The hashtag is a subject of scrutiny and curiosity, sarcasm and convenience. Some say that it represents the dumbing-down of modern society, others use hashtags in speech ironically, and still others employ them hourly to gain popularity. No matter your feelings on the matter, hashtags are a part of our language now. And though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t. So why not channel Shakespeare and delve into the mutability of words, at least when it comes to Visual Commerce?
When you implement Visual Commerce on your site, you’ll probably give customers multiple ways to send you their photos. While manual uploading, whether it’s from Facebook or someone’s hard drive, can be fruitful, you’ll likely rely on automatic sourcing from social media. Facebook’s and Flickr’s APIs don’t allow this sort of sourcing, but Twitter and Instagram do. And for these two networks, the hashtag is king.
Hashtags are pivotal because their use dictates how you (and all other users on Instagram and Twitter) find content that’s specific to a certain topic. They allow you to sift through everything and reach posts that are pertinent to, for example, #AlasPoorYorick or #Hamlet. In short, when you’re sourcing photos through a Visual Commerce platform, you find the pictures you want with hashtags.
The two questions you must answer in light of this are:
- What are the best hashtags for me?
- How many hashtags should I use to pull photos?
The answers to both of these questions depend heavily on your brand name and reach.
What’s in a name? Well, a lot…
If your brand has an uncommon name, we recommend that you simply use that as your primary hashtag. Think of, for example, Bed Bath & Beyond. Not many photos are being uploaded with the hashtag #bedbathandbeyond that don’t have something to do with the retailer.
In contrast, Target, which is also a popular national chain, has a name that’s fairly commonly used. While many people immediately understand the name Target in context, there are tons of posts on social media about pursuing a goal, practicing riflery, and so on, which use the hashtag #target. Companies that encounter this sort of issue will sometimes still rely on just the brand name, but we recommend coming up with a secondary, more specific hashtag to ensure a steady stream of quality content.
When coming up with that unique hashtag, companies look to short phrases to meet their needs. Often these phrases are built around the brand name, but sometimes the company will use their motto instead. Examples include:
Take care to ensure that your hashtags are memorable, relatively short, and easy to spell. After all, brevity is the soul of wit. As you can tell from the list above, many popular brand hashtags include words like “love” or have a tone of longevity, authenticity, and positivity. Although it usually makes sense to aim for these sort of emotions, you need to be sure that the message is on-brand, of course. For example, the tag #HarleyDavidsonLove seems a bit treacly for a motorcycle brand.
As with virtually all marketing best practices, it makes sense to play around a little with your hashtag formulations. Do some A/B testing to find the most fruitful ones for your brand. Finally, and most importantly, do your research before launching promotions. After all, you don’t want to become a “hashtag fail” news item.
Two hashtags, both alike in dignity…
As a rule of thumb, we recommend that you use two or three hashtags to source your Visual Commerce content. Focus on one as your primary hashtag, which you’ll promote more than any others. This guarantees a clear and consistent call to action. Depending on the quality and quantity of images that you receive with it, you’ll want to supplement it with no more than two extra ones. Simple, right?
What a piece of work is SaaS…
Things can be even simpler if your Visual Commerce provider allows you to sort photos by hashtag, so you can easily compare the content that each one provides. Such a functionality makes it easier to A/B test and consequently get the most lucrative results.
The process of optimizing those results is at its easiest when your Social Commerce vendor has an algorithm for ranking photos. When you have the ability to select your ideal balance of revenue driven by image, number of likes or clicks on social media, number of likes or clicks on your own site, and so on, the best pictures bubble up to the top of your Visual Commerce display regardless of hashtag. You can then use those results to look for any hashtag trends.
And remember, you’re not just using these hashtags to pull photos. You’re creating and promoting them in order to foster a community centered around your brand. Before you even put photos in your Visual Commerce gallery and sliders, your hashtags should reflect your brand identity, lifestyle, and customers. I mean, this above all: to thine own self be true.