The year 2017 provided a massive breakthrough for Instagram. Following the introduction of Instagram Stories, the photo-sharing app was able to regain its lost herd (read user base), many of whom had jumped onto the Snapchat ship. Instagram also upped the ante when it came to being the marketing hub for brands from all segments. As social media marketing continues to redefine the sphere of marketing, brands need to take advantage of it.
Instagram launched a ‘follow hashtag’ and ‘Recommended for you’ section in an effort to make it easier for brands to reach out to the masses. This could very well be a game changer for brands as it will open up a whole host of new avenues for growth, as brands can form real communities around these hashtags.
Matthew Ogle, Product Manager at Instagram, said, “You have something that is working organically on the platform. How do we add just enough additional structure so that more people can participate? Hashtags have some really nice properties because they are already this bottom-up, community-led aggregation.”
Instagram’s betting big on hashtags, as a large proportion of their user base engages with them on a daily basis. By allowing users to follow hashtags – similar to following pages and users – Instagram looks to unleash the full potential of the hash symbol. The algorithm dedicated to the ‘follow hashtag’ option will curate and moderate users’ hashtag search results based on their specific tastes and preferences. This pathbreaker update is supposed to change the game for marketing on Instagram.
#Branded: As customers grow more cynical of direct and in-your-face promotional posts, hashtags and associated campaigns add value to the brand and keep patrons on board. So it would be advisable to work with influencers who can promote your hashtag or product in their posts. A product placement or a quirky campaign is a perfect way to make it appear like an original post and not one for promotional reasons. Either way, branded hashtags have a clear representation, and if the brand has a deeper meaning behind it, (#amul (nostalgia), #paperboat (childhood), etc.), then the hashtag performs better than unbranded ones.
#Mood: Using hashtags to express a certain mood or feeling behind a particular picture is a very popular methodology adopted by users and brands alike. So if your brand is about fitness, then hashtags like #stayingfit, #fitnesshappiness, and #nevergivingup will help push your post among specifically related communities.
#Moment: This is a hashtag that talks about a moment, thereby giving the picture more depth and clarity. People post pictures that either talk about an anniversary or a special award and caption it with a hashtag talking about that moment. For example, #goa, #bachelors, #december, #anniversary, etc.
#Community: Finally, the fourth type of hashtag is the community one. This is where a group of people post a picture and express belonging to a community, or a single photo talking about a community that they feel like they’re a part of. For example, #ketomoms, #partypeople, #runners, etc. Brands can tap into this community aspect, and engage with community members via these hashtags.
By utilizing any of the above-mentioned hashtags on your posts and working with influencers to participate in your campaigns, you can get your hashtag to trend on Instagram. Depending on which community you target, your hashtag will reach a specific audience sample, and you can expect your engagement rates to skyrocket compared to other platforms.
For brands looking to leverage Instagram’s ‘follow hashtag’ segment, be aware that the rudimentary elements of marketing such as affixing your communication goals, objectives, and brand identity apply to this platform as well. For example, if you’re a technology company and are launching a new phone, you can hashtag a feature from that phone and trend it. Apple did that with #facelock and asked influencers, its community members, and reviewers to post about the launch with the hashtag they selected.
The hashtag that you create should emerge organically and empower the audience, and not vice-versa. So when users record an image with your brand’s hashtag, it also helps others access the image and certain information. This pushes the buck forward and you engage more participants in your community.
A great way of creating a branded hashtag is to focus on who your customers are. The influence of hashtags completely depends on your brand and message – if created with the right mix it will garner organic traffic.