Ultimately, successful marketing tells the world that you are the best at what you do. You use marketing to show potential customers why you are the best choice for them. Successful branding, on the other hand, works the opposite way. If you create a successful brand, your customers will tell you (and anybody else who will listen) why you are perfect for solving their problems. Positive brand mentions, therefore, can provide excellent proof you can use for your marketing campaigns. They also make your marketing task easier. Why invest so heavily in promoting yourself when your customers happily market for you?
Conversely, some brand mentions can be highly critical, indeed brutal, about a business. If left unchallenged or unresolved, they may even kill a company. You can't create successful marketing for a business unless you first deal with its problem of negative brand mentions.
Hashtag Tracking and Brand Monitoring Guide:
- Hashtag Tracker Tool [FREE]
- Brand Mentions Often Include Hashtags
- Why You Should Monitor Hashtags
- What is Brand Perception?
- Better Understanding Your Customers' Point of View
- Unfiltered Feedback
- Know Your Customers
- Too Many Companies Ignore Customer Feedback
- How do You Track Hashtags and Monitor Brand Mentions?
- Paid Tools You can Use to Monitor Hashtags and Your Brand's Reputation
- Using Hashtags in Your Social Posts
Hashtag Tracker Tool [FREE]
Brand Mentions Often Include Hashtags
Many people mention brands online when they use hashtags in their social posts. These have a dual benefit to a business because not only do branded hashtags act as a form of free promotion to the firm, but they also act as a useful way to group and search for content.
A hashtag is just a word or phrase preceded by the #-symbol. The word or phrase would generally be some keyword or term that interests a group of people. In the case of branded hashtags, the keyword/term is a word or phrase related to a brand, often a marketing slogan, such as #ShareACoke (by Coca-Cola), #MyCalvins (by Calvin Klein), or #NationalFriedChickenDay (by KFC).
The first time a hashtag was used in a social post was on Twitter in 2007. A user of Twitter, Chris Messina, sent a tweet proposing that people used the #-symbol for groups.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
The idea caught on, and people quickly recognized the advantages of using hashtags to group different posting topics. Before long, Twitter made Messina's idea an official feature, and everybody was using them. Since then, hashtags have become standard on many social platforms, and while it is easy to overdo hashtag use, you can use up to 30 in a single Instagram post.
Many hashtags that people use are relatively generic. For example, dog lovers regularly share pictures of their pets on Instagram using hashtags such as #dog, #DogsofInstagram, #Puppy, and even #Dogstagram. If you search for any of these hashtags, you will find a long feed of posts unsurprisingly showing pictures of dogs. An ardent dog-lover may even choose to track one of these hashtags, not for any branding purposes, but simply so they can find more pictures they love.
However, it didn't take long before brands discovered that they could create branded hashtags to highlight their brand's name or tagline and to group posts relating to themselves. Some branded hashtags clearly relate to a brand's name, e.g., #CocaCola. Others are more campaign-specific, e.g., #ShareACoke. Audi has successfully run campaigns based around #WantAnR8 for a decade now, despite the word "Audi" not appearing in the hashtag.
Why You Should Monitor Hashtags
In an ideal world, every mention of your brand online would be positive. Your glowing fans would be spreading the gospel about the benefits of your product. But, alas it isn't quite as simple as that. A proportion of your brand mentions may be from dissatisfied customers, and as the old saying goes, "the squeaky wheel gets the most grease" (i.e.,"only the loudest whiner gets what he wants.")
It is far better if you know of any concerns about your brand. You can resolve the problems you know about. However, you can't fix issues you don't know to exist, and your inaction can itself be looked upon negatively.
You also want to know about positive brand mentions. You can leverage these to help your marketing efforts.
By keeping track of your brand mentions, you can better understand what your customers feel about your product. It is likely to be helpful feedback, even when it's negative. It can even help highlight where you should prioritize your product development to better meet your customer's needs.
What is Brand Perception?
There can be a vast gulf between how a brand sees itself and how others view it. One problem is that brand owners often look at their brand in terms of aspiration, rather than reality.
Brand perception focuses on how outsiders see the brand. A business can't control its brand perception. All they can do is to improve customer service and product quality sufficiently to lead to a change in brand perception.
In many ways, however, brand perception is as important a part of marketing a brand as controllable aspects like logos, colors, and imagery. These mean nothing if people view a brand negatively. People don't buy your product because they like your logo. Consumers may buy your product once because of stylistic packaging and aesthetics. But they won't return unless the product meets their expectations, and they believe your customer service is up to the mark.
