#Hashtag, You’re It!

In recent years, the #hashtag sensation has swept across several social media platforms like a tidal wave.  Finding most of its use on Twitter and Instagram, the trend was introduced to help facilitate online conversations between online users.  Naturally, as businesses entered the social media sphere, it became evident that hashtags, if used properly, hold  a massive amount of potential for sparking engagement with potential consumers and spreading brand awareness.

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KHM Travel Group uses hashtags in their tweets to develop potential reach.

As a travel agent, maintaining conversation and brand loyalty with clients may be the absolute top priority for success.  Because hashtags can easily be used to target specific audiences, they can play a pivotal role in creating that first online handshake introducing consumers to a brand.  Though a very simple concept, the hashtag can only be successful when placed in proper context to establish what is most important about the content.  For example, the tag “#TravelTips” is regularly used by the KHM Travel Group to convey their ability to provide expertise on the topic of a post.  Not only does this open the window for conversation, but it also provides convenient means for users to find and access specific information.

Although a very powerful tool, it only proves its worth when used correctly.  A mistake made by many agents is the attempt to create their own hashtags and hope users will run with it.  That’s like handing someone a basketball and telling them to score a touchdown.  Agents must utilize their social listening skills to truly hear what consumers are talking about and make use of user-generated content instead of forcing the brand through synthetic content they produce.  The brand Drinkwel displayed this strategy through an Instagram promotion seeking to target people who drink alcohol using the hashtag “#finallyfriday.”  This hashtag is already used regularly, so it adds to an already active conversation.

The Drinkwel example also touches on the concept of utilizing hashtags to voice product promotions and contests users can participate in.  Whether it be liking and sharing a post, or posting your own content with the specific hashtag, travel agents have seen high levels of success using this tactic.  This may not lead to direct sales, but it achieves an agent’s goal of promoting the brand’s awareness and participating in conversations. Connecting a brand name with content that is already being talked about wins half the online battle for agents.

Not only are hashtags used to promote to consumers, they can also be held as contests within a corporation as well.  A competition called the “Virtual Queue” challenged travel agents in the UK to compete for a spot on the voyage cruise Harmony of the Seas.  This contest measured not only sales, but the amount of conversation and engagement these agents could generate on Twitter and Instagram using hashtags.  This idea showed two areas of success: the number of sales and lead generation gathered, and the positive internal relations displayed between executives and agents.

Nevertheless, the hashtag symbol is an icon that has potential to be permanently relevant in the online world.  Therefore, travel agents should ultimately work to incorporate these successful strategies to provide as many windows of conversation as possible.

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