Why your brand doesn't need a hashtag

You want @tags, not hashtags. Promise.

“But what’s the hashtag?”

A question that tested my poker face many times over the years. But I didn’t include a branded hashtag in that beautiful (and probably too long) social strategy presentation for one big reason: you don’t need it.

I can’t see whether you’re vigorously nodding your head yes or no, so let’s talk about it!

What is a branded hashtag?

A branded hashtag is a hashtag created by a brand, specific to that brand. Sometimes they’re a #companyname, or #tagline, or a #rallycry.

This piece is specifically addressing why your brand doesn’t need a branded hashtag. To be clear, I’m not saying your brand shouldn’t use any hashtags—cultural & topic-based hashtags can be quite effective—I’m just saying your brand shouldn’t make up your own.

What’s wrong with branded hashtags?

Branded hashtags don’t really do anything for your brand. We’re long removed from the years when a #hashtag was a joke’s punchline. Most 2023 social users won’t tweet a branded hashtag (unless they have purpose, which we’ll get to)—they’ll just @tag your brand (a better option anyway!)

Nothing makes a brand’s content seem more like an advertisement than a lit-up hashtag in the middle of post copy. We talk about the need for brands to be authentic & speak their audience’s language… but when you scroll Instagram or Twitter, do you see anyone tweeting branded hashtags? I sure don’t.

You want your brand tagged, not hashtagged.

When a customer’s talking about you online, the best thing they can do is @-tag you. If they say @Nike, anyone clicking on it is driven to the @Nike social accounts.

But maybe that person writes #Nike instead. As a brand, you’ll certainly take any love a customer’s willing to throw your way, but #Nike drives to other people who #Nike—not your brand page. Not as valuable.

You wanna educate users to @tag you. It’s a better source of direct connection with the brand, a shorter social funnel, and leads new customers directly to the content you’re making as a brand.

I see you wondering about #JustDoit. Tagline hashtags are even less valuable to than brand name hashtags, mostly because non-customers probably won’t recognize a tagline for a company they don’t buy from. Your brand’s tagline likely isn’t infamous like Nike’s and will mostly fall on deaf ears if one of your customers tweets it.

No, you don’t need branded hashtags for creators, either.

When your brand hires an influencer to make content, you want to give their audience a clear way to connect with your brand. 99% of the time, that’s a link to a website and an @tag of your brand in their copy.

You reallyyy shouldn’t give your influencers any hashtags to tweet.

They’ve already got enough to force into their copy. Their personality, your brand’s messaging mandatories, the relevant link, @yourbrandname, an ad disclosure somewhere—tossing a meaningless brand hashtag only makes it more cluttered without actually doing any good for ya.

The only way to make brand hashtags work: give them purpose.

There are a few exceptions where branded hashtags are not just understandable, but necessary—all are when you give them purpose. A few examples:

  • Events-based hashtags: If you want people to tweet in questions for a panel or connect with other attendees, these can work wonders.

  • Giveaways & sweepstakes: commonly used for entries, though I tend to think reply-based contests are stronger.

  • UGC-encouragement: Remember that piece I wrote a few weeks back about 7Eleven’s Instagram strategy with cars? They solicit the UGC through #CarsOf7Eleven

  • Employee advocacy: this one’s niche, but sometimes an employee-only hashtag can be a nice trigger to encourage your team to talk about your company. The old Twitter regime often used #LoveWhereYouWork to talk about the culture.

  • Weddings: these are just cute. Keep using them.

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Social Cues

Adobe Future Workforce Study has good info on working with Gen Z. They’re at a hungry stage of their careers—83% say they want mentors, 48% want more hard-skill training, & 74% feel comfortable giving upward feedback to their bosses. Give the report a click for bunches of more insightful statistics.

Nanoinfluencers give brands better ROI than Kim Kardashian. We’ve long heard small influencers (<10k followers) have better engagement rates + offer more content than mega influencers—here’s some data + thinking as to why you should throw more money at the little guys.

What having your phone next to you does to your sleep. I’m on a big wellness kick right now, starting with my sleep—far too often I’ll only rack up 5 hours because I wanna hit an AM basketball session or I’m watching re-runs of a show I’ve seen 12 times (currently Ballers on HBO). Here’s a bunch of reasons why we should all leave our phones in the other room.