Better Understanding Your Customers' Point of View
Too many firms develop their products and services isolated from their customer base. They are often production-driven – designing and making a product and then trying to sell that product to a wary public. Marketing-driven companies usually work in reverse. They try and develop a product that better meets the needs of a particular niche of society. Product-driven companies start with the product and then try and find suitable customers. Market-driven firms begin with a preferred type of customer and then try and find a suitable product that they believe will be of value to that group.
No matter which philosophy your firm follows, you can use brand mentions to help you move forward. They can help you better understand how consumers interact with your product or service.
Brand mentions represent actual consumer interaction with your product. No amount of testing, surveying, or modeling can replace the benefits of seeing and understanding actual consumer usage. By tracking brand mentions, you can see how people interact with your product and use that knowledge to affect both future product updates and upcoming marketing campaigns.
You might even find unintentional side effects of your product (both positive and negative). More than one product has become best known for its unintended usage. Some examples include:
1. Texting – texting was initially developed by cell phone companies to let their customers know about any network problems. The customers, however, decided otherwise and started sending each other messages.
2. Kleenex – the company intended their product to be disposable towels for removing makeup. However, they received many brand mentions (in the days well before the internet) that their product was excellent for blowing noses.
3. WD40 was designed to displace and repeal standing water to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles. However, consumers found a whole lot of other uses for it, changing it from a niche item to a mass-market product
Many brand mentions are unfiltered mini-reviews of a product - some positive, some negative, virtually all valuable for company reflection, product development, and customer service improvement. Firms can use them to continuously improve how their organization operates.
You may cringe when a dissatisfied customer writes a scathing review on Yelp or publicly disses your service on Facebook, but it can be valuable feedback. You shouldn't automatically put up the shutters and dismiss it as unwarranted.
Of course, not all negative brand mentions are fair. They are merely somebody's opinion, after all. But it is nonetheless useful feedback of at least one person's opinion.
Know Your Customers
One of the greatest benefits of monitoring brand mentions is that it helps brands better understand their customers. It is often heplful to break your data down by demographics such as general age, gender, location, language, professions, and interests. Different demographic groups are likely to have differing views of your product. For example, for every pensioner complaining about the loud noise coming from a concert, you will find young people raving about the quality of the music played.
Therefore, some brand mentions will be more relevant to you than others. For example, Snapchat will probably be unconcerned whenever they hear an "old person" (i.e., somebody over 30) complaining online that they can't understand who would be interested in disappearing photo messages. However, they probably listened carefully when their typical customers complained about their new interface a while back.
If you know your customers and how they perceive your brand, you can act to improve the situation. If a problem has been expressed via social media, it makes sense for brands to try and resolve any issue there too. Social media is one of the easiest ways to change brand perception.
Another reason to know your customers is that it makes it much easier to go where they are. If your customers spend time on Twitter, you should be visible there too. If you are into fashion or beauty, it is a no-brainer to have a professional well-presented Instagram account, easily visible to all you deal with. If you target a younger customer base, you should be sharing short videos on TikTok. It is much easier to monitor conversations about your brand if you are part of them or at least aware of them.
Too Many Companies Ignore Customer Feedback
According to research carried out by Maritz and Evolve24, more than 70% of companies ignore complaints on Twitter. Twitter may not have the reach of Facebook or Instagram now, but it is still a major social network, with large numbers of people viewing each tweet. Yet most companies simply ignore complaints they receive on the medium – indeed unless they use social monitoring software they probably never know of their existence.
Another interesting statistic from that survey is that 83% of the complainants that received a reply liked or loved the fact that the company responded. It often doesn't take much to resolve an issue; a mere recognition that there could be a problem is enough.
How do You Track Hashtags and Monitor Brand Mentions?
We previously covered this in detail in our "Complete Field Guide to Owning Your Brand Online".
You first need to consider what terms you are going to want to monitor. Ideally, this should be more than just your company name. You should consider watching any:
- Branded keywords and common variations (e.g., Apple, iPhone, iPad, MacBook)
- Product names (e.g., iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad Mini)
- Campaign names (e.g., Shot on iPhone)
- Industry-specific keywords (e.g., 5G, international roaming)
- Product features and functions (e.g., iCloud, Siri)
- Competitor keywords (e.g., Android, Samsung)
- C-Suite and brand public figures (e.g., Tim Cook, Steve Jobs)
You can begin your brand monitoring process by using "Google Alerts". Each day Google will send you an email alerting you to cases where websites have mentioned your brand. Google Alerts will only send you a small subset of your brand mentions, however. There can also be quite a time lag between the mention and the reference to it appearing in your inbox. But it is free, of course.
