There is a right way for brands to participate in trending hashtags.
At the risk of stating the obvious, I'm a huge Law & Order: SVU fan and an even bigger Mariska Hargitay fan. #BensonandStablerForever. So, when I saw the latest promo for NBC's Fall line-up, I was excited, to say the least. The TV spot features Mariska with Sophia Bush and Debra Messing, each representing her new or returning crime-fighting television show. The ad is overflowing with girl power and emphasizes that "your Wednesdays will never be the same." #WomanCrushWednesday is onscreen for the duration of the spot, and the three women even form the letters "WCW" with their hands. (It's a good bet that all three programs air on Wednesdays, too.)
The hashtag you know and love has infiltrated traditional media.
Promotional hashtagging is nothing new. Brands are quick to participate real-time conversations and use existing hashtags to become embedded in relevant topics. Most of the time, it's in effort to further a brand message when convenient. Brands may also create unique hashtags to publicize a short-term campaign. The problem with this type of hashtag usage is that it usually lasts for just a blip in time. It's short-lived and spur-of-the-moment.
NBC takes these tactics a step further. The #WCW hashtag bridges traditional media to social media. By perpetuating #WCW, it has created a hybrid trending-campaign hashtag; here's a topic that is consistently and regularly trending used to promote a related, short-term campaign. NBC crafted an appropriate strategy around something that exists naturally in the social media environment, and the best part is the message will be the same every Wednesday. No need to develop more or different content for the duration of the campaign.
NBC incorporates several important aspects of social media marketing. The TV spot targets the usual suspects who would respond favorably to the ad as well as accept the offer to join the conversation online. The television networks, the programming bookends, the dayparts... It was all considered to reach the intended audience. I first saw the spot while I was watching the SVU marathon last Sunday on USA. This was no coincidence. Online, NBC was smart to use a hashtag that spans the majority of social networks. Hashtag participation is easy, and it doesn't feel like endorsement. It's likely anyone with a Twitter account will encounter Mariska, Sophia or Debra on their timelines soon, and whether or not they fully process the ad, they will have at least been exposed. And I'd have to agree that these talented, career-driven women are indeed crush-worthy.
A variation of social media marketing that I especially appreciate is when brands are resourceful and use a no-waste approach to a campaign. Circumstances and tools are sometimes so plainly visible, that all that's left to do is connect the dots. This NBC promotional drive is a great example of connecting the dots.
Social Media Today article here.
Follow NBC here and Mariska here.
Disagree with me or itching for an intellectual debate? Comments open to all.