Hashtags are a very powerful tool in the age of viral media. You can turn average consumers into your biggest fans and engage with your audience in new ways. On sites like Twitter, where the Trending section highlights top hashtags, having an effective hashtag for your brand can make a world of difference when it comes to getting your content viral. I’ve taken a look at how consumers think and how hashtag marketing works, and I’ve compiled some of my favorite tips for making your hashtag campaign a #Winner.

Your hashtag should be:


1) Unique and Memorable

If you want your indie game to go viral then you’re going to have to look at better hashtags than #indiegaming or #{name of your game}. Hashtags are meant to be exciting and engage your audience in new ways. Last Spring, Travelocity ran a hashtag contest called #iWannaGo. They looked at a popular concept (travel) and turned it into an exciting actionable phrase: I Wanna Go! This is certainly memorable––having thousands of people sharing where they want to go will get you excited about going places too! Think of interesting verbs and action words you can put into a hashtag in order to get your fanbase excited about participating in the trend you are starting.



2) Clear and Direct

#TBIAD is not a very effective hashtag for one simple reason: what the heck does it mean? #ToBeInsaneAddsDrama? #ThisBreadIsAdmittedlyDelicious? #TheBookIsAstonishinglyDetailed? I was of course talking about This Book Is A Dungeon, one of our games. But you didn’t know that as soon as you saw the hashtag. In the above example, #iWannaGo, as soon as you see that you get the image of travel and escape in your mind. If I had a hashtag like #EnterTheDungeon, that might be more relevant––it makes you imagine dungeon crawling and adventure. #ReadTheDungeon might make for a more interesting hashtag (How the heck can you read a dungeon? I’d better click and find out!) since the game is Twine-based and an epic text adventure. I’m sure there are other options too, but you get the idea: you have to use the hashtag to make people aware of something (#HelpHaiti) or feel something (#iWannaGo).




3) Well-timed and Subtle

Trying to force a hashtag into the Twittersphere can be painfully awkward if not timed correctly. If you’re launching, say, Beet Blaster in a year, don’t try to now ramp up #BeetBlasterLaunch. You could run an interesting campaign using something like #TheBeetAwakens––a play on The Force Awakens and an allusion to something like you (in vegetable form) “waking” from a game development hiatus to create a new garden-themed game––to promote your developer blog. Think about how people would talk about what you’re promoting if they were just discussing it on Twitter themselves, and draw hashtags from there. Going back to the Travelocity example––they saw that people use the phrase “I wanna go” when discussing destinations for the summer, so launched a Spring campaign with those exact words, encouraging people to replace the phrase with the hashtag in daily Tweets, thereby generating viral content.



4) Relevant and Approachable

Like the latter half of point 3 alluded to, your hashtag needs to be something that your target demographic would be saying normally but is now saying thanks to your message’s virality. An interesting example is the #ThanksgivingClapback hashtag that went viral this past fall. Users would share their “clapback” moments during Thanksgiving––in which they would make snarky and sarcastic comebacks (clapbacks) to judgmental comments made by distant relatives––and often accompany the Tweet with an image macro or funny photo. This hashtag––albeit not deliberately made viral––uses the language of its demographic: a phrase like “clapback”. If someone older had tried to get #ThanksgivingRetort viral, it may have been a little harder––young people don’t often use words like “retort” when smack-talking their family with friends on social media sites. An interesting way to see how you should design your hashtag is to see what hashtags the community has gotten viral or popular by itself. Use those trends’ data––language, timing, context––and implement your own version.



5) Short and Sweet

All of the hashtags I’ve used as examples are pretty short and sweet––long enough that they can be effective yet short enough that they are not bogging down Tweets. 140 characters is not a lot, and by using your hashtag users are sacrificing that real estate to spread your message. Make it worth their while. Don’t use #AskMaryKateAndAshley––just #AskTheOlsens works fine. #RoseBowlFootball isn’t trending, but #RoseBowl is. Think about it this way: do I need this word or symbol in the hashtag for people to understand? Keep the other principles in mind and trim the fat––cut out any unneeded information in the hashtag and let its virality speak for itself.



There you have it! The examples I gave may not have been the absolute best (most are just off the top of my head) but I hope you understand the basic principles of what you should keep in mind when working on your own hashtag campaigns in the future. Follow these rules and you’ll be #famous in no time!

If you enjoyed this article and you’re looking for a marketing partner to help make your game a success story, drop me a line at [email protected] and let’s chat!