Hashtag lessons from #Ottawa

We’re often asked why should one use hashtags and the best way to use them. Put simply, you want to use hashtags to drive conversations about your business. At the end of the day, you want to be able to measure how many people posted tweets about your product, brand or service and how many people you reached. There are some fundamental guidelines to creating and measuring the use of hashtags.


Creating your hashtag.

  • Make it unique. Before tweeting your chosen hashtag, search ensure it’s not already being used. You want your hashtag to be relevant and exclusive to you.
  • Make sure its meaningful. You want to create a hashtag that means something to users and one that people can easily understand. i.e. “#SLPRBS” means nothing to users, however “#StorylineBigSavings” will have a better impact.
  • Make it simple. Using a myriad of hashtags in a tweet in order to be picked up by search dilutes your promotion or event message.  For example – “#PR #smallbiz #entrepreneur in one tweet will result in being lumped in with other tweets using the same hashtags and your message will get lost.
  • Make it short. Try to include your business name. If your business name is too long, use an acronym. For example – instead of “#StorylinePublicRelationsTips”, shorten it to something like this: “#storylinePRtips”

Monitoring your engagement.

  • Manage Expectations. In order to trend on twitter, you have to tweet a lot in a short time and generally geared around a promotion or event. Our case study in this post provides a good example of an trending event.
  • Use Tools. Monitor. Using third-party apps such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, you can set up permanent columns using your hashtag to keep track of who is actively engaging with you.
  • Engage. Engage in conversations using your hashtag – don’t just stand by the sidelines and watch it happen. You’ll have a better chance of going viral, as demonstrated in this case study:

Case study

If you’re from Ottawa, you’ve likely heard of the inaugural #NatureNocturne event at The Museum of Nature — the after-hours “grown-up playground” this past January. It’s a great example of local hashtag inspiration. The communications and PR staff did a tremendous job of communicating a fabulous event that in our humble opinion, was much overdue for Ottawa. They managed their social media channels extremely well, engaging fans and followers – live tweeting and communicated often. Literally hundreds of #NatureNocturne guests were engaged in conversation and talking about the event – tweeting & blogging about their experience, posting photos of drinking wine beside hissing cockroaches & kissing dinosaurs.

Was their hashtag unique and meaningful? Absolutely. You can bet no one else was using it. The unfortunate result of having a rather long hashtag, (or one with terms not easy to replicate), is that it can get inadvertently changed in the process – as in the case with #NatureNocturne. Cold finger tips trying to navigate smart phones while standing in line outside in the cold likely had something to do with it. Somehow – the “N” got dropped transforming their hashtag to “#naturenocture” and this is the one the media picked up their headline.

The use of their hashtag, (retweeted correctly or misspelled) got them noticed. The event was a huge success from an engagement perspective – both pre and post launch. Check it out yourself by going to twitter and search #NatureNocturne. You’ll see what we mean. They also managed to get their hashtag trending on TrendsMap Ottawa.