The Future of Hashtag Analytics #herewego

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The Future of Hashtag Analytics #herewego
The Future of Hashtag Analytics #herewego

#Superbowl2013xlvii, #MarchMadness, #SmallBusinessSaturday—these are just a few of the popular hashtags that kicked off 2013. Twitter, and most specifically hashtags, dominated these occasions and thousands of hashtags continue to be linked to just about every sporting event, concert, holiday, advertisement, retailer, brand, or promotion that we interact with on a daily basis. You name it and there's a hashtag for it. The increasing number of hashtags floating through the spectrum of social media is staggering. How are companies capturing and tracking this plethora of hashtag data and making sense of it all?

The power that hashtags has brought to marketing with the possibility to permeate across social platforms is a unique strength that is yet to be fully explored. Let's talk now about the nuances of hashtag marketing, how businesses can benefit from hashtag usage, and how analytics is playing a key role in making sense of all the hashtag data captured.

In fact, the increasing popularity of the word “hashtag” led to it being chosen by the American Dialect Society as the 2012 “Word of the Year.”

Gaining prominence and popularity

Hashtags initially emerged around 2007, a humble good-to-have functionality on Twitter and as a metadata tag that can add context to or categorize a tweet. 2012 was truly the age of the hashtag. It moved from being associated only with Twitter to gaining presence across various social platforms, including Google+, Instagram and, Pinterest. The numbers prove it: Half a billion tweets a day, 12% of them flaunting a hashtag is testimony to the tag's increasing popularity. Virgin America, for example, literally—and aptly—named a plane in its fleet en route from SFO to Boston as the #nerdbird.

Hashtag marketing

Hashtags offer marketers a way of cutting through the noise and focusing the spotlight. In the customer lifecycle framework, the different stages that a hashtag can impact are awareness/branding, research, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Awareness/branding

Hashtags can help acquire more followers and increase visibility to your brand through promoted tweets and hashtag chats or tweet chats—an informal way of getting your followers together and portraying your company as an industry thought leader.  Event promotions via hashtags are also very popular. With the introduction of hashtag pages (#Olympics, #2013CES) on Twitter, companies now have a way of monetizing event buzz by transferring traffic back to their websites through online banners and links. Simple tests to better understand the potential traffic inflow can help companies prepare for these hashtag promotions.

Research

Hashtags can be used to compare between two products and enable consumers to ask for opinions from friends. This is widely unexplored with companies, which have largely yet to juxtapose product launches and hashtag creation. Look for this trend to gain popularity in 2013.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 launch campaign #TheNextGalaxy dominated Twitter in early March with the launch of the Samsung S4, with 307,000 people posting 609,000 tweets on the main topic of the day, according to Salorix metrics. Forty-two percent of the day's hashtags were from Samsung campaigns, including the likes of #unpacked, #thenextgalaxylaunch and #thenextgalax. Samsung was then able to analyze the data and regions with the most tweets.

Satisfaction and customer loyalty

Word-of-mouth marketing and expression of sentiment related to your products are the most relevant stages where hashtags are most useful. Prior to hashtags, Twitter analytics came with the mammoth task of filtering relevant tweets through techniques such as NLP (Natural Language Processing). With hashtags, the data scientist's job becomes much simpler as it lets marketers work with a focused dataset. Additionally, analyzing the context in which a hashtag is being used gives the marketer powerful insights on feedback for products, campaigns, or any special promotions that have been launched.

Businesses are using analytic tools to analyze this data and build on their social media marketing and related business processes. In one recent example, Hewlett-Packard was quick to react to #NeedHPink being associated with “Harry Potter tattoos” and quickly remedied the situation on social media.

Target market sentiment

Another important use of hashtags is to understand your company or product's target sentiment. One way of doing this is to analyze hashtags that your followers follow; this will lead to insights into the related topics and events that your brand should participate in. For example, gaming laptop manufacturers can monitor and follow hashtags initiated by popular gaming events such as the group Major League Gaming (e.g. #MLGDallas).

The recent partnership between American Express and Twitter to add purchasing power by tweeting specific hashtags is the beginning of hashtag commerce. Hashtags, like everything else social and user-generated, can be a source of spam. They can easily turn into Bashtags (#McDStories), which can lead to trending negative sentiment towards the brand. These have to be monitored carefully.

Marketing analytics tools such as hashtags.org or twtbase.com are available to help marketers better understand the impact of hashtag usage, understand the specific benefits they bring in terms of traffic generation, identify related themes/influencers, and capture sentiment and reach. Functionalities are being introduced to these tools on a daily basis, a recent one being CyBranding's feature of tracking hashtags by language. Facebook also announced that it finally integrated hashtags as a feature, thus creating a whole new element to this social media platform. However, the “This is not Twitter. Hashtags don't work here” group on Facebook isn't so pleased. Recently, this group posted “Supposedly Facebook is working to integrate hashtags. Gross.” So there's still some work and acceptance to be done here.

Hashtagging is here to stay, and marketers should take advantage of the data it creates. There is an abundance of marketing analytics tools that sales and marketing divisions can use to exploit the data, which is available to them via the various social media platforms. Businesses today have access to an abundance of data by simply analyzing the hashtags that impact their brand or business the most.



Ashwini Periyaswamy is an engagement manager at
Mu Sigma and is currently focused on marketing analytics.

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