f you thought hashtags were a thing of the past, think again. No, we’re not talking about #blessed and #nofilter (this isn’t 2012 Instagram after all.) Viral hashtags have become an essential part of growing a company’s brand on TikTok.
What exactly is a viral hashtag, you may ask? Hashtags are words or phrases that appear in the captions of users’ TikTok videos. If used by enough users, these hashtags can go viral (hence the name) and appear as trending hashtags on TikTok’s Discover page.
Brands that have figured out how to use viral hashtags were able to expand their market reach and increase engagement among target audiences. Brands should also use them to keep an eye on their competitors as they can search industry-related hashtags and see what types of content they’re producing and if it’s seeing high engagement.
Following viral hashtags is also a great way to make sure your brand is staying up-to-date on the latest trends in your industry.
If you’re a bit rusty on hashtags, this article will go through five ways your brand can harness the power of viral hashtags to increase brand awareness and user engagement across the board. It will also detail how other brands have seen crazy success in their social media marketing campaigns.
But first, let’s talk about viral hashtags’ role as a powerful research tool.
Use Hashtags as Research Tools
The power of viral hashtags doesn’t stop at just using them on your posts. They’re also excellent research tools and can help you grow your brand, better understand your competitors and audience, and keep up on the latest trends.
Odds are, if you’re using an industry hashtag, your competitors are, too. Search popular hashtags to easily find your competitors and gain some inspo on what is and isn’t working for your industry.
You can also use hashtags as a quick and easy market research tool. Test out different times of posting and similar hashtags on varying days to see which post sees the most engagement and model your future posts after that.
How To Use Viral Hashtags
1. Create Branded Hashtags for Challenges
Challenge videos are some of the most popular kinds of videos on platforms like TikTok, Triller, Snapchat Spotlight, and Instagram Reels. Brands that launch branded challenges or partner with influencers will see high engagement and an increase in ROI and brand awareness.
A branded hashtag is a hashtag that’s unique to your brand and can be as simple as your brand’s name or something relating to your brand identity. For example, Calvin Klein used the hashtag #ProudInMyCalvins in a campaign to support the LGBTQ+ community. The hashtag is also used in other videos and currently has over 2 million views on TikTok.
Some pro tips for creating the perfect branded hashtag? For starters, make sure it’s easy to spell. While this might seem obvious, keeping it short and sweet will increase the likelihood that users will use it. Also, stick to one branded hashtag per campaign as it makes it easy for users to identify certain trends or videos with your brand. Using one hashtag also makes things easy for you, too, by helping you keep track of your individual campaigns and gaining insight into what is appealing to your audiences.
Why are these important?
Creating branded hashtags for different TikTok campaigns is a great way to increase your brand’s visibility on the app and makes it easier for you to interact with users and influencers. If trending, it can also land your content on TikTok’s For You and Discover pages.
Who’s seeing results? Pepsi.
Pepsi launched its #PepsiCanBalance challenge in February 2020 to promote the brand’s limited edition Pepsi cans. The brand partnered with influencers such as Lionel Messi, Raheem Sterling, and Sofya Plotnikova, and invited users to post their videos of them balancing the special Pepsi cans. To date, the hashtag has 9.9 million views on TikTok and thousands of engagements.
The multinational brand has also consistently used the hashtag #PepsiChallenge to promote other challenges it sponsors. This hashtag allows TikTok users to easily associate videos with the brand and helps unite all the user-generated content.
2. Use Category-Specific Hashtags
While there’s no hard rule on how many hashtags your caption should include, it’s always important to include category-specific hashtags. Category-specific hashtags are those that are relevant to the topic of your video if the word isn’t explicitly mentioned in it. For example, if your brand is in the food industry, you could use viral hashtags like #cooking, #FoodTikTok, or #foodie. You can also get more specific, as well, and include hashtags about the specific food or dish you’re showing.
Using category-specific hashtags allows users who may not be following your brand’s page or to see and engage with your content if they’re watching videos with similar hashtags.
Why are these important?
Using category-specific hashtags makes your brand more discoverable when users search for related videos and align your content and brand with those more niche areas.
Who’s seeing results? Chipotle.