Paid Tools You can Use to Monitor Hashtags and Your Brand's Reputation
There are various paid tools you can use for more detailed and comprehensive brand monitoring. These include:
1. Brand24 – you can use Brand 24 to monitor mentions of your brand or product on the internet. It includes a powerful hashtag tracking search tool with both hashtag tracking and hashtag analytics.
2. BrandMentions - BrandMentions helps you track all of the online mentions of your brand. It includes competitor spying, brand monitoring, reputation management, and media monitoring. It will help you determine the effectiveness of your custom hashtags.
3. Talkwalker – Talkwalker includes hashtag analysis in its Social Media Analysis module. It contains full hashtag and campaign tracking, providing data relating to shares, reach, engagement, and mentions. You can use it for real-time monitoring of selected hashtags.
4. YouScan – YouScan focuses on analyzing mentions on social media and includes image analysis. Although it doesn't separately refer to hashtag tracking on its website, you can use it to monitor mentions of selected hashtags.
5. BuzzSumo – you can use BuzzSumo to see "what's the buzz" on social media. You can search for specific hashtags to see their popularity across various social channels, and BuzzSumo lists the social posts where they most frequently appear.
6. Meltwater – Meltwater includes a social listening component. It scours data from various sources, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, consumer review sites, and more. You can search for as many different keywords, brand names, or hashtags as you like.
7. NetBase – NetBase Quid is a consumer and market intelligence platform. It delivers contextual insights to reveal business trends, connect with consumers, and understand the story behind competitors and the market. One component of that is your brand health. NetBase helps you understand your brand health and consumer perception through the eyes of your consumers and the media.
8. Brandwatch – Brandwatch is a digital intelligence platform. Monitor mentions of your brand online to understand customer perception, spot changes in sentiment, and measure brand visibility – all in real-time.
9. Digimind Social– Digimind offers intelligence software that helps you fully understand consumer insights, your competitive environment, and market trends. You can measure brand reputation, detect and anticipate crises, and analyze brand perception to adjust your brand strategy.
10. Synthesio – Synthesio is AI-enabled consumer intelligence for getting ahead in an ever-changing world. Their Social Listening dashboards unite the speed of social with the trust of market research methodologies. Track real-time conversations around the world
11. Cyfe – Cyfe provides all-in-one business dashboards to monitor and visualize your business.
12. Keyhole – Keyhole is a powerful monitoring tool. Brands can use it to measure the impact of social media campaigns through social media reporting, social mention tracking, keyword tracking, social media, and event monitoring. It offers real-time metrics on any hashtag you can think of.
13. Mention – Mention offers real-time monitoring, along with competitive analysis, social media management, custom insights, and automated reports. It uses tags to help you categorize content, making it easier to manage alerts. Tagging can be automated based on keywords you're tracking.
14. Awario – Awario is a social listening tool that gives brands insights into their customers, market, and competitors. You can use it to monitor brand mentions across Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, blogs, forums, news, and the Web.
15. Reputology - Reputology is a review monitoring and management platform that helps businesses monitor, respond to, and analyze their online reviews. It offers 24/7 review monitoring. You can analyze customer sentiment using their semantic analysis technology to convert the unstructured content from reviews and feedback into actionable data.
16. ReviewInc – ReviewInc is online reputation and review management software. It provides all-in-one access to manage your online reputation with a dashboard, detailed analysis, and unique customizations for a tailored, faster, and stable experience.
17. Hashtagify – you can use Hashtagify to search real-time data and insights about any hashtag on Twitter: popularity ranking, related hashtags, trends, and much more. You can track any hashtag on Twitter.
18. Hashtracking – Hashtracking includes eight features dedicated to helping you learn as much as possible about hashtags that interest you. Amongst other services, you can use it to track hashtags in real-time.
19. RiteTag – you can use RiteTag to see if the hashtags you've been using in your tweets and other social posts are relevant to you or not. It now provides suggestions for images for Instagram and Pinterest
20. Socialert – Socialert is a hassle-free way to track hashtags, keywords, and social accounts. Enter a hashtag, keyword, @mention, etc., and the tool will generate an automatic report to give you a better understanding of what's working and what's not working.
