January 4, 2014
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Hashtags in Event Marketing: A Quick Guide

Hashtags (#) are one of the most prominent factors of social media marketing today, and for a good reason.

The power of Hashtags is threefold:

  • Hashtags make it easier to target a specific group of users.>
  • Hashtags make it easier for your content to get found.
  • Hashtags make it easier for your content to reach a greater audience.

Used wisely, they can become your best chance of engaging online. You can amplify your message, make your brand stand out from the crowd and inevitably gain new brand ambassadors.

The potential to go viral is enormous!

On the other hand, ill-conceived or ill-managed hashtag campaigns can lead to epic failures (#hashtagfail). Even large brands have been guilty of committing hashtag atrocities.

That’s why it is vital to understand hashtags and how they fit into your tourism or wine event marketing strategy before you undertake your next event marketing promotion.

What is a hashtag?

When you see keywords or a phrase preceded by the # symbol in social media platforms, that’s what we call a hashtag. Be it an official hashtag to promote an event like #RestaurantAustralia, something general like #FoodandWine or something a bit more random to state a person’s feelings or state of mind #LoveWine.

The best way to think about them – a hashtag is a simple way to identify messages on a similar topic and connect with like-minded people using real-time data. What makes them even more interesting is that anyone can create a hashtag.

Where can you use hashtags?

Once solely the domain of Twitter, the humble hashtag now features on the most prominent social media platforms. And this in itself shows how the modern marketing world has recognised just how powerful hashtags can be.

What are the main types of hashtags?

User Generated Hashtags

  • Bandwagon Hashtags. Jumping on the bandwagon is what hashtags are all about. Typically generated and increased by Twitter users on a particular ‘hot’ or trending topic; utterly independent of specific companies or brands – they demonstrate perfectly the power and reach of an organic hashtag.
  • Keyword Hashtags. Similar to Bandwagon Hashtags – these keywords or keyphrases help search out a particular topic such as #Wine, #WineMarketing, #EventsMarketing (Note: Bandwagon hashtags have a short life and are used for trending topics while keyword hashtags have a lot longer staying power).
  • Anecdotal Hashtags. Again, user-generated hashtags, but this time not used so much to search out a topic, but more to enhance the story behind the social media post – watch the video below to understand why these types of hashtags can become annoying if overused.

Brand (Business) Generated Hashtags

  • Evergreen Hashtags. These unique hashtags are designed to be in it for the long haul, and they are instant brand identifiers and often function as sub-brands. They are a pivotal part of the modern marketing campaign for long-standing events like the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (#MFWF).
  • Campaign Hashtags. As the name suggests, these hashtags accompany a specific campaign, and they zero in on a cluster of people with a particular interest for a certain amount of time. A great example is Tourism Australia’s #RestaurantAustralia campaign.

Why are they SO crucial to your social media marketing arsenal?

For starters, the media and people in general turn to Social Media for live updates of important events in many instances.

Then there’s the viral potential.

Hashtags are a way for your followers to take a campaign and run with it. Not only do followers add to the conversation, but they share it with all of their friends and followers.

The potential for reach is mind-boggling!

Hashtags are so much more than a way to categorise topics or discussions. They’re an easy way to enter into specific, targeted conversations with those who share similar interests.

And they give us all the perfect stage to stand on as brand ambassadors.

Beware of hashtag hijacking!

Even the most prominent brands have gotten it wrong. And having a well-intentioned campaign hijacked isn’t a fun experience.

Especially if you’ve spent oodles promoting your hashtag, only to have it used in a way unintended.

So as a cautionary tale, let’s learn from possibly two of the biggest fails with hashtags.

#McFail
One of the most famous Twitter hijacks was the 2012 #McDStories. Initially designed to promote wholesome, positive stories about McDonalds, the campaign quickly backfired and went radically off message when attackers turned it into a #bashtag to share their #McDHorrorStories.

Within an hour, horror stories and other vitriol flooded Twitter.

From a user saying they were hospitalised from food poisoning to another saying he lost 50 pounds after quitting working and eating at McDonald’s.

All in all, an epic fail.

#QantasLuxury #OrLackThereOf
In 2011, Australia’s very own Qantas thought it had enough customers who would have a positive experience to share using #QantasLuxury.

Boy, were they wrong!

The campaign generated hundreds of tweets that detailed what people thought of the flights.

What are our top tips for being a #HashtagHero?

First things first.

Before you embark on a hashtag campaign, consider your brand’s reputation and whether you have the potential to be hijacked. If you think so, you’ll need to be more careful about how you approach your campaign.

Once you’re past that hurdle, here are our top tips to make your hashtag campaign a successful one.

No.1 Choose the right hashtag

Ensure there are no other derogatory or inflammatory interpretations to your proposed event Hashtag.

TIP
If two or more words are joined, capitalise the first letter of each word #RestaurantAustralia. You don’t have to do this. But, it does help to make the hashtag easier to read.

No. 2 Build awareness before your event

Let the public know the hashtag for your event by including your hashtag in all social promotions, on your website and in print material.

No.3 Use Hashtags to encourage interaction

Whether it’s a game, a photo sharing promotion or another activity, hashtags are a great way to enable broad online interaction. And don’t be afraid to use a reward to encourage your hashtag use!

No.4 Put Hashtags where they will get noticed.

Don’t stop at traditional advertising and digital marketing spaces. Get creative with where you include your hashtags. Whether it’s somewhere event-goers will take photos or where they’re likely to linger, get your hashtag in full view for them to have when they upload it to social media.

No.5 Join in the conversation

There is no point in creating a groundswell and then not replying. Rule No.1 of social media marketing is to listen and respond!

Make sure you engage with those using the hashtag promptly – retweet or repost them and ask questions, but don’t get salesy as it’s not the place.

Example
The 2014 #RestaurantAustralia campaign by Tourism Australia is an excellent example of a Hashtag Campaign in use. A well conceived and executed campaign that uses social media to spread the message and engage consumers. It was also very educational and well worth a look!

Hopefully, these tips have helped you with your food or wine event promotion. Please feel free to let us know below your hashtag for your upcoming event or festival – we’d love to follow you online.

Tania Shirgwin

Tania Shirgwin

Founder + Head Consultant

Tania is a wine, tourism & hospitality marketing strategist specialising in wine tourism and epicure experience marketing. As founder of Decant Digital (formerly bizeez communications), Tania’s unique role over the past 12 years has enabled her to follow her passions of travel and her marketing obsessions of consumer-focused web development, search optimisation, strategic planning, and training. With over 70 customised wine & tourism websites built to date, successful event marketing and new business launch campaigns, Tania’s wealth of experience ensures businesses continually increase website traffic, direct bookings, and sales via proven marketing tactics.

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