hashtag hero

Don’t Waste That Hashtag

I keep seeing email after email underutilizing hashtags (ahem, examples above). Retailers seem to be using them as a way to look trendy, but with no real purpose. This is such a missed opportunity. Hashtags are essentially FREE MARKETING! By encouraging your customers to share their images and thoughts about your brand, they are marketing to their friends, family, and followers for you. So how can you use hashtags to your advantage? Here are a few suggestions:

1) HOST A CONTEST
Who doesn’t want free stuff? Contests are a great way to get people involved. In this example, Williams-Sonoma offers a chance to win a grill or grill set for Father’s Day. The hashtag makes a bold appearance in the headline. This campaign could have even more impact if the headline included the words win and/or contest.

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 6/18/16
Subject Line: 3 Days Left! 20% Off 1 Item + 5 Great Picks for DAD – In Stores & Online

williams-sonoma message

2) OFFER FAME / BRAGGING RIGHTS
Social media is addictive. People love to sit back and watch the “like” meter count up. Why not give them their 5 minutes of fame. In this email, Live Love Polish encourages subscribers to tag their nail art photos for a chance to be featured on their website. The headline is well-worded (very direct), and the use of imagery from other customers is an inspiring addition.

From: Live Love Polish
Date: 6/03/16
Subject Line: Ripper NEW BRAND From Down Under!

live love polish message

3) ENCOURAGE SOCIALIZING
Sure, incentives are a great way to populate your hashtag feed, but some people are more than willing to contribute for nothing. Simply make people aware of the hashtag and what it should be used for. Here, Pottery Barn Kids invites customers to simply share their 4th of July photos. I like the use of the Instagram logo used to emphasize the preferred social platform (just in case people are too lazy to read).

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 7/04/2016
Subject Line: Happy 4th of July! Up to 25% off EVERYTHING + FREE SHIPPING (’til midnight!)

pottery barn kids message

4) DONATE TO CHARITY
What a fun, free (for the taggers anyway) and effortless way for customers to donate to a cause! Encourage them to share and in exchange, you make a donation! Aerie shares the love by donating $1 for each post using their hashtag. With this message they decided to go big or go home; it’s hardly a secondary message since it’s comparable in size and location to the primary message. It works though! I only wish the headline was a bit more direct in calling out the donation aspect.

From: aerie
Date: 6/30/16
Subject Line: 500+ Swim Faves Now $10! For REAL.

aerie message

Okay, so let’s say you’re successful in creating and populating a unique hashtag. Some of the marketing has already begun by people simply contributing to it. New posts will show up in “new” or “popular” areas of social media, and followers of people who have shared will see the posts in their feeds. Now’s the time to take it one step further. Include a link in your emails (and/or website) to encourage more people to check it out and contribute.

There are a few options for creating links to these posts. You can link to a page within Instagram or Twitter, but that will limit you to that one social media provider. If you want to grab hashtags from all social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example), companies like Tagboard offer just that. You can link to a page within the site for your hashtag, or (for a price) Tagboard also allows you to embed posts on your website (displayed in an iframe).

A SMALL TIP: For a hashtag that’s more general, feel free to give it hierarchy in your email when you wish, but there’s no reason you can’t permanently give it a home at the bottom of your email. Here are two examples, from Carters and Land of Nod, showing how they included their hashtag in their footer.

carters footer  land of nod footer

ONE FINAL NOTE. Make sure when using a hashtag that you’re clear about how it should be used. If customers don’t know what it’s there for, you’ll be missing out. Here’s an example illustrating this from Banana Republic. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that they’re attempting to create a public hashtag; they call it out in two separate emails (in a prime location) and even in the subject line. However, there is no explanation about how the hashtag should be used. (IE: who should be using it and what type of posts should go there.) As a result, there have only been a couple posts using this hashtag to date, all made by Banana Republic. I would like to give them props for making the hashtag bold; it definitely stands out. It just needs a bit more instruction with it.

From: Banana Republic
Date: 6/19/16
Subject Line: This week in Your Life. Styled.

banana republic message

From: Banana Republic
Date: 6/20/16
Subject Line: Now, later, always: #BRClassic

banana republic message

In summary, if you’re going to use a hashtag, think beyond looking #trendy and make them work for you!