21. Tagboard – Tagboard gives you a quick, visual snapshot of how a hashtag is used across multiple platforms. It also shows you hashtags linked to the one you searched for.
22. TrackMyHashtag – you can use TrackMyHashtag to track any Twitter Hashtag, Keyword, or @account mention in real-time and see the result on your online dashboard. It helps you measure the reach of your Twitter Hashtag campaign (and those of your competitors).
We also now provide our own free brand monitoring tool to help you keep track of your online brand mentions.
Using Hashtags in Your Social Posts
So far, we have looked at the best practices for tracking how other people use your branded hashtags. But how should you use them yourself? What are the best practices for using hashtags in your social posts?
We have written extensively about hashtag use in the past. If you want to learn more from our in-depth posts, these include:
- The Ultimate List of Trending Hashtags on Every Platform
- Twitter Hashtags: How to Find and Use the Best Twitter Hashtags
- Top 65 Instagram Reels Hashtags [+ Ideas to Help You Go Viral]
- How to Find the Best Triller Hashtags to Get Your Content Seen
- 120+ Trending TikTok Hashtags to Gain More Likes and Followers in 2021
- Your Ultimate Guide to TikTok Hashtags
- What's The Best Number of Hashtags for Each Social Network?
- Hashtag Analytics 101: Metrics, Hashtags and Analytics Tools You Should Know
- The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags to Grow your Followers
- How to Use Hashtags and Grow Your Reach on Every Social Network
As you can see from the above articles, hashtags are now used extensively across multiple social platforms. There are two main uses for hashtags:
1. Creating and using your branded hashtags to promote your brand and products. As we have discussed above, you can track your branded hashtags, just as you can track mentions of your brand, to gain insight into how people look at you and perceive your brand image
2. Using popular and trending hashtags, not directly related to your brand but still relevant in some way, to give the content you share a larger audience. You can use some of the tools we mentioned above, like RiteTag and Tagboard, to discover trending hashtags and the level of interest for particular hashtags.
Some of the main reasons that brands run hashtag campaigns across social media include:
- To create brand awareness
- To increase the visibility of their content
- To make it easier to track and analyze the success of their content
- To boost their social engagement
- To increase audience involvement
- To promote specific events, often with a custom branded hashtag
- To help launch a product
- As part of a contest or competition
Considerations for Selecting a Branded Hashtag
While there have been many successful branded and custom hashtags, there have been many abject failures; hashtags ignored by all except a few hardy supporters, and even worse, hashtags that people have ridiculed for their insensitivity. You need to consider a few points when selecting a branded hashtag.
Firstly, you need to ensure your hashtag is relatively original. Brands have used many hashtags since 2007, and you don't want to promote one your competitors have already used. Some hashtags have already been promoted as having a specific meaning, and you can't simply transfer their usage over to your brand without mixing audiences. This often happens when you try to encourage people to use a high-level hashtag that is not specific enough for people to relate to your campaign. For example, Vodafone and Peugeot have separately urged their supporters to use the hashtag #First in campaigns. But the tag #First is so vague that people can't visualize it attached to specific products. The first question most people are likely to ask is, "First what?"
At the other extreme, you don't want your hashtags to be too long. Don't use tags that combine more than three or four words. An example of a successful hashtag campaign that pushes the limits of length is Cheerios and its #CheeriosHeartHuntSweepstakes campaign. Yes, this campaign worked, and people used the hashtag to enter Cheerios' competition, but you wouldn't want it any longer.
Ideally, you should break up each word in a hashtag with a capital letter. Using the Cheerios example above, notice how much easier it is to read #CheeriosHeartHuntSweepstakes than it is #cheerioshearthuntsweepstakes or #CHEERIOSHEARTHUNTSWEEPSTAKES.
Tied in with this, you need to consider how some words combine and any unintentional word combinations you make, particularly if you don't capitalize the first letter of every word. The classic failure here was when the promoters of singer Susan Boyle's music tweeted about a new album using the hashtag #susanalbumparty. Instead of increasing the singer's popularity, it resulted in ridicule because of the unfortunate juxtaposition of unintended words within the tag. At the very least, they should have broken it up with capital letters, making the intended message clearer, e.g., #SusanAlbumParty. Better still, they should have rethought their strategy and used a different combination of words. While hashtag tracking software will clearly have shown much increased interest in the promotor's hashtag, it is debatable whether it led to increased album sales.