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What Viral Hashtags Can Teach Us About Content


As a Community Manager, I spend a lot of time on social media platforms and consequently see a LOT of hashtags. Some are evergreen (e.g. #contentmarketing), some are timely and event-related (e.g. #Oscars), but few successfully accomplish what brands are using them to achieve: engagement and brand awareness.

Hashtags are an excellent tool for generating brand awareness in both the B2B and B2C spaces because they allow for marketers to cut through the noise and measure the conversation surrounding a particular topic. A business’ rationale for using a hashtag is nothing new, but it brings one key question to the forefront: what makes a hashtag good enough to drive an entire campaign?

Headlining campaigns with hashtags is something we’ve seen brands try again and again. While plastering a hashtag on a billboard or automated tweet wraps a neat little bow around a campaign’s elements, it doesn’t necessarily hook your customers or compel them to truly engage in the conversation. 

Although there were many successful hashtag-driven campaigns in 2014, only a few viral examples really hit the mark. Taking a look back, a couple of common themes underline these campaigns that could be kept in mind for all content creation.


Memorable only because the sensation of having a bucket of ice dumped on your head is hard to forget (kidding). While the “nominate and share” formula certainly helped the success of the campaign, the challenge took off for a couple of other key reasons. Not only did people get to be creative and a bit silly for a good cause, but individuals also got kudos from friends and family – the people who actually engaged with the videos.


I don’t follow basketball, and yet, this campaign struck me. Why? Because it united all Canadians, not just Torontonians, and not just Raptors fans. This hashtag moved beyond the purpose and confines of a campaign and demonstrated how national identity can be one of the strongest uniting messages of all.


Coca-Cola wins again! Speaking as a consumer, I have a tendency not to use branded hashtags unless there’s something in it for me. This campaign was a great example of a big brand creating personalized experiences. Although #ShareACoke encouraged digital sharing, it also encouraged literal sharing among friends and family.


The use of a hashtag to promote a conference is a best practice not only to generate buzz during the conference’s duration but also to categorize content after the conference. Though not exactly viral per se, the #Inbound14 conversation is still strong on Twitter. A number of blog posts have also emerged, applying general learnings from the conference to generate content that is interesting for a particular business’ buyer personas.

So, what does make a hashtag strong enough to drive an entire campaign? Timeliness and luck play a bit of a part, but two common themes can be found among the above examples:

  1. The opportunity to deliver personalized experiences
  2. Encouraging the conversation to continue between customers, not just between the brand and the consumer

These are only a couple of the key elements that factor into the success of a hashtag-driven campaign, but they’re also best practices that should go beyond the #hash and fuel other forms of content.