Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday this week, and despite all its problems it has arguably become as important a technical feature of society as the TV or the telephone.
Not a single campaign or significant event goes by without having a hashtag attached, and Twitter quite often becomes the primary source of news for individuals and high-profile publications alike.
In light of all that, I thought I’d celebrate some of the very best uses of hashtags I’ve seen from brands over the years.
1. #YesWeCan – Obama Election Campaign
Ah, politics. A world in which fancy slogans are the most valuable currency around, and few have had a bigger impact over the years than Barrack Obama’s iconic ‘Yes We Can’.
Despite hashtags not being particularly common in political campaigns back in 2008, a significant number of people used this one.
During Obama’s acceptance speech the hashtag saw a massive spike, and it arguably set the trend for future campaigns, almost all of which now rely heavily on hashtag slogans.
2. #ALSIceBucketChallenge – ALS Association
You would literally have to be living inside a bucket to not be aware of this one. Arguably the most successful hashtag campaign of all time in terms of global reach and media coverage.
This is the perfect example of how something very small – the hashtag was born in a Massachusetts living room – can go viral if the content and message are on point.
Celebrities from Rita Ora to Lady Gaga got involved, along with the likes of Bill Gates (pictured below) and George Bush (pretty much anyone with a social media account and an internet connection, basically). This culminated in a peak of 1.3m mentions in just 24 hours.
I debated not including this example given that the hashtag wasn’t actually started by the ALS Association, but it would be criminal not to mention it in a round-up like this.
3. #ThisGirlCan – Sport England
This campaign from Sport England aimed to encourage women of all shapes and sizes to get off the sofa and get fit.
It was all about building confidence, but it also did a fantastic job of raising the profile of Sport England, with the video alone having received 13m views to date.
The hashtag enjoyed another spike in popularity on International Women’s Day a couple of weeks ago.
4. #LikeAGirl – Always
This campaign aimed to turn the insult ‘like a girl’ on its head, presenting it instead as something positive and empowering.
As you can see from the chart below, the campaign was well received across various different audience segments on Twitter.
5. #NoMakeupSelfie – Cancer Research UK
As with the ice bucket challenge, this hashtag was not initially created by the charity that benefited from it. But after releasing a text code for donations Cancer Research UK ended up raising £8m from the campaign, so it definitely deserves a place in this list.
I like to think of #NoMakeupSelfie as the gateway campaign for the ice bucket challenge and various campaigns beyond, in the sense that it was the first time we saw a truly global social media takeover with people from all walks of life taking part.
— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) March 25, 2014
6. #BeatCancer – Livestrong
An oldie but a goodie. Livestrong wanted to beat its own Guinness World Record for the most widespread social networking message, and it absolutely smashed it.
The #BeatCancer hashtag achieved more than 300,000 tweets and 1.67bn impressions, with PayPal and SWAGG donating $0.05 to a cancer charity for every time the hashtag was mentioned.
The above figures might not seem huge next to the likes of the ice bucket challenge, but bear in mind this was 2010, before the viral spreading of online news we’re used to now.
7. #BTTF2015 – Back to the Future (official)
How could we not include this one? It may only have been a short-lived campaign, but #BTTF2015 saw Back to the Future receive more media attention in the space of 24 hours than most movies could hope for in their lifetime.
For one day only, fans of the classic film franchise celebrated the date Doc and Marty travelled to from 1985, and it was glorious.
— there is no off position on the genius switch (@fardmuhammad) October 21, 2015
I’m not sure what the producers had in mind for the date back in the mid-eighties, but you can bet they couldn’t have imagined it would be something called a ‘hashtag’. What even is ‘the internet’?
8. #TweetFromTheSeat – Charmin
I love this one purely because it takes something everyone is kind of prudish about usually – number twos (see, even I can’t bring myself to say it) – and turns it into a hilarious hashtag campaign.
So, we had a lot of coffee and oatmeal for breakfast today. Any guesses as to what time we'll #tweetfromtheseat?
— Charmin (@Charmin) March 3, 2013
— Brook Hurst Stephens (@BrookHurst24) September 29, 2013
And not even Alan Sugar could question the relevance of this marketing campaign, given the primary use of Charmin’s products.
9. #HolidaySpam – Three
When it comes to brands, Three is, in my opinion, one of the masters of social content. It always manages to strike a good balance of humour and relevance and come across as a ‘human’ company.
The #HolidaySpam hashtag is a perfect example of that. We all hate seeing people posting gloating pictures of themselves on some golden-sanded beach somewhere (although hotdogs or legs has to be one of my favourite memes of all time), and Three jumped on that idea with gusto.
To promote its new plan that enables people to carry their data allowance over to a number of European countries, Three issued an ‘apology’ in advance for the inevitable increase in holiday spam as a result.
Sadly the hashtag has since been hijacked by actual holiday spammers, presumably with the incorrect belief that if they’re self-aware it’s less annoying.
10. #RainbowLaces – Paddy Power
Paddy Power is well known for its ‘lad’ humour, such as the fine example of display advertising below…
But it was refreshing to see the brand stand up for a good cause with its #RainbowLaces hashtag, which aimed to address the issue of homophobia in football.
Loads of other brands got involved and a number of high-profile Premier League players wore the multi-coloured laces in support.
11. #ShareACoke – Coca-Cola
Who would have thought putting a name on a bottle could generate so much social content? In hindsight it seems obvious, really, but Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign is proof that simplicity and the personal touch are powerful things.
When the campaign first launched in 2013, Coca-Cola created 1,000 different named labels, all displaying the #ShareACoke hashtag, which received 160,000 Twitter mentions and 740m impressions.
And the hashtag is still going strong today…
— Rich Piechowski (@Piech42) February 4, 2016
If you want to learn how to get your hashtag off the ground, check out some of our social media training courses.