Marketing Padawans: you don’t know the power of the event hashtag

You see hashtags on Twitter all the time, my young apprentice. In fact, you’ve probably used them in your everyday twittering. When you want to observe a conversation, you click a hashtag to see what other Twitter users are saying. To join the discussion, you send a tweet incorporating the hashtag.

Hashtags provide a simple yet powerful way for people around the world to join the same conversation. Event hashtags are a great way to stir conversation about big events like trade shows, conferences, and conventions. Anyone can invent a catchy-sounding hashtag, but when used to their full advantage, hashtags have more power than you could possibly imagine. Stop using your hashtags like an untrained padawan. It’s time to wield them like a true Jedi.

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Your ally is the event hashtag, and a powerful ally it is

Hashtags aren’t just confined to Twitter; you can use them on multiple social networks to build community around any event. They’re even better than your old Jedi mind tricks at building anticipation around your event.

Hashtags have a strong influence on the event-minded

Jedi influencers who have significant social media followings and want to promote their attendance at your event will happily use your hashtag. To make it simple, provide a sample tweet or Facebook post for influencers to copy and paste or retweet.

It’s easy to get people to use them

As long as you promote your hashtag, you won’t have to force choke anyone to get them to use it. Try offering a discount, perk, or early opening access to anyone who utilizes your hashtag.

Customer service strength flows from the hashtag

If someone tweets a compliment or thanks you for a great event, your event hashtag makes it easy to see and respond to the tweet. If something’s upsetting people about your event, you can respond quickly before a lightsaber duel breaks out.

They give you the power to identify leads

People using your event hashtag are potential leads, whether they attend your event or chime in afterward. Note their names, locations, and levels of social influence (using tools like Klout). You’ll learn more about your customer base as the force flows through you.

That’s no moon; that’s a fabulous event hashtag

Create your hashtag, and promote it fearlessly before, during, and after your event.

  • Make it memorable. When you create your hashtag, think about how people would search for it on Twitter, Google, or another social network.
  • Include a location in your hashtag if you like, but remember to keep it short. Twitter only offers 140 characters worth of space, and a long hashtag limits conversation.
  • Avoid a disturbance in the Force. Remember to keep customer information safe while you’re using your hashtag to build your marketing database. If you’re saving data in a public cloud, make sure you have a strong, scalable cloud security to protect all the information you’re saving.

Before your event

Once you’ve chosen your hashtag, promote it on all of your TV and radio ads, print ads, search engine ads, Facebook ads, direct mail, and other forms of outreach. Include it in blog posts and in social media posts before, during, and after your event.

You can also raise awareness by featuring it as a promoted tweet or Facebook post. Both platforms display your promoted posts to customers in your target market, ensuring the right people see your hashtag.

During your event

If you have digital signage around your event or even just a projector, a laptop, and a screen, you can set up an event feed that shows a running stream of posts containing your hashtag. Hootsuite, if you’re a subscriber, can generate a live HootFeed customized with your logo and colors. For non-subscribers, Twitterfall is a free option that creates an event feed for you. Both tools comb Twitter, identifying and displaying tweets featuring your hashtag, event name, and other search terms you designate.

After your event

Like a flickering Jedi in the afterlife, your hashtag continues long after your event ends. Ask satisfied customers to create video testimonials about something they experienced at the event, and promote the videos with your event hashtag.

Size matters not

Television, radio spots, and online ads get expensive. Social media costs nothing and can generate big rewards. Build community around your event without constructing a technological terror. May the force be with you — and your event hashtag.

Image: Pascal via Flickr.

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