Hashtags; the new social currency

These days you can find a hashtag pretty much anywhere. They no longer exist solely on microblogging sites. Hashtags are making their way onto Facebook, print adverts, radio stations, TV programmes, films and various other media outlets. This is due to the increasing desire of a brand or individual to spark a conversation online.

In a bid to increase awareness many brands have attempted to create a trending hashtag on Twitter, some of which have proved successful, and others not so much.  It was only last week Waitrose used the hashtag #WaitroseReasons to encourage tweeters to finish the sentence ‘I shop at Waitrose because…’

This created a huge response, but not one Waitrose was expecting (or were they?). A large majority of tweets using the hashtag ridiculed Waitrose for its perceived upper class status. Tweets included; “I shop at Waitrose because I think food must automatically be better if it costs three times as much.”

McDonald’s attracted a similar stream of unwanted tweets in response to their promoted hash tag; #McDStories, which was originally used to highlight the hard working staff at McDonald’s. It quickly backfired and led to a series of tweets from customers using the hashtag to share their worst experiences.

If a hashtag offers something tangible like a discount or free sample, people are much more willing to engage in a positive way. Kellogg’s has incorporated this within its most recent social campaign; TweetShop. A social sampling event which entitles every person using the hashtag ‘TweetShop’ to a free packet of the new Special K Cracker crisps range, when they visit the Soho pop up shop. Kellogg’s hope this will encourage people to use the hashtag to extend the potential reach further than just their twitter followers and increase the likelihood of it trending.

The Kellogg’s TweetShop in central London, has red dress-wearing Special K shop assistants on hand to help customers. The shop has an interactive ‘tweet wall’ sharing all tweets using #TweetShop, to give shoppers a live view on the reaction to the shop and the new range of crisps.

The hashtag allows customers to sample a new product line before it’s available on the shelves, whilst also promoting the new crisps range through word of mouth. This market research gives Kellogg’s feedback direct from the customer, further giving an indication of the response they will receive when dispatched across stores.

The interaction and personality Twitter allows a brand to create online enhances traditional marketing techniques such as; sampling, research and giveaways, through direct communication with the customer. However, this can only ever be a good thing if the brand is aware of the damaging effect a trending hashtag can have, both online and offline.


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