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Muddywall | November 1, 2014

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Five innovative ways to use a hashtag with your social media

Five innovative ways to use a hashtag with your social media

The hashtag sign (#) prefixing a word is the way to collate and organise social media posts about a certain topic.

Hashtags were first used in 2007, back in the early days of Twitter. Now many other social networks have adopted this method of categorising social media updates including Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Even Facebook is soon going to be using hashtags as a way of grouping conversations.

Here are five innovative ways brands and businesses can use hashtags:

1. Publicising hashtags

If your company has started using a hashtag, make sure it is publicised in as many places as possible, so people know to use it when mentioning your business or brand on social media.

Anyone who was watching the Super Bowl last month would have noticed the extensive use of hashtags during the commercial breaks. According to Twitter, of the 52 national ads that ran during the game, 50 percent included hashtags. The social network ran an “Ad Scrimmage” contest asking viewers to vote for their favourite ad, using a hashtag of course. The winner was Samsung who used #TheNextBigThing

Formula One is an example of a sport that has embraced hashtags and none so more than its driver Kimi Raikkonen, who proudly displayed the hashtag #ImSexyandIKnowIt on his car. A good job he won the race after his confident display of this self-appreciating hashtag.


2. Second screening

Second screening is on the rise. So what is it?

Second screening is the practice of using a Smartphone or other mobile device when watching television. According to a study by Nielsen an estimated 38 per cent of people who own a Smartphone use their device while watching TV at least once a day.

Have you noticed TV programmes displaying a hashtag during the opening credits or on promotional adverts? This is an effective way of encouraging viewers to discuss that TV show on social media with all the conversations being collated under one hashtag, basically creating an online discussion forum.

One TV programme that does this well is the American drama Scandal. Every week, when the show airs, the actors engage in a live chat with viewers by using the hashtag #AskScandal. The New York Times reported the final show in December received an impressive 2,838 tweets a minute.

Marla Provencio, executive vice president for marketing and the chief marketing officer at the ABC Entertainment Group said:

“The fans look forward to joining the cast each week so they can ‘watch together’ and talk about the show while it’s on,”


Twitter have even created a dedicated page for the #AskScandal hashtag, organising all the photos and tweets posted with the hashtag in one place.

3. Photo-sharing

Image sharing on social media is on the increase. Using hashtags on visual social media networks such as Instagram and Pinterest is an ideal way to organise images posted about your business and brand.

A New York restaurant, Comodo, went one further and launched what they called, “the first ever Instagram menu”. Capitalising on the popularity of sharing images of your food, Comodo asked diners to share a picture of their meal on Instagram using the hashtag #ComodoMenu. Future customers could then search the social network with this hashtag to be inspired by the images when deciding what to order from the menu.

A great idea in principle but it did highlight a risk when promoting your product or service with a hashtag- no editorial control over what is posted. This became apparent for Comodo when images of dog poo where posted to their Instagram Menu using the #ComodoMenu hashtag.

4. Competition entry

Use a hashtag as a way of entering a competition. This not only simplifies the entry process but helps when promoting the competition.

The hashtag also creates a social media community around the competition by allowing others to see and comment about who has entered.

Southwest Airlines recently ran a successful hashtag contest with their ‘Southwest Sundance Cinema Challenge’. Entrants had to create a five-minute movie of an iconic film moment, post the video to YouTube and the send a tweet to @SouthwestAir, including the YouTube link and the hashtag #SWACinema.


The promotion utilised two social media networks and gave the Twitter profile of Southwest Airlines good exposure, attracting new followers in the process.

5. Empowering the audience

Asking social media users to decide the outcome of a situation by posting responses to a hashtag is an excellent strategy for empowering an audience and getting a democratic decision to a question. Using a hashtag to organise the answers creates a situation focused community for the brand or business to interact with.

At the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, Doritos asked Twitter followers to use the hashtag #boldstage, to decide which of three up-and-coming musical artists (Devin Miles, Seth Sentry, and Snow Tha Product) will open for the headliners: LL COOL J, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and Doug E. Fresh.

Doritos used this innovative strategy to create an interactive concert by socially involving the audience in the decision-making process. And at the end of the day, if the audience didn’t like the music they’ve only got themselves to blame!

I created the blog Muddywall to share social media trends, ideas, opinion and advice. I'm a social media specialist working with businesses, organisations and individuals to improve their social media communications. Happy to connect on any of my social media profiles.