by Sarah Malcolm: Can You Own A Hashtag?
“Owned” hashtags boost engagement and brand your business when used effectively. At The Content Funnel, we have several “owned” hashtags used to promote campaigns and events, like the #REMAS or our #SummerRefresh promotion. What exactly does “owning” a hashtag mean? Can anyone purchase a hashtag for their promotions? Let’s take a look.
Purpose of hashtags
Hashtags started as a way to categorize posts and make them easily searchable or indexable. Hashtags are kind of like search engine optimization for social media. Twitter popularized their use, and they’re essential on Instagram. We use hashtags for promoting business campaigns, sharing personal beliefs, making comments, or belonging to a social group. For example, the #MeToo movement used a hashtag as a social commentary on pervasive misogyny and sexual harassment in our culture.
An “owned” hashtag means your brand is trying to create a conversation around a particular concept. Used right, they can create real conversations around your services or products, build anticipation, and engage customers. Problems arise when not used intelligently. See Domino’s as an example of owne
d hashtags gone wrong.
How do you choose an owned hashtag?
First, wisely choose your promotional hashtags. Remember your audience and what you are trying to say. Be careful when brainstorming owned hashtags. What sounds like a good idea to you could be interpreted the wrong way by another group. Ask yourself if the owned hashtag might start a conversation you don’t intend.
Finally, conduct some due diligence. Research to verify that the hashtag is not being used for another campaign or movement.
Can I buy an owned hashtag?
The answer is yes, in a manner of speaking. You can apply for trademark protection for a hashtag. This is because a trademark includes any word or phrase to, “distinguish the products or services of one person or organization from those of another.” As most professionals know, trademarks give the exclusive right to use the mark across the United States with that brand’s goods and services. It includes additional rights, outlined here.
However, not every hashtag word or phrase qualifies as a trademark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will consider the hashtag’s context, placement of the hash symbol, use of the hashtag, and the types of goods or services identified when deciding if the hashtag qualifies.
The Final Word
As you can see, crafting an owned hashtag for social marketing is a tricky business. Owned hashtags work best when part of a comprehensive content marketing strategy. Stumped brainstorming owned hashtags? Let our social media management experts help. A fresh pair of eyes might be what you need to land on a compelling hashtag for your next promotion.