So you’ve taken the time to build a presence on social media, but you are having trouble expanding your social channels? Then a hashtag promotion may be just what the doctor ordered!

In addition to being one of the fastest growing types of promotions, hashtag promotions are easy to run, are viral by nature, can be less expensive than traditional online promotions, don’t require a lot of lead time to prepare, provide incentive for consumers (and other businesses) to engage with your brand, and produce user-generated content that can be useful for future marketing efforts.

Let’s take a deeper look at what you should know, and what you should keep in mind while preparing your next hashtag promotion.

What is a Hashtag Sweepstakes?

Hashtag promotions (including hashtag sweepstakes and hashtag contests –for a more detailed explanation on the differences between sweepstakes and contests, click here) are promotions for which consumers are requested to publish a post on social media that includes a unique hashtag decided on by the promotion’s sponsor. Each time a participant publishes a post containing that hashtag, they are automatically entered into the promotion.

Which Social Media Platforms

Hashtags have become a popular feature of many social media networks, but the primary networks for hashtag promotions remain Twitter and Instagram:

  • Twitter
    When it comes to hashtags on social media, Twitter is the network responsible for bringing them mainstream. When Twitter was first launched in 2006, they included hashtags to label conversations by topic in a way that allowed people to easily search for the topics they were looking for. For example, if someone is looking for tweets about the World Series and they search for “World Series” they will likely find tweets that include either the word “World” or “Series,” but if they search for “#WorldSeries,” they will see only tweets about baseball. In addition to classifying conversations by subject on Twitter, hashtags help business’s pinpoint tweets that are relevant to any promotion that they run.
  • Instagram
    On Instagram, all posts must contain an image or a video, along with a caption describing that image or video. It is in this caption that users will place hashtags to help connect the photo or video with other similar Instagram posts. Unlike Twitter which confines the text contained in each tweet to 140 characters, the captions that accompany photo or video posts on Instagram are not restricted by a character limit. Which means that if you are executing a hashtag sweepstakes exclusively on Instagram, you do not need to worry about the length of your hashtag as much (although it is best to keep hashtags as short as possible, as outlined below).

Things to consider with hashtag promotions:

When planning your hashtag promotion, make sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Make your hashtag easy to remember:
    It is important to create a hashtag that isn’t too long or complicated. Since users will have to use the exact hashtag to enter the promotion, a long or overly detailed hashtag is not ideal.
  • Brand your hashtag:
    In a hashtag promotion, you can ask participants to tag your business’s profile along with the promotion hashtag, but it is always a good idea to include your brand name, or some form of branding in the hashtag itself. This helps identify you as the sponsor, which is something you absolutely want in case the hashtag goes viral and begins “trending.” If you don’t have any branding associated with your hashtag, you could be missing out on valuable exposure.
  • Watch out for trademarks:
    It’s important to conduct a trademark search to ensure that your hashtag doesn’t violate another brand’s intellectual property.
  • No Purchase Necessary:
    Hashtag Sweepstakes must follow the same laws as traditional sweepstakes, including that a purchase must not be a requirement for entry. If an entrant is required to post a product review or a photo/video with your product, it could imply a purchase is required and you must also offer a free method of entry.
  • Require entrants to follow your brand:
    In addition to requiring entrants to include a hashtag in their social post, also require that they follow your brand. Besides the obvious benefit of building your followers, this also allows you to notify winners via direct message.
  • Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) Endorsement Guidelines and Regulations:
    Be aware of the FTC’s regulations regarding incentivising consumers to endorse your brand by promising an incentive. If you are asking consumers to include your brand/product name or a photo/video of your product in their social post in exchange for something of value (i.e. sweepstakes entry), then you must require that consumers disclose the incentive in their post. This can easily be done by requiring the consumer to also include #sweepstakes or #contest in their social post.
  • Make Appropriate Disclaimers:
    Just because the medium is limited in space doesn’t mean you don’t need to make appropriate legal disclaimers. Especially when calling people to enter right in your post, you need to disclose any limitations and where to find the full rules. Of course some situations may require more or less be included.

As is the case with all promotion types, there are specific legal guidelines that must be followed to ensure that a hashtag promotion is legal, and each social network provides its own set of guidelines and intricacies that are important to be aware of. With our experience and knowledge, US Sweepstakes will work with you to develop a hashtag sweepstakes that will meet your marketing goals and run smoothly from planning to fulfillment. Click here to contact us today for a free quote!