What Three Self-Proclaimed Old Fogies Can Teach Us About Hashtags

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It’s been a while since a hashtag caused quite as much of a stir as #susanalbumparty. That is until Amazon launched its latest Grand Tour campaign. The show’s hosts may be “old and falling apart” but they’re clearly in touch with today’s consumer.

Inspired by the mishaps of early viral digital campaigns, the #amazonshitcarshow campaign not only played to audiences’ appetite for Schadenfreude – the kick we get out of seeing others make mistakes – but also on the ability to underestimate the complexity of social advertising.

In 24 hours, engagements for the hashtag increased by 2,697% (according to 4C proprietary data), propelling the new TV series to the headlines as consumers struggled to work out whether or not the former Top Gear trio had realised the error of their ways. There were even some (temporary) calls for concern.

More importantly for marketers, the campaign exemplified just how effective digital channels are for promoting video content and winning consumer attention. Rather than be seen as a separate tactic, the hashtag should be a vital tool in marketers’ 2019 arsenals. But take note: while The Grand Tour achieved great success with its latest campaign, this is easier said than done, and it’s critical to approach social in a way that will resonate with audiences, rather than ‘one-size-fits-all.’

The different personalities of social media

As a whole, social media platforms have proven to be tremendously valuable for brands in their marketing strategies. Look no further than the $60 billion spent on paid social in 2018 per eMarketer, with that figure expected to climb to $100 billion in 2021 according to Forrester.

Taken together, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and LinkedIn provide great opportunities for marketers to connect with engaged consumers. But there are quite a few differences when it comes to how each of these platforms operates and how consumers use them. Each one aggregates massive audiences across everyday utilities like news, entertainment, shopping and communications – but each does so in a very distinct way, delivering value throughout different steps of the consumer buying journey, to the point where they probably should not be lumped together as “social” anymore.

Furthermore, each platform offers different forms of targeting ­– from interests to keywords to connections to emoji and yes, even hashtags. This means brands must manoeuvre those differences strategically to engage their target audiences with contextual relevance. It’s important to understand exactly what makes a great experience on each platform and how these various forms of interaction coalesce into one fluid experience for audiences.

A # is only as good as the sum of its parts

Viral success is not just about translating digital promotions appropriately to each platform. It’s also about creating supplementary content that brings the promotion to life – and this often means employing the sight, sound, and motion of video.

Sarah Personette, Vice President of Global Client Solutions at Twitter recently shared, “[Today] over 50% of our business is coming from video. We believe that this will continue into 2019 as consumer behaviour shifts there, but also as the demand from brand advertisers continues for using video to tell great creative stories.”

Where brands so often get it wrong is by isolating social media tactics without the proper investment in engaging content. The Grand Tour succeeded because the hashtag sat alongside the captivating video. This gave the hashtag relevance and context to be shared lovingly among fans of the show.

Equally the campaign succeeded because – perhaps above all others – Amazon knows its audience. It’s unfair to assume all brands have access to the same level of insight, but any campaign is destined to fail if it doesn’t start with a true understanding of the audience marketers are trying to reach.

Whether it’s hashtags, geo-filters, or Stories, none of these formats can simply be rolled out across ‘social media’ in the hope they might become viral content. Results are heavily dependent on the synergy between marketer, audience, and platform. By acknowledging the unique characteristics of each platform we can and will see more #brandshititbig in 2019.

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