We live in a world where people and companies need to work very hard to stand out from their competition and find unique ways to engage with their customers. If you haven't already, creating custom hashtags and combining that with an incentive is an incredibly effective way to increase engagement with your customers.
In my experience, I have always felt that Instagram is the ideal platform for this as people can easily search by hashtag and view the endless amount of visual content associated with that hashtag. Obviously hashtags just starting out won't have any content but if you do it right, it soon will!
I have mentioned it before, but Coke's #shareacoke campaign stays in my mind as the perfect example of custom hashtags. You have to keep in mind that human beings love to tell their story and love to be recognized for it even more. With the #shareacoke, customers that bought a Coke have the opportunity to snap a selfie (who doesn't love that these days?) of them with their Coke. Simple!
The result is an extensive library of photos Coca-Cola can use in their marketing efforts. This is where the incentive part comes in. If Coca-Cola likes the photo enough, they may share it on their main page. The recognition is the incentive.
While some larger organizations with a large following (2.7 million for Coca-Cola) can use photo sharing as the incentive and triggering a "hey, 2.7 million people might see my photo" mindset, smaller organizations may want to consider a monetary-related incentive. For example, I am currently working on (it is not being implemented yet) a campaign where if people share use our custom hashtag (still being developed) and share a meaningful experience, they will receive $5. It is not much, but any dollar value can be a huge motivator for some.
Keep in mind that a key element to successful advertising is to sell the experience of using the product or service! You want to make the viewer think "wow! that could be me!"
When developing your custom hashtag, you want to try and include your company name in the hashtag. You certainly don't have to, but keep in mind that it will make it less confusing for the people involved and will keep all of the content relevant to your campaign. If Coca-Cola chose #share instead of #shareacoke, it is likely that there would be images in that category that have nothing to do with coke, and the collection would become less meaningful.
As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me.