The power of #hashtags

With the rise of social media came the inevitable rise and arguably the overuse of the hashtag. It’s a great tool to achieve that extra reach for your Instagram post or tweet, or even believe it or not – it can be a life saver too. The humble hashtag began back in the 80’s as a tool to categorise certain content into recognisable groups, which is not so different to the hashtag that we all know and love today.

Hashtags became hot (pardon the pun) in 2007 when journalists used #sandiegofire to communicate news regarding a fire in San Diego and following this they soon became mainstream on Twitter with Facebook trailing relatively far behind only incorporating the hashtag in 2013.

Often the main driver for any integrated campaign, the hashtag is extremely important in the social media world – check out a few of the most powerful (we think) examples below;

Red Cross Peru – hashtags for life

This ground-breaking campaign from the Red Cross in Peru has proven to be quite literally a life-saver. With a population of over 30 million people and only 1,250 people on the blood donor database the numbers simply didn’t match up. The campaign ‘hashtags for life’ meant that all people needed to do in order to be added to the voluntary database was hashtag their blood type e.g. #OPOSITIVEPERU.

The incredible success of this campaign led to a database increase of over 1800% and over 22,000 new donors in Peru and plans to implement the same across Latin America. We reckon that’s a pretty powerful hashtag…

Sydney Opera House – #ComeOnIn

This campaign goes to show that a little bit of personalisation can go a long way. Jumping on the ‘tourist’ selfie bandwagon, Sydney Opera House replied to peoples’ pictures on Instagram with a personalised message telling them to ‘come on in’ and have a unique experience. Experiences ranged from cocktail making with a view of Harbour Bridge to contortionist lessons – could this be the future of user generated content? Watch this space….

Burger King #WhoIsTheKing 

A spot of ‘healthy’ competition for this next campaign between fast food giants McDonald’s and Burger King – with only 45 Burger Kings and a whopping 1300 McDonald’s across France, it would appear McDonald’s has the upper hand. Obviously, McDonald’s thought so too when they released a web video highlighting their dominance in the market with two signposts displaying “5km to the next McDonald’s” and “258km to the next Burger King”.

Burger King responded 3 days later in a spectacularly witty way with an alternative ending to their video. Showing a couple stopping at a McDonald’s drive-thru to pick up a large coffee for the long drive ahead to Burger King. So witty in the fact that it recently won Gold at Cannes Lions in the promo and activation category, earned 4 million euros of earned media for 5000 euros media investment, 10 million views in 4 days, 350,000 shares and perhaps most impressively overtook the trending topic of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar. The term quality over quantity springs to mind….

Now to end on a fun fact; for years before social media really took off, the hashtag symbol was known as the ‘pound sign’ – more than just a touch of irony there?

Jack Roberts

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