Wrong Way - Hashtags at Trade Shows

El Pollo Loco
My friend, Jon Trask and I enjoy reading about social media fails (especially epic ones!) and we have spent many hours podcasting about the wrong way to do meetings and marketing. When I first saw this picture, I thought of him. Driving by El Pollo Loco, you'd probably never notice the small line on the bottom of this sign. I never did until I walked by it. I love the just-on-the-edge-of-offensive humor. Their name translates to The Crazy Chicken, after all. This is consistent and provocative branding. Their tagline is Crazy You Can Taste - so of course they'd want to turn that into a hashtag: #CrazyYouCanTaste.

You can start a hashtag and use it all day long with your own account, but until you get your customers to use it, there's no ROI. In the case of El Pollo Loco, however, I like that they add it to their tweets for the consistency of the branding. They also get a few people to tweet using the hashtag - and that is great! For promotional posts and re-tweeting customers' Instagram pics, it works.

Let's say you are going to exhibit at a trade show. It would be easy to let the youngest person on your staff come up will all kinds of great ideas on how to use social media in the booth. They are probably going to suggest that you promote your own hashtag because in their minds, it is just a competition. You are there to set yourself apart from the other exhibitors and therefore you should have your own hashtag. {WRONG}

You need to capitalize on the event's hashtag so all attendees will see what you are tweeting! Unless they were previously following your handle or hashtag, they won't see your tweets and they won't see the tweets/pics you are incentivizing other attendees to send. If you have created an experience in your booth that people will want to take a picture/selfie of, you want them to use the main event hashtag so that everyone at the event will see it when they are following what is going on at the event. You can setup a photo wall in your booth that only shows the pictures you want to show, even if it is aggregating the tweets/photos/videos from the overall event.

You may be wondering why you wouldn't use both the event hashtag and your own. The simple answer is length and user experience. It is hard enough for people to get one hashtag right, much less two and you don't want to take up more precious characters than you have to when you are limited to 140! Keep it simple. Always try to be part of the conversation your community is having - whether that community is the conference you are attending or the industry your business is in. Add meaningful dialogue to the conversation. If you can get your customers to share their experience with your brand in these same conversations, then you win.


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