How to use event hashtags successfully

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We attended a wonderful wedding this weekend; and while scrolling through the social media photos over the rest of the weekend, I was reminded of this short post I wrote on the Scout Facebook Page a couple of years ago about event hashtags while I was preparing hashtag cards for another friends’ wedding.

The tips written then are just as relevant today, and apply to business-related events such as networking, training or conferences, sporting events, and other events beyond weddings and parties. But firstly:

What is a hashtag?

According to Google:

hashtag ˈhaʃtaɡ/ noun
  1. a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications, especially Twitter, to identify messages on a specific topic.

I would add to this by saying that hashtags are used to collate content. If you click on a hashtag, you will see ALL public posts that have been shared that also use that hashtag, which is usually related to a topic, e.g. #socialmedia is often used on published updates about social media.

People who are interested in social media can then search for all posts that have been hashtagged with #socialmedia and are likely to see a variety of updates related to that topic.

This can help you to find relevant information, as well as other people who are interested in the same topic.

Think of a tweet as a book in a library, and the hashtag is the label that categorises it to group it with similar books in the library.

Hashtags have also evolved more colloquially to provide context.

This is where less-often you may see someone tag a post with a long statement that is highly unlikely to be a “topic” with a lot of other related posts, but rather allows them a visual way of explaining their update, or mindset, e.g. #somuchworktodohowwillicope

Personally I always imagine these types of hashtags being said very quickly in a low voice or muttered, offering that extra layer of context.

Please note however, this is an unofficial use of the technique, that has evolved from the original.

Hashtags were originally used on Twitter, and are also used heavily on Instagram. They are also used on Google+ and Facebook, but to a lesser degree than Twitter and Instagram.

Also, numerals work in hashtags, but punctuation doesn’t.

Why use a hashtag for your event?

1. To gather different perspectives

It’s not about saving money by not hiring a professional photographer or videographer to document an event (as this is incredibly valuable as well). Encouraging guests to take and share their own photos or videos of an event helps gather different perspectives, that might not be captured by the “main” photographer.

Weddings are a great example of this, as when I attended weddings as a kid, there would usually be a disposable camera on the table for guests to take their own photos. The idea being that the couple would develop the films after the event and hopefully having some other fun, candid photos of their guests enjoying themselves.

Event hashtags are essentially the same thing: a disposable camera for your guests, to gather their perspectives of your special occasion.

2. To create awareness and exposure

Using an event hashtag can not only help create awareness for the event itself, but also for your business or brand, or any other associated businesses, brands or locations who are also involved.

This point of promoting the location is an important one too. Weddings are a great example of this, especially destination weddings. The wedding we attended this weekend was at a gorgeous winery, and although the hashtag itself didn’t mention the location, simply encouraging people to share photos of a great location helps generate awareness and potential business for it as well.

3. To build community

While we are talking about online sharing of content, which helps to grow online community and awareness, using an event hashtag can also help to create community at the physical event as well.

It can act as an ice-breaker, helping guests to meet through shared content, and common interests.

By connecting people through content, we are helping to build relationships, that support strong offline and online communities.

4. To brand the event

Successful active hashtags develop their own identity, which builds not only the brand of the event, but your business or any related brands as well.

If it is a repeatable event, it is incredibly useful for growth of future events.

5. To record the event 

Grouping collated content around a common hashtag creates an online catalogue of the event, that can then be used to refer back to, or promote the overall event etc.

This can be done either by referring directly to the feed, or using a tool such as Storify to handpick hashtagged updates from various social channels to build your own summary using multiple people’s updates.

Top tips for making the most of event hashtags:

1. Make sure at least some of your audience are socially active

Like all social media marketing, only do it if it is going to be relevant to your guests…

If a decent proportion of them are socially active, and likely to share photos and understand hashtagging, then do it.

These people will help get it started and explain it to others.

2. Create a unique, relevant, simple and memorable hashtag

Make sure it’s not used for anything else.

This can be researched simply by typing the hashtag into different social media platforms’ search fields and seeing what comes up.

3. Feature the hashtag wherever you can and encourage people to use it

Seriously. Put it in multiple places in the lead up to and during the event.

Invitations, posters, digital displays, announce it etc.

Just because you know it, don’t assume everyone else will.

4. Contribute to the hashtag

In the lead up to and during the event, post updates yourself (or on your brand channels) using the hashtag, and ask your key influencers or active guests to as well to get it out there.

5. Respond to tagged photos during and after the event

Like, comment etc.

Show your appreciation for people’s contribution.

At a wedding, this mightn’t be viable for the couple to do during the day, but you’ve asked people to use it, so take the time to look back through the photos and acknowledge them.

 

Do you have any other top tops for event hashtags? Share them in the comments!

 

Feature photo by the very talented Big Day Creative (from my wedding!)

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