Websites are so 2000 late — Hashtags are where it’s at

That title comes with a caveat. It’s not entirely true. I did see an excellent example of promoting a hashtag instead of a url to engage new customers.

I was driving along Sea to Sky Highway in British Columbia. Four shiny, bright high performance cars passed me. Each had #scenicrush discretely, but legibly displayed on the door.

Brilliant. Designful. Just like the cars. No need to sully up that beautiful piece of machinery with a .com or .ca (this is Canada). A simple hashtag instead. I noticed it provoked more of a sense of curiosity in me than a url.  Their market will know to search their social channels to learn more. It worked with me.

This technique won’t work for every business. It is great for this one,  an exotic driving experience. They “aren’t a rental company but you get to drive their cars”. People tend to book as a group. Four to eight people book the cars for a scenic drive in exotic cars with their friends. That’s why I saw them in a pack of four. Which, branding wise, was quite effective too.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, one car after another a little fleet of high performance engineering, all sporting #scenicrush.

A #scenicrush search on social sites brings up happy smiling people leaning on high performance cars. Your first experience of the company in your search isn’t them telling you how great the #scenicrush experience is.  It’s their customers showing you how great it is. Looking at customers happy posts it looks like the experience is the grown up version of riding around the neighborhood in a pack on bikes as a kid.

Usually I argue for creating as few steps as possible for connecting people with the means to complete the desired action – call, register, buy etc. In this case the extra step works. New customers are taken to the website vi the scenic route of social proof – other happy customers. This company’s digital savvy market will know how to find a website via a social profile.

A word of warning, hashtags offer many potential pitfalls for businesses. One of my entertainments is autopsies of business hashtags gone wrong. There are some classic mistakes that I see repeated over and over. When I see a new company plunge into a social media faux pas I wonder, “How did no one in the company bring up the X, Y and Z examples of other companies making this same mistake and put a stop to it?”

I would give a list of potential pitfalls here, but that would only provide a false sense of security. There are many conversations and so many nuances to those conversations. What works for one company could be a flop for another, or worse a viral disaster.

Utilizing hashtags effectively for business requires some analysis. It is not a good area to throw things against the wall and see what sticks. Missteps are recorded on a very permanent and very public record and have the potential to provoke mockery or outrage. Done right, they can generate lively engagement with current customers and draw in new.