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Turn a #Hashtag Into a Brand

f you’ve been following my work during the past year, you may have noticed that I like to write about social media—a lot. Particularly, I’ve been harboring on the power of hashtags and what they can do for brands. The truth is that I can’t talk about hashtags enough. Whether for nonprofits, for-profits, startups or established businesses, hashtags are the social amplification of a message or movement.

Simply put: Hashtags can build a brand.

Driving home this point was a fervent panel at Social Media Week in New York for the Friday session entitled “Turning a Hashtag Into a Brand”. The speakers—all of whom, at least in part, built their brands with hashtags—shared a few golden nuggets to an audience of about 200 listeners on the open floor of Highline Stages in the Meatpacking District. All have created social messages that, several times over, have gone viral; and each stressed the untapped potential of social media.

Here, I’ve culled just a few of the more poignant sound bites on how hashtags can prompt virality, cultivate a following, and help marketers ride the wave of a movement.

“The hashtag, when added to brands, gives it that boldness—that underline, that power. Even if a brand is new, [a hashtag] gives it power. That’s what I love about hashtags.” —Elliott Wilson, CEO of Rap Radar and co-creator of the #CRWN series, which features popular hip-hop artists

“Hashtags give you the unpredictable. With hashtags, you’ll discover how much your message or your movement will grow. And they allow you to have that string that’s constantly connected to your audience.” —Kazeem Famuyide, founding editor at STASHED and creator of HennyPalooza.com

“How do you own a hashtag? I guarantee that someone has used the hashtag before—at least most of them. So when you choose a hashtag, be comfortable with the content that’s already associated with that hashtag. Determine if that content will distract or confuse people. Then own it, and let it go. It’s a bit like control and chaos.” —Lauren Fleischer, senior associate brand manager, Mondel?z International

“When you create a hashtag, put your own stamp on it, your own identity on it. You don’t have to be the first; just take it to the next level. There’s a difference between being the first to do something and being the best at it.” —Famuyide

“With hashtags, you’re creating your own world of curation. I’m saying what I think is important, and I get to see what others are talking about.” —Wilson

“You want to be part of the culture. We want to be what others are talking about. Ask how you can infiltrate and then connect in [the audience’s] world. Your connection can be through hashtags. You just have to think about what you can bring that’s fresh to the culture and to the conversations.” —Fleischer

“As we look out into the future of hashtags, we’re going to begin to see hashtags that drive action. Right now, we’re using them to spark or enter a conversation. In the future, they’ll drive more action for brands.” —Fleischer

“The future of hashtags? More hashtags.” —Wilson

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