The fast-casual restaurant established itself on TikTok through its consistent stream of comedy-centered videos and branded challenges (Our personal fave was the #GuacDance challenge, it’s a bop and you know it.)
This recent post by Chipotle is a response video on how to make the restaurant’s famous rice has over 1.8 million likes and 17K comments. Along with using the brand’s name as a hashtag, it also uses the #TikTokRecipe and #Cooking hashtags to tap into cooking TikTok’s wide audience.
3. Hop on Existing Challenges
One way to connect with younger audiences on TikTok is to hop on existing and popular trends. But, it’s important to make sure those challenges align with your brand because one thing Gen Z hates to see are brands imitating trends that don’t fit with their image.
Why are these important?
Participating in trending challenges that align with your brand allows you to reach larger audiences and is another way your brand can partner with influencers who appeal to certain audiences. By and large, TikTok influencers occupy niche areas and are seen as highly trustworthy. If your brand can find an influencer who’s content aligns with your own, then you can gain credibility with their followers as well.
Who’s seeing results? NYX Cosmetics.
The beauty brand hopped on the #10SecondsVs challenge and is seeing tons of engagement. The trending makeup transformation challenge invites users to show 10 seconds of makeup prep and then quickly cuts to a short video clip of the makeup results. And let us just say — wow.
4. Location hashtags
Whether you want to brag about your company’s location or want to increase your brand’s presence among certain markets, location hashtags are an easy and powerful research tool. Location hashtags will make it more likely users in that area will see your brand’s content on their For You page versus competitors’ videos that don’t use location hashtags (plus, it only takes a few seconds to add to your posts.) On the other hand, if your competitors are using location hashtags, you can use them to easily research what subjects or challenges are popular among their brand and look for ways you can adopt similar strategies.
Why are these important?
Adding your location to TikTok posts will help you target specific audiences and help you keep track of what’s trending in your area. By doing so, you can watch other videos with the same location hashtag and see what types of content that are seeing high engagement.
Using location hashtags can also help you discover influencers who are trending where you want to build audiences.
Who’s seeing results? Visit Magazine.
The travel magazine posts TikTok videos that see upwards of 300K views and thousands of comments. Posting a wide variety of breathtaking landscape views from places around the world, the account uses location-specific hashtags to let users know where the videos are taken. Oftentimes, the videos use well-known TikTok audio clips as well, which makes the content seem familiar and inviting for new users.
5. Use multiple hashtags
While you never want to overload your posts with hashtags (again, TikTok isn’t early Insta), it’s important to use more than one hashtag to increase your reach and tap into different audiences. You should use both broad hashtags and a few more niche ones to make it more likely users will see your content and engage with it.
Why are these important?
Using more than one hashtag allows your content to be seen by more people and help your content see increased engagement.
Who’s seeing results? The NFL.
That’s right, the sports organization has an active, and dare we say, fire, TikTok. The NFL’s channel is a mixture of game replays set to music, branded challenges, and comedic interviews with players.
This post from September 15 was a clip of Steelers’ player JuJu Smith-Schuster (who also has a killer TikTok channel btw) celebrating in the end zone. Along with using the channel’s traditional hashtags #nfl and #football, it also added in #hiphopharry, #juju, and #viral.
Currently, the post is seeing crazy engagement with over 169K likes and over 1,600 shares.
What about the For You Page Hashtag?
The ultimate goal of any TikToker is to appear on someone else’s For You page. It’s unconfirmed if the #foryou, #foryourpage, or #fyp hashtags actually help posts appear on the coveted landing page. But, it never hurts to add in at least one of those into your comments.
You could also try using different variations of the hashtag on different posts and see which gains more engagement.
Appealing to the younger generation can seem complicated at times. However, as #CertifiedYoungPerson Paul Rudd demonstrated, it starts with being relevant. For brands who want to expand their reach on TikTok, this means using viral hashtags.
Viral hashtags — whether they’re your own branded hashtags, location and category-specific hashtags, or the #ForYouPage hashtag — will expand your reach to new audiences and increase your influence, engagement rates, and ROI. Brands across industries have seen success time and time again in adding well-thought-out hashtags on their posts.
You can also use viral hashtags to research your competitors and run easy A/B tests on your TikTok content to gain insight into what type of content sees more engagement and which hashtags reach a wider audience.