Three reasons to use Twitter hashtags in advertising

Three reasons to use Twitter hashtags in advertising

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We’re increasingly seeing Twitter hashtags across other media. From the #bbcqt message that flashes up during the BBC’s Question Time programme, to hashtags being read out during radio programmes. They have also been increasingly appearing in advertising during the last six months. Often with no real explanation of what they are for the uninitiated.

Why are we seeing more hashtags in advertising, taking up space that could be used by other copy? The current #HomeAdvantage ad campaign from British Airways is a classic example of this, and there are three broad reasons it is using hashtags and three broad benefits for the brand and consumer.

1. To allow the brand find and engage in conversations

A very simple reason for alerting people to a hashtag is not for consumers to discover new content, but for the brand to discover people who are talking about the advert and engage them in conversation. British Airways is clearly doing this with the #HomeAdvantage campaign; finding people using the hashtag an engaging them in what can best be described as ‘banter’ in the spirit of the campaign.

This can be a great way to interact with your audience and to provide a rounded experience to the advert – the brand produces an advert that the consumer watches; they can then talk to each other about the advert. Obviously this would only work for an advert you are confident people are going to talk about in any volume, but it would allow you to find, in one place, people discussing it and to talk to them directly.

2. To allow people to uncover more content in social media

As a consumer of the advert (and, the brand no doubt hopes, of the product it is trying to sell) a clear benefit for my of remembering the hashtag and then searching for it online is to uncover something new. New content from the brand that extends the advert, provides me more information or a different experience that I can only get online. The BA campaign allows you to discover a way to personalise the advert by showing the plane travelling down the street you live in, for example. There is no clear link to this in the advert, but searching for the hashtag allows you to discover this.

To some extent, this is similar to adverts that prompt people to ‘search for’ a given keyword or phrase. Links do not work effectively from TV, print or radio adverts. Rather let the consumer go and search and discover the content for themselves.

3. To allow people to find others talking about the advert

Finally, as with any hashtag, the real benefit for consumers is if it allows them to find others who are interested in the same issues as them. To start to build communities of interests through Twitter that talk about the same things and are interested in what others are sharing. It is clear that an aim with the #HomeAdvantage campaign is to build a movement on Twitter of people who use the hashtag to discuss and support Great Britain during the Olympics.

Building a community like this is very difficult. It works for programmes like Question Time – where each week people find and talk to others who have the same interests as them. But can be very difficult for advertising. People may congregate round the advert itself if it is particularly emotive (such as the John Lewis advert last Christmas). But few adverts will evoke an issue or topic that people will want to meet others and discuss. The British Airways may just achieve this – not because it is about British Airways, but because it is about London 2012.

Photo credit: British Airways on Instagram