Let’s face it: Social media is a HUGE part of our culture today. It’s not going away anytime soon. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and many others are fantastic ways for brands to engage with their consumers directly. But you already know that. The challenge in using social media is using effectively and authentically. Many different companies, from huge, multi-billion dollar brands all the way down to the one man start-ups and nonprofits, are trying to reach their consumers through social media because it is cheap, fast, and efficient. But are their efforts actually working?
One noticeable trend that highlights the power of social media is the increasing use of twitter “hashtags” in commercials. For those who have yet to join the twitterverse, “the # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages” (source). Marketers have realized that many consumers use Twitter to discuss and comment on cultural events and social trends. Big brands are now trying to utilize the power of Twitter to increase brand awareness, consumer insights, and word-of-mouth promotions because it’s a more organic, straightforward medium. The most efficient way to do this would be to create an official hashtag for consumers to use when they want to discuss a specific event, product, or ad. That way, the company can track consumer-generated content more quickly and cheaply than hiring a marketing research firm.
However, for this to work the consumers need to actually use the hashtag. Relying on consumers to do what you want can be tricky. I read an article about the effectiveness of official hashtags when used in Superbowl commercials this year. Yes, it’s another infographic but I promise there is writing too. The analysis found that when consumers wanted to talk about a specific Superbowl ad on Twitter, they were much more likely to use the brand name in a hashtag than the one featured in the ad. Therefore, commercials that promoted the brand name as the hashtag (Calvin Klein, Doritos) were used significantly more than the other hashtags promoting the specific brand. The popularity of the ad was also a factor in the use of its hashtag.
Social media can be a powerful tool for small companies and nonprofits such as Make A Hero to engage with potential donors and consumers. Or it can be a colossal waste of time. It all depends on how effectively you use it. Wandering blindly around social media, hoping consumers will care and, more importantly, share your content is like shouting into already crowded, noisy room. It just adds more noise that people block out. The trick is finding your target market on their social media platforms, identifying the way they use those platforms, and communicating with them one-on-one with content they will actually find intriguing and worth their time. Social media is our individual, personal outlet to show the world who we are. People use the platforms in many different ways for a variety of reasons. Tailoring your social media plan to accommodate that is the best way to ensure you are using it to your advantage. Otherwise, you will just keep shouting at people who don’t care.