#. This symbol may be officially known as a pound sign but if you ask just about anyone what it is these days, it’s much more likely they’ll tell you it’s a hashtag. Hashtags have evolved over the last several years thanks to social media. They’ve gone from being used as an easy way to categorize content to a way to drive conversations, create buzz and engage millions of people. Companies, brands and individuals alike have jumped on the hashtag train and are using them to connect with their followers both online and offline.
Television networks and entertainment brands are taking advantage of the popularity of hashtags by incorporating them into their actual programming content. A recent study conducted by Deloitte found that more than 90 percent of US consumers are multitasking while watching TV and that “millennials admitted to engaging in an average of four additional activities while watching TV, primarily surfing the Internet, using social networks and text messaging,” making it no surprise that shows have been using hashtags to engage their viewers. When watching TV these days, hashtags regularly appear on the screen, whether they reference a particular scene or the show as a whole. They are a way for viewers to discuss what’s happening and have their thoughts about the show heard.
Here are three examples of TV shows that successfully incorporated hashtags to drive conversations, keep viewers interested and make them a part of the show… and what marketers can learn from their use of hashtags.
Scandal started integrating hashtags a few years ago in an attempt to gain traction on Twitter and help connect the cast with viewers. There proved to be a 7% spike in conversation when the show’s Twitter handle was tweeting and a 64% lift in conversation when the cast tweeted. Those lifts in conversation paved the way for ABC to brand Thursdays with the #TGIT hashtag. Scandal became one of the first shows to use hashtags in advertising in 2012 with the #WhoShotFitz hashtag. While viewers had made up their own hashtags in the past, #WhoShotFitz allowed fans to rally around a single thought and a shared conversation. Since then hashtags have appeared in multiple scenes throughout an episode, building upon each other and shaping the conversation.
So, what can marketers take away from Scandal’s use of hashtags? Find a common theme that will intrigue your followers and that will help you shape the conversation in a meaningful (and trackable) way.
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
Jimmy Fallon started building entire show segments on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and now on The Tonight Show based on viewers’ responses to the hashtags he mentions. Jimmy’s hashtag game turns viewers into contributors. He mentions a hashtag on air or on his Twitter account and scores of tweets come through in response. The best responses to his hashtags are featured on the show or are posted on The Tonight Show’s website. Some of the hashtags the show has made trending are #momtexts, #polarvortexsongs and most recently #summerraps.
What can marketers take away from Jimmy’s hashtag game? Engage customers by making them contributors. Choose a hashtag that asks a question or requires your followers to share a personal experience. Also, everyone loves a good laugh, so try to add humor, if applicable to your brand tone and personality.
One year, I got the book “He’s Just Not That Into You” from FIVE different people. Message received. #worstgiftever Sorry, @gregorybehrendt
— Dani Dudek (@fancypantsLATX) December 10, 2013
My uncle always wraps birthday gifts in the obituaries to remind us of how lucky we are to celebrate another year. #myweirdrelative
— Doofenyoyo (@Doofenyoyo) November 13, 2013
The Voice (NBC)
In 2013, the popular singing competition The Voice introduced a new way for viewers to save their top picks by using the hashtag #VoiceSave. Fans of the show were able to save one of the three lowest ranking contestants using the hashtag. During an April 2015 broadcast, their hashtag garnered a total of 1.1 million tweets which were viewed 13.5 million times, according to Nielsen. Hashtags have helped the show become one of the most popular reality shows on television because of active discussions on social media during and after the broadcast. Twitter’s research team took a look at half a season of tweets, with a focus on hashtags around the top 8 reality shows. They found that those who used the official #TheVoice hashtag tweeted an average of 1.3 times more than those who didn’t and 27% of live Twitter conversations around the show included hashtags that were promoted during the broadcast, among other findings.
So, what can marketers take away from how The Voice the uses hashtags? Make your hashtags interactive and a way for your followers to show loyalty to your brand. If the hashtag starts a meaningful conversation, you can learn what your customers like or don’t like and can help improve your brand.
Hashtags can be just what your brand needs to better connect with your customers and shape the conversation you want to have with your followers. These examples have shown how integrating hashtags can expand your social media base and further engage viewers. While hashtags can be extremely successful in building brand awareness and driving positive conversations, there have been plenty of #hashtagfails. So, think and do some research before you hashtag, but most importantly have fun! #HappyHashtagging