By Trevor Gould, Content Specialist

Harnessing the power of trending hashtags allows social media marketers to potentially increase organic post reach and garner additional engagement.

Trending topics on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook develop around everything from sporting events, to natural disasters, to viral funny jokes. Trending topics are integral part of the social media landscape, and present a prime positioning opportunity for brands. However, before a marketer’s rush to capitalize on these hot topics and hashtags, they must take a systematic approach to evaluate the topic’s viability in regards to both strategic planning and brand integrity.

  1. Evaluate the Trend

Before doing anything else, marketers must first assess the trend’s traits and circumstances. Hashtags and trends can range from worldwide to regional, so it’s important to inspect the scope and examine the various situational factors before rendering a verdict. Marketers should investigate the topic and determine if it has lasting power or if it has a negative association the brand doesn’t want to be connected to. It is important to account for the anticipation factor as well — whether or not you can use the hashtag prior to the actual event to build both hype and visibility.

  1. Determine its Brand Relevancy

New hashtags trend across the Internet and reach the eyes of millions every day, but that doesn’t mean brands should feel obligated to attempt to piggyback off each. Every brand has a unique voice, mission, and set of values. Those characteristics should be embodied by company’s social media strategy when it comes to trending topics and incorporating them into content.

  1. Think Before you Post — Will it Elicit Negativity?

Despite the warnings and previous blowbacks, every year companies commit egregious trending hashtag misuse that results in frantic apologies and damaged brand identities.

Kenneth Cole

In 2011, Kenneth Cole tweeted the following message, which piggybacked off the uprising in Egypt, and instantly regretted it.

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Aside from it being in poor taste to belittle the efforts of protesters in Egypt, linking high-end clothing to a contentious event involving millions of people is not exactly an ideal brand-positioning tactic. Hours after the tweet went out; Cole himself apologized on Facebook, calling the tweet insensitive and inappropriate.

Urban Outfitters

In October 2012, with Hurricane Sandy ravaging the East Coast, Urban Outfitters decided to try and use the storm to promote free shipping.

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The tweet prompted immediate backlash across the web from people who claimed it was insensitive to those dealing with the storm and its aftermath. To be fair, Urban Outfitters wasn’t the only clothing brand to use a storm reference on Twitter. Gap, American Apparel and Adler all used Sandy puns in tweets as well.

Florida State University

social media, hashtags, hijacking, conversation marketingJameis Winston is one of the biggest names in college football after leading Florida State University to a national championship and winning the 2014 Heisman trophy. Despite his numerous accomplishments on the field, off the field he has had his troubles including stealing crab legs from a Publix grocery store. Despite knowing the tendency for college football fans to heckle opposing players, FSU’s marketing department went forward with promoting the #AskJameis hashtag to build hype for the 2014–15 social media, hashtags, hijacking, conversation marketingseason. It didn’t take long for the hashtag to get hijacked by opposing fans determined to heckle the QB. FSU stopped the promotion as soon as it realized it had lost control of the conversation.

  1. Hashtags Done Right

While there are some bad examples of brand hashtag use, there are plenty of positive ones as well. When done correctly, these tweets that incorporate trending hashtags can elicit a much greater reach than a normal social media posting, amplifying the message to audiences and prospective consumers.

DiGiorno Pizza

Taking advantage of NBC’s hotly anticipated airing of “The Sound of Music Live,” DiGiorno live-tweeted the broadcast and was able to connect their brand to virtually every aspect of the famous musical.

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Not only did these tweets garner DiGiorno increased online visibility, they were also recognized as an ingenious method of brand hashtag usage and received immense media coverage. Plus, they’re just too funny.social media, hashtags, hijacking, conversation marketing

Special K

The Oscars are cinema’s biggest night, and the social space was buzzing with excitement over the event. Special K prepared a series of branded images to coincide with the evening’s awards and spectacle. They were able to expand their post visibility and boast higher engagement numbers thanks to their colorful, brand-oriented approach to The Oscars.

Conclusion

Trending hashtags are an effective way to gain additional exposure in the online space; just be wary about the consequences of misusing them and make a point of evaluating each one prior to incorporating them into your digital content strategy.

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