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The Hashtag: From a Simple Conversation Aggregator to a Pop-Culture Phenomenon

The Hashtag. It’s gone from a simple social conversation aggregator to a pop culture phenomenon in a very short period of time.  Today most social networks have adopted this functionality, however the users of these social networks are scattered all over the adoption curve when it comes to leveraging a hashtag within their communication. From those who aren’t familiar with the term or how to leverage it (i.e. my mother), to those that hashtag everything – and I mean everything – variety continues to be the spice of life when it comes to hashtag use in social channels.

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This skewed consumption of hashtag usage begs me to ask a couple of questions of of social network users.

How can we begin to entice those not leveraging this powerful conversation aggregator to start dabbling with it? In doing so, these non-users would have the opportunity to uncover new information, insights, ideas and the potential to make new connections with people all over the globe, around topics that matter to them. I see this as a real value add.

How can we get the over users to dial it back a bit (or in some cases a lot)? We’ve all seen this before – #the #ones #that #hashtag #simply #everything. What is the point?  They are certainly not leveraging this conversation aggregator in a productive way, unless that is they are trying to follow every possible variation of the conversation they are entering with the picture they post, the tweet they send, or the status they update.  I would guess probably not; and that it’s just a ploy for attention. Or it’s a poor tactic to gain more meaningless followers through over exposure.  It certainly opens up some new comedic territory for exploration – as seen by this great skit from Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake.

I’m not sure I have the answer to the above questions I posed – it’s something I am pondering though.  What are your thoughts? Are non-users missing out? How much is too much?

PSA: Moderation is key with just about everything – even with #hashtags.


The Super Bowl Social

Super Bowl Sunday brings us big parties, a big game, and even bigger commercials.  Every year the bar seems to climb higher from a creativity standpoint and brands are reaching further to get something to resonate with consumers.  It seems more people come to work on Monday morning and discuss the commercials more than they do the game, which was certainly the case in my office today.  In fact the Super Bowl is the one day a year I use my DVR to rewind commercials and re-watch them rather that simply buzzing right by them.

This year I watched the highly anticipated commercials through a new lens.  I wanted to see just how big brands would leverage the use of social media to extend their overall reach and continue the conversation with consumers post view.  Last year it seemed as if the use of social within the realm of TV was just starting to take off, so I was confident the this year’s Super Bowl would be the spring board to really see some great integration.

To my surprise very few brands added this social layer to their commercials, when you look at all of those that purchased spots during the big game.  Perhaps there are still a lot of unknowns as the space is still relatively new.  Maybe when you are investing 3.5 million dollars on a 30 second television spot, you just stick with what works?  Or maybe you take a risk, try something different, and get people talking about your brand in a new way? I’m not saying I have the right answer, but in my opinion trying new things [although not without challenges] often pays off in spades.

Out of all of the commercials I saw yesterday only two brands chose to use a Twitter hashtag to get viewers buzzing about the commercial they just saw. What a great way to continue the conversation and buzz about the brand – Kudos to Audi [#SoLongVampires] and Bud Light [#MakeItPlatinum]. I am certain that both brands saw significant traffic to both their social channels as well as their websites post airing of these commercial with the integrated social layer – even if the hashtags chosen are sub-optimal and don’t really speak to the brand they represent. In this case I am talking about Audi’s play off the Vampire craze that is seemingly oozing out of pop culture in the wake of the Twilight series.  Not sure association with Vampires is a way to sell luxury automobiles, but it sure gets people talking about the brand. Mission accomplished Audi.

Coca-Cola leveraged their infamous polar bears, directing viewers to CokePolarBowl.com which took users to a custom Facebook app where you could watch the bear’s reactions to the big game.  The URL now re-directs viewers Coke’s YouTube channel that has been re-skinned to play off the polar bear theme.  A recent article on Ad-Age reports that more than 600,000 viewers were following the live stream of the Polar Bowl Facebook App by the third quarter.  Even the @CocaCola Twitter handle was turned over to the bears and Coke is reporting a 12.5% increase in US followers prior to kickoff.  This is a great example of how brands can look to extend both the conversation and consumer engagement beyond the realm of just television.

Another way I did see brands try and differentiate their commercials during the Super Bowl this year, was by use of a 3rd party app accessible on any Smartphone or tablet.  It was clear these brands such as Pepsi, Best Buy, and Toyota were trying to reach those with connected devices and serve them additional messages.  The app these brands turned to was called Shazam, which when activated listens to the audio track of a song, or in this case commercial, the can serve up the name, artist info, and in this case exclusive content only those that engaged with the commercial by way of the Shazam app, could experience.  While I am an avid user of the app, I can’t see myself reaching in my pocket for my phone, accessing the app, and recording the audio from the commercial in an effort to get a nugget of new content.  Heck, it takes me more than 30 seconds to get my phone out of my pocket sometimes.  Although this approach of integrating Shazam into the commercial didn’t resonate much with me personally, I applaud these brands efforts for thinking differently and trying something new. In hindsight I could have leveraged that good old DVR to dig deeper on this one and Shazam! Get that exclusive content.

This years Super Bowl commercials are only the beginning.  I predict [and I’m sure many others in the social business realm do as well] that social integration will continue to gain traction and popularity thus finding a home within television commercials.  We’re even beginning to see a shift in how TV is broadcast to us adding in social elements, like live tweets and Facebook updates from sports journalists, news anchors, and even politicians.  This can be seen during many a televised game, news broadcast, or even your favorite reality TV show.  Commercials are not far behind, as more and more brands look to increase visibility, share of voice, and connect deeper with consumers; the social advertising layer will become a new norm.

 

 


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