenient way possible which often means connecting with brands via hashtags.

Kristina: Is this a signal that brands aren't properly using their own handles?

Heather: Brands shouldn't be worried about pushing their own handles out. Instead, they should be prioritizing creative campaigns that entice consumers to participate. A great example is West Elm. The furniture retailer asks its customers to use #mywestelm to share how they're incorporating the brand into their home, offering consumers a way to provide feedback and express their style at the same time.

Kristina: Should brands try to get consumers more used to using handles vs. hashtags?

Heather: The focus for brands shouldn't be on getting consumers to use their handle over hashtags or vice versa. It's about understanding consumers' needs and communication preferences. Digimind's data shows the way followers want to engage with brands is through using a hashtag associated with a campaign or movement. Brands should listen, monitor and pay attention to what their fans are telling them for increased engagement moving forward.

Kristina: Do you think hashtags are growing in importance for consumers?

Heather: For U.S. retail brands, there is a massive preference among consumers to use hashtags when discussing fashion, especially. According to Digimind's data, 96 percent of total U.S. retail brand mentions on social are from consumers using a brand's hashtag, while only 4 percent use a brand's handle. Among global brands, the distribution was similar: 91 percent of posts included brand hashtags, while only 9 percent directly tagged brand handles. This goes to show that brand hashtags among all industries are likely to increase in importance for consumer-to-brand interaction.

Kristina: Is there a way brands can better use hashtags?

Heather: Brands should be using hashtags as a way to connect on a deeper level with their consumers, and a great way to do this is to speak out about issues they care about. Using a social listening tool can help brands determine what conversations they should be starting, as well as gauging consumer reactions during key discussions. If brands start using hashtags as a way to address situations, while also inviting loyal followers to share their own views/thoughts, it provides the opportunity to retain customers, gain the attention of potential customers and amplify their leadership on a given topic.

Tags: advertising, brand handles, DigiMind, hashtag marketing, social marketing, social marketing tips

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