Hashtags have become an integral element of any company’s participation on Twitter. They’ve even started to appear offline on billboards and television commercials.
They’ve been around long enough that most brands are learning how to avoid rookie mistakes and incorporate them regularly into their tweets. But how do you take a hashtag from a word or phrase that trails a pound sign to a social media success story?
These three campaigns were hits for sparking conversation, engaging followers and raising awareness. Here’s why they worked so well.
1. The White House: #40dollars
In the midst of a troubled political climate, President Obama’s administration took to the Internet to start a conversation about taxes.
The campaign started in December 2011 when the payroll tax cut was set to expire, which would have meant a drop of about $40 per paycheck for many working families. The White House asked those people to speak up, starting with a tweet that asked: “What does #40dollars mean to you?”
The overwhelming response from people who said they couldn’t afford to lose that money helped secure a two-month extension to the cuts. In February 2012, the White House revived the campaign and produced enough public support to lock in the cuts for the remainder of 2012.
The lesson here is that your brand doesn’t need to shy away from controversial topics. In fact, ignoring an elephant in the room will more likely hurt your reputation—people will label your company as uncaring and out of touch.
The key to tackling an inflammatory subject is to keep the human element at the forefront. Even though the subtext of the campaign was to extend the payroll tax cuts and mobilize public support for the effort, the #40dollars hashtag was first and foremost about the people who would have been hurt most by the program’s lapse.
2. Mercedes-Benz: #YOUDRIVE
Interactive content is often a surefire way to get fans excited about and involved with your brand. This smart creation by Mercedes-Benz involved a three-part story that aired on UK television during commercial breaks for an episode of “The X Factor.” Each part presented viewers with a choice to vote on how the heroes of the spot would respond during a chase scene. Viewers could tweet one of two actions along with the #YOUDRIVE hashtag to voice their opinions.
Even after that live event, Mercedes Benz made the entire short film available on YouTube, with a built-in interactive option for viewers to select between the driver’s choices. This allowed viewers to see all the permutations of the story, as well as the brand name and product for a longer amount of time.
This campaign was a hit because of how it involved the car company’s followers. Even though the stakes were low, the ad piqued enough curiosity to keep people tweeting and watching.
3. UNICEF India: #AwaazDo
Celebrity backing was the key to success for the “Awaaz Do” campaign UNICEF India ran in 2011. The phrase means “lend your voice” in Hindi. The campaign aimed to get 8 million uneducated Indian children into schools.
Social agency Buzzvalve managed the program, and contacted two Bollywood stars to ask for their support. In an interview with Mashable, Buzzvalve CEO Rohan Chandrashekhar said explaining the impact their participation would have on the campaign guaranteed the help of well-known Indian celebrities.
By tapping into the fan bases of those popular figures, the #AwaazDo hashtag was mentioned 1,525 times during the three-month campaign and produced 203,248 signups from people who wanted to join the movement.
According to Chandrashekhar, showing the celebrities hard data helped convince them of the importance of participating in the campaign, as opposed to simply giving a formal endorsement.
When your brand wants to forge a partnership around a hashtag campaign with celebrities or other companies, be sure to offer your analytics as evidence. Figure out why it would be beneficial for all parties to work together and present a strong argument. In this case, it was a worthy cause that needed a large audience for better awareness.
What’s the most successful hashtag campaign you’ve seen on Twitter?