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Hashtags: The New Age of #Conversations

Aditi Raghavan

Back in the day, they called it the Pound Sign. Now more commonly known as the Hashtag, this familiar refrain from automated telephone systems everywhere leads the way in the present era of Pop Culture. The Hashtag has arrived. The wonky “#” symbol is now so ubiquitous in its use, both online and offline.

At Unmetric, the Hashtag is our new frontier. In our soon to be launched revamped Twitter platform, we distill the pervasiveness of the Hashtag phenomenon amongst brands and provide a way to gauge their engagement on Twitter. We also analyze the hashtag to assess relevance of brand content and social media strategy in a challenging 140-character playground – How are brands driving conversations on Twitter? Or more specifically, How “with-it” are they? And does that work?

There are a couple of different reasons why we at Unmetric are deliriously gung-ho about rolling out hashtag analytics in our platform. To begin, we recognize that Hashtags are awesome. So much so that even Facebook wants to be them. Hashtags began their journey on the World Wide Web as a mere function, a way to index and label messages. Since then, owing to Twitter, Hashtags have evolved to the point where they are considered a literary phenomenon. Witty use of a pithy Hashtag on Twitter can even make a celebrity. Importantly though, Hashtags serve as a visible and concise link to popular culture and current events. They are the inside jokes, the call to action, the imagined fist-bump – all rolled into a short phrase preceded by a pound sign. And whatever you do, don’t ever press the spacebar.

But, why on earth should Brands care about analyzing hashtags?

Hashtags embody Relevance: Using Twitter as part of a brand’s social media strategy implies going beyond chopping Facebook or website content into 140 characters. It also means adopting the nuances of a medium of communication. Hashtags aren’t just words – they trend, they link to conversations, they draw in the eyeballs. Take, for instance, the #Superbowl of 2013 – Brands like Tide and Walgreens that news-jacked the #blackout with funny tweets weren’t just putting the right content out at the right time – in a matter of minutes, they became the cool kids in the classroom that everyone knew and heard about.

Hashtags are Niche: A brand can totally create and own a Hashtag. They are the not-so-obvious way a brand uses to build relationships with their customers. Ever heard of the Southwest flight from Austin to San Jose? SXSW to Silicon Valley, Tech Hub to Tech Hub, UT to Stanford? Or as Southwest’s Twitter Peeps know it – the #Nerdbird. Genius.

Hashtags are Conversational: Brands adopt popular Hashtags all the time. What this does is make them a part of the larger conversation in the online world, be it about a natural disaster or upcoming holidays. Remember the Blizzard named after a Fish named Nemo (or, as the great readers of the world would know, a Captain of a very famous submarine) ? In a great example of real time marketing, Starbucks linked their Twitter ads to the Hashtags #Nemo, #blizzard so users would see them when they clicked on the Hashtag. In Connecticut, Starbucks even put out a deal on Twitter for free coffee and the lure to come in and warm up, using the same #Nemo Hashtag. #Win.

Unmetric’s Hashtag Analytics goes beyond providing mere numbers or charts. What it truly does is show our users the stories, narratives and relationships that brands construct on Twitter as an extension of their social media strategy. We hope to roll it out of the pipeline very soon, so stay tuned to updates in our ‘Continuing Innovation’ series. In the meantime, drop us a line @unmetric with your favourite #Hashtag story and Sign up for a free 10 day trial here.