The Potential of #YourMessage

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the buffet of college football rivalry games. Among the must see games for me is the Egg Bowl, pitting Mississippi State (my undergrad alma mater) against Ole Miss. This year’s game was a treat to watch as State thumped Ole Miss 31-3, but as a self-proclaimed marketing geek I was even happier about the recognition State received for its social media innovation.

The acclaim Mississippi State received before and during the game was its integration of Twitter into the game, painting #Hail State in one of the end zones. The nod to Twitter, along with replacing players’ names on the backs of jerseys with “Hail State” (the name of the school’s fight song), garnered media attention and created a buzz among fans and viewers watching the game on ESPNU. One estimate put the number of tweets including the #HailState hashtag at more than 1,000 during the game alone. While that figure pales in comparison to the buzz generated by breaking news or celebrity gossip, the idea to weave social media into the game production was a genius move by Mississippi State’s marketing staff.

While #HailState was an innovative tactic for college football, the bigger question it raises for marketers is what is the true potential of engaging people via Twitter? As I watched the game and unfolding conversation on Twitter, I considered the possibilities for hashtag marketing. A few examples of how Twitter can be incorporated into existing marketing efforts:

• Addition of Twitter search terms in print and digital ads- Just as including a website address is common copy, inserting a Twitter search term would be a way to drive people to brand conversations.
• Twitter search terms that are based on ad slogans or product traits- Do not limit creation of search terms to company or brand name.
• Connecting to other IMC tactics – Twitter search terms can link an audience to a brand’s sports sponsorship or support of a nonprofit organization. Connecting social media with sponsorship enables telling of the brand story by reaching audiences may be difficult to access with sponsorship alone.

The three examples merely scratch the surface of how Twitter can be integrated into current marketing campaigns. Social media does not replace existing communication channels; it enhances them by encouraging the audience’s involvement in the communication process. Of course, this idea loses its effectiveness if the landscape becomes a sea of hashtags. Be strategic in communication of #YourMessage. If you encourage people to embed your term in their messages, there must be significance or meaning to the conversation you seek to create. Otherwise, your Twitter efforts may be described with a common hashtag: #Fail.

The Commercial Appeal - "MSU Athletic Director Hopes to Score with End Zone Hashtag"

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