Martin-Wilbourn Partners

Successful Hashtag Campaigns

Businesses are using hashtags to generate interest in and engagement with social media marketing campaigns. Hashtags are created by placing a pound sign (#) in front of a relevant keyword, phrase or string of letters when posting a message on social media. After it’s posted, clicking one of these hashtags will show you all other messages that contain the same hashtag, allowing you to follow a conversation on a given subject as it proliferates throughout the site. A successful hashtags campaign can create a community of engaged individuals that will help spread marketing messages and brand awareness online.

One recent, successful and highly visible hashtag campaign was Nike’s #MakeItCount. Nike released posts containing the hashtag across Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, asking their fans to share how they planned to “Make it Count.”


Fast food giant Wendy’s succeeded with their hashtag campaign, #twEATfor1K. To promote the Flatbread Grilled Chicken sandwich, Wendy’s encouraged fans to tweet a photo of the Flatbread Grilled Chicken sandwich to @Wendys with the #twEATfor1K hashtag. Anyone who did was entered in a daily drawing to win $1,000.

The White House utilized hashtag marketing in their #40dollars campaign. In December 2011, an impending payroll tax cut expiration meant a drop of about $40 per paycheck for many working families. The White House asked those effected to make their voices heard, posting:

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 14, 2012

Due to the overwhelming response, a two-month extension to the cuts was secured.

Major businesses have seen hashtag campaigns backfire on them. McDonald’s has suffered through two such backfires in recent memory: the first with McDStories, which was meant to solicit stories of positive restaurant experiences but did the opposite, and the second with #UnwrapWhatsFresh, meant to promote the Premium McWrap but instead drawing a significant amount of lewd comments. A great deal of online humor was generated when British singer Susan Boyle’s PR company created the hashtag #susanalbumparty to promote a new record release. The company meant the hashtag to read “Susan Album Party,” but many Twitter users read it as “Su’s Anal Bum Party,” leading to a torrent of unwanted tweets bearing the tag.

There’s no perfect way to ensure that a hashtag won’t backfire, but a business can take steps to maintain control. Consider hashtags carefully in before implementing, and above all, monitor social channels vigilantly when running a hashtag campaign to enable quick response to unforeseen issues.

There are some general dos and don’ts to abide by when creating and using hashtags. Use hashtags to promote events, especially trade shows and conferences. Use them to conduct campaigns across multiple social channels including Twitter, Instagram and Vine. Search hashtags to conduct research, and always research a chosen hashtag to make certain it isn’t already in use. Keep hashtags short — as few characters as possible — and make sure each hashtag has a recognizable meaning.

The power of your social media marketing efforts grows as the reach of your messaging expands, but it’s crucial to always take care in selecting the material you post and to monitor and update social media channels consistently. It has become increasingly clear that some strategies work and others don’t. We know this. The social media experts at Martin-Wilbourn Partners have years of experience creating digital campaigns that bring our clients real results. Contact us today to start a conversation about how social media can be leveraged to grow your brand: