The popularity of hashtags has grown tremendously since Twitter integrated the social conversation trackers in 2009. Used largely to differentiate and define discussion online, they have taken on new meanings in the world of social media marketing and advertising. In the world of television, hashtags have become vital tools for engaging fans new and old. While some hashtags succeed in engaging viewers and building audiences, others fail.
Drawing on social media analytics insights, we find there are five keys to effective social TV hashtags. Successful social TV hashtags identify the show, inspire discussion, incite an emotional response, promote special offers and events, and encourage continuous engagement. All in just a few characters.
1. Identify The Show
This one doesn’t go without saying: your TV show needs a unique hashtag that clearly identifies its connection to your program. Unique hashtags stand out from the sea of posts, drawing in faithful viewers and new audiences. Hashtags that clearly identify a TV show also help marketers easily track the online discussion on the show with social media listening and monitoring tools.
2. Inspire Discussion
Effective hashtags grow the social buzz by drawing a crowd and motivating audiences to take the initiative to start debates and discussions related to the show. During the summer of 2013, Crimson Hexagon found that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its hashtag #CoulsonLives generated the most pre-premier social buzz among new TV shows.
3. Incite An Emotional Response
Emotive hashtags strengthen audiences’ affective ties with their show. Hashtags are vehicles through which audiences reminisce, voice an opinion, joke, or generally display emotions about their shows.
Using Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight to analyze the hashtag #OnlyGleeFansUnderstand, we found that the emotions of the social conversation evolved over time. On the first day, fans used the hashtag mainly to discuss romantic relationships on the show. Later, conversation skewed towards humor and jokes. Nostalgia and grief were also key emotions, as viewers remembered recently deceased actor Cory Monteith.
4. Promote Offers And Events
By using hashtags as part of unique offer, marketers give users an incentive to drive the social conversation. Fans feel rewarded, which builds a positive relationship with the show.
When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was officially ordered on May 10, @AgentsOfShield and actor @ClarkGregg called on fans to tweet using #CoulsonLives to reveal an exclusive trailer. Using ForSight, we looked at the posts surrounding the show’s unique hashtags and found that 23% were tweets to reveal the trailer or discussion of it after its release.
5. Encourage Continuous Engagement
While social conversation can nearly disappear during shows’ hiatus and mid-season breaks, hashtags remind fans what they miss about the show, provide a visible countdown to the season premiere, or simply keep the conversation going.
The Walking Dead’s #WalkerWithdrawals and Hannibal’s #HeAteUs are two example of hashtags that have successfully engaged fans during the off-season. ForSight found over 50,000 relevant posts related to #WalkerWithdrawls from April 1 to October 12. While the volume of #HeAteUs posts is substantially smaller, both hashtags actively engage audiences to discuss and promote the shows during an otherwise idle period.
Social TV And Successful Hashtags
Hashtags can be free and easy advertising for your show, but success is not guaranteed. There are road-tested approaches to TV hashtags that will pay off for your television show. By avoiding some common pitfalls and creating a unique, engaging, emotional hashtag string, which may be connected to offers and promotions, you will expand your show’s audiences and keep your audiences engaged and creating buzz for your TV show throughout the year.
Staci Aversa, a sociology and communications student at Boston University, works in the areas of social and online trend research.