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#Hashtag Power in Retail

#Hashtag Power in Retail
By Karin Eldor
Monster Contributing Writer

OK, so we now know #thedress is black and blue. Right?  
Thanks to hashtags like #whiteandgold and #blackandblue and a viral debate dubbed “Dressgate,” UK retailer Roman Originals is on the international map. And after everyone was talking about blue & black vs. white & gold, one thing’s for sure: this company’s seeing green.
Here’s some background: The picture of the famous dress was originally posted by 21-year-old Caitlin McNeill, a Scottish singer.
McNeill posted the dress on a Tumblr page after she saw a Facebook debate had been started over its color (her friend’s mother originally emailed a photo of the dress, as she was going to wear it as mother of the bride).
Weeks of arguments and celebrity tweets from the likes of Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Kim Kardashian ensued.
BuzzFeed reported that over 10 million people had read the post on #thedress within 6 hours!
So why are we still talking about this? For starters, because Roman Originals can hardly keep this dress on its shelves – thanks to the magic of the hashtag. And because they knew how to leverage the power of social media by using the debate and hashtag in their marketing and web copy.
In one corner, some traditional retailers still worry that e-commerce can hurt their traditional business. And on the other side, “breaking the Internet” with an amazing viral concept can lead to a record-breaking year in sales.
How can all retailers ensure that social media will work in their favour?
Get social, for the win
The first step is planning a 360-degree marketing mix, with the right social media channels targeting the right audience.
Once you know the social media channels that make sense for your business, consider these steps:
1)   Leverage key dates
Plan a content calendar to outline the key dates that resonate with your target demographic. Whether it’s different fashion weeks occurring worldwide, music festivals or conferences (i.e. #SXSW) or National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, think outside the box and create content that coincides with these events.
2)   Create a cool hashtag & start a movement
A potentially viral way to market yourself on social media is by using a proprietary or branded hashtag for Twitter and/or Instagram (for example, incorporate your brand’s name or acronym in the hashtag). It’s a strong way to resonate with audiences, remain top of mind, and entice people to post “user generated content” – selfies or Instagram shots — to then be repurposed by the brand on its website or social channels.
On a more serious note, the #IceBucketChallenge, which took over Twitter and Facebook as of spring 2014, was one of the most successful social media campaigns in history, raising almost $22 million for the ALS Association not to mention awareness for the disease.
3)   Try real-time engagement
There are some pure magical moments that have occurred on social media and breathed new life into some consumer packaged goods and “older brands”. Remember Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet during the blackout at the 2013 Super Bowl? Oreo won the Super Bowl with that flash of genius.
Or that time Arby’s tweeted “Hey @Pharrell, we want our hat back” when the music mogul rocked a mountain hat at the 2014 Grammys? These were all magical tweets that put brands in the spotlight and turned moments into marketing gold.
(Note: It helps when your company utilizes the right social listening tools to capture conversations on social media and leverage trending topics in real time).
4)   Reach out, reply & retweet
If your brand does have a presence on social media channels, ensure you have a community manager, customer service representative or someone dedicated to replying to and engaging with your community. Make sure you nurture your feeds by taking the necessary engagement steps per platform (comment and like on Instagram and Facebook / reply, “favourite” and retweet on Twitter).
And go the extra mile by engaging with media, bloggers, publications, and influencers that are related to your industry, as a PR tool.
5)   Make sure the message & objective match the platform
Consider what your social media pages offer your target audience, in terms of added value. Facebook and Twitter are important channels to showcase contests and special promotions, while Instagram is an excellent way to offer customers a backstage pass to your brand’s behind the scenes action, as Facebook’s “VIP room.” If you’re looking to elevate your content and target a younger demographic, Instagram is likely your answer.
In 2014, Mercedes launched a Mercedes GLA Car Builder on Instagram: an interactive campaign geared towards allowing users to customize and explore their new car – and share the final result at the end. It was aimed at appealing to a younger audience and so far, it’s been met with great success.
Join the social scene
According to Sprout Social, people send some 500 million tweets and share 4.75 billion items on Facebook – per day!
If you’re not leveraging all these potential customers, it could be a missed opportunity for your brand.
And if you are on the social scene, make sure you’re outlining your KPIs and objectives, mapping out your resources, and integrating your social media strategy with SEO, content creation and your entire marketing mix.
Ready to #BreakTheInternet?