Hashtags: #smartnewmarketingtool or #riskymarketingmove?

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags. The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags.

The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Of course marketers have smelled an opportunity to leverage the hashtag because what could be better than having consumers talk about your brand—especially if the brands themselves sparks the conversation?

Within the last 20 years, there’s been a huge change in advertising CTA’s (Call-to-Action)—especially in television. First, many commercials ended by showing an 800 numbers, and that was quickly followed by the vanity 800 number. With the advent of the web, marketers substituted URL’s for 800 number. After it was discovered that the consumer didn’t know what to do once they landed on a website home page, the MURL was invented (www.nameofbrand/specificpage). When Facebook exploded on the scene, brands wanted you to visit and like them on their Facebook pages. But now, it seems, all of that is old school.

Many of the most recent Super Bowl commercials didn’t end with phone numbers, web addresses or any mention of Facebook. Instead, a hashtag was offered up in front of a pithy subject line as a way to get viewers engaged in a dialogue about the commercial itself (and, ultimately, the brand).

I find it interesting that during the Super Bowl this year, millions of dollars were spent on each 60-second spot, and yet several marketers risked it all by using a single CTA: a predetermined #groupofwords. I could understand if the hashtag was in addition to other CTA’s, but in most of the instances I observed, it was the standalone close on the spot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never even bothered to look to see what topics are trending on Twitter. Maybe I’m not cool enough to care. But I’m not 100 percent confident that throwing a hashtag in front of a topic will generate a POSITIVE conversation about my brand. So why would you place your brand at risk after you’ve spent hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Creating “brand evangelists” has always been a core goal of any brand—people who support your brand, talk about it, recommend it to others and basically act as your mouthpiece by providing personal endorsements. But does doling out a hashtag topic guarantee that a positive conversation will ensue? Not in my book. #marketinghashtag

Remember Skype?

Skype, the the internet telephone service provider that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet, has been know for a some very creative VOiP applications over the years.

Skype, the internet telephone service provider that allows users to make phone calls over the web, has been known for some very creative VoIP applications over the years. But one thing it’s not been known for is its ability to be an advertising vehicle for marketers.

Up until now, that is. Last week, Skype introduced a pay-per-call advertising service, Click & Call, that turns phone numbers into little ads, similar to pay-per-click search ads, for the 560 million Skype users.

Here’s how it works: When Skype users click on the blue-highlighted phone numbers anywhere an advertiser’s phone number is listed on the web, Skype’s software is launched and the caller is connected to the company for free. As with paid search ads on search engines, businesses set monthly budgets and pay Skype based on the volume of calls they receive.

Marchex, a provider of click-to-call products and services, is Skype’s partner on the service and will share in the revenue. Marchex is also setting prices, providing analytics for the service and offering it to third-party resellers. Marchex says the service already has more than 20,000 customers.

If you’re an advertiser looking for reach (and who isn’t?), Skype’s nearly 600 million users could be very appealing to you. Other benefits of the program, in my opinion, are the fact that you only have to pay for the calls made to your business; you can set your own budget; and you can closely track which calls at which times make your phone ring.

What do you think? Let us know by commenting below.