Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

#Hashtags Are Now The Language That Binds Us

In 2009 I singled out a major problem with twitter…hashtags. That same problem exists today. You and I could be both watching the Grammy’s and tweeting about it. You might be using the hashtag #grammys and I might be using #grammys13. People following each hashtag will be seeing 2 very different conversations, although both hashtags are talking about the same topic.

In 2009, sponsored tweets didn’t exist. It’s existence today and use by companies softened the “chaos of hashtags.” But, the real game changer was the integration of hashtags into mainstream media, like TV shows. If you’ve somehow missed this, turn on American Idol, look at the lower right hand corner and you’ll see a prominently placed hashtag. That hashtag is telling all the people watching to centralize their conversation on twitter against that hashtag. Smart. But, that only helped close the gap; it didn’t eliminate it.

I think the big effort to close the gap came from Nike. No surprise there. Nike is one of the few organizations with the ability to see around the corner, tap into everyday culture and push the bounds of marketing. On January 1, 2013, after being woefully dormant on social media, they came to the party in a big way with their #makeitcount campaign. The hashtag was used in print, tv and of course twitter. But, in the first steps of its kind, it was also used in Instagram. Since launching, Nike’s account rocketed to the top of the most followed Instagram account. More importantly #makeitcount permeated society and became a way people from all walks of life could share their athletic efforts…however big or small.

There’s a general rule in marketing, when Nike does it, the evolution of marketing advances, but people will say, “yeah, but that’s Nike. We’re not Nike.” So the next thing that needs to happen is for P&G or Coke to do whatever Nike did. For whatever reason, that’s the validation we seem to need as a marketing community, before we try something different. Well, if Nike was the first shoe to drop, here’s the other foot:

Coke #showyourheart

Yes, you’re reading that right. It’s a hashtag on packaging. What? Yep, a hashtag on packaging. The hashtag is part of a pretty amazing campaign from Coke, called #showyourheart. It would seem that Coke is really on trend here, especially with Facebook’s very recent announcement that they will begin using hashtags as a way to search their social graph.

Admittedly, as a marketer who likes to push boundaries, I’m jealous of this effort from Coke. I think it’s smart, on trend, a bit edgy and different. That’s why we got into marketing right? Well, besides to drive the business. You get my point. What Coke did wasn’t just smart, it was cost efficient. It’s almost zero cost to change the printing plate to allow for the inclusion of a hashtag. Even if you didn’t want to go that BIG with the inclusion, you could simply replace the URL on the back of the can, box, pouch, bag, etc. with the hashtag…as an experiment. Folks, this is real time test and learn…at almost no cost. It’s certainly a less costly investment than Oreo’s Super Bowl ad with the Instagram hashtag call to action. For those of you who only paid attention to their “dunk in the dark” tweet, yes Oreo had a Super Bowl ad 🙂

In 4 years, hashtags have gone from something geeky to something that’s nearly commonplace language. What we’re seeing with Coke is the tip of the iceberg. With Coke and Nike invested, it’s only a matter of time before everyone else jumps into the pond. My advice, get there fast, while it’s still new, fresh, different and likely to generate an action. The minute it becomes too mainstream you’ll see conversion rates decrease as consumers are overwhelmed with options. Also, don’t stop at hashtags. We’ve seen the evolution of digital calls to action go from “AOL keyword {insert keyword} to URLs to Facebook icons to, now, hashtags. Something else will replace it.

The big lesson here is look for ways to bind your marketing efforts together. If you want to call it, integrating “paid, owned and earned,” have at it. Personally, I think those are bad labels, but if it’s what you need to think about integrating your efforts, great. At the intersection of culture and communication is the opportunity to stretch your dollars and make your marketing all the more effective.

Get your track shoes on. It’s going to accelerate and change fast. #hashtagsarenowthelanguagethatbindsus