No marketing tool has quite taken off like the hashtag. In today’s world, every television show, music single, product launch, and social movement earns its own hashtag.
What once started as a way to organize conversation threads on Twitter in 2007 has turned into a powerful way to create ad-hoc communities of participants across social networks sharing ideas via words, photos, and videos.
Make no mistake: The hashtag is here to stay.
Unlike other marketing fads such as the AOL keyword or QR code, the hashtag has transcended marketing and is now widely adopted by participants around the world. Here are some reasons why the hashtag isn’t going the way of the QR code:
1. The hashtag is platform-agnostic: It works on several social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Google+ with more surely to come aboard and harness its power to unite communities.
The QR code hides its content behind a digitized square maze that is mysterious and requires a special app to scan and open. In a world where time is the most precious commodity, the QR code was and still is a drawn-out, timely, and consumer-unfriendly experience.
I don't recommend scanning QR codes on the highway.
2. There is no barrier to entry: The hashtag is democratic, allowing people to create their own for whatever purpose they desire. There is no registration process like with QR codes or domains. A brand can promote a hashtag as part of a campaign. All it needs to do is a bit of research to make sure it isn’t active with another brand and then introduce it within promotional materials or as part of a social post.
3. The hashtag is an invitation to participate and interact: Whether it's up on the video board at a football game or on a social wall behind a performing musician, the hashtag is a great way to invite fans to get involved and share their experiences on social media. What is remarkable is that no introduction or explanation is needed. Just adding the hashtag to the end of any promotion is enough to inform an audience of fans or participants what to do. This is very different from the days when a brand had to specifically tell users: “Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook.”
The QR code in contrast only allows people to consume content, not create it. When people scan a QR code and love the content they see, there is no identifiable way to share it with a community of people who will appreciate it.
Where will hashtags go next? A better question is where won’t they? The hashtag has become the defacto rallying call for today’s social issues, marketing campaigns, and consumer opinions. It’s influence and adoption will only keep expanding.
If you aren’t integrating hashtags into your marketing, the time is now. Don’t overthink it. Think of a name or idea that can be captured within the hashtag format and include it with your next campaign. The result can be quite rewarding, providing a mechanism in which conversation can rally around a new community.
I’d love to hear your opinion. Use #heretostay and share your thoughts on the impact of the hashtag.