Measuring the impact of a hashtag


It’s that time of year when higher education campaigns are in full swing. This year especially #hashtags feature prominently on ads both in the digital world and the old school hard copy (billboards, bus posters, newspapers etc).

Some in the north:

  • #GetInSalford
  • #TheUCLanExperience
  • #gannin2ncl
  • #mmuclearing
  • #leedsmetclear


Having a hashtag, or link/ phone number for that matter, on a campaign though is no guarantee that someone will click it or ring it. If all you are going to simply measure is calls to the number, visits to the link or times hashtag used you are simply wasting your time. You need to relate the source to impact for a true measure.

Hashtags are a way of identifying social messages (not just twitter, but Facebook and google+) by using a common word(s). Acting like a link they can then send a user to aggregated feeds showing all the latest instances of the hashtag. But who adds hashtags/ creates hashtags in the first place?

We’ll for university campaigns it’s the universities marketing team and hear lies a problem. Potential students can smell a rat faster than you think. Social sharing is best peer to peer and an organisation getting involved often doesn’t work. Organisations will either use official social accounts or using fake student accounts, both of which will be dissed immediately. Ideally you want the hashtag to grow organically so engage with the social community let them run with the concept all you do is plant the seed.


Back to measurement and impact

Hashtag strength and reach

First up is the hashtag itself. Let’s see who has shared it rather than times shared. Using sites like social mention, tweetreach or klout we can see who the hashtag has been exposed too. It’s no good a person with no followers to mention a hashtag as they don’t share it with anyone. You need highly respected peers to share it!

Using tweetreach we have the following:

  • reach
  • exposure
  • top contributors (exclude yourself in the analysis!) – How many times they tweeted it, number of retweets and impressions (those that saw it)

tweetreach screnshot


Using social mention we have the following:

  • strength
  • passion
  • reach
  • sentiment


Hashtag driving users to link CTA

Along with the hashtag in the social mention we normally see a link back to the CALL TO ACTION (CTA). Using the new social feature in google analytics you can see and analyse social traffic. They key here is to use a specific url that only relates to social messages.

Go to Acquisition, Social, Landing pages

Now to find the impact of the hashtag on track backs just filter by the specific url. Compare numbers of track backs with the specific url to overall hashtag use.



Hashtag driving users to a phone number CTA

If you have the money then several call tracking software providers can help here, but you don’t have too. Simple use different numbers for different sources. One number for main stream promotion, one for the website and one for social media. If you assign a hashtag with a number then your phone analytics will show you the impact. Don’t compare social phone number to other numbers. Again compare social numbers to the times the hashtag was used… Remember impact! You can also take this one step further and see the percentage who called and did they achieve the goal (ie attained a place via clearing)


Impact, impact impact



Aggregated feeds

Of course these show all social messages those positive and negative. Some of you might use an  api and embed messages on a web page. Rather than visits, page views to this page, you need to measure impact. I’m this case is the page itself shared or interaction with the messages. The first is simple. The track interactions you will need to add event tracking to the api. Remember to set a goal up in google analytics with the event details and thus measure interaction conversion.

Personally I wouldn’t use an aggregated feed purely because it’s out of you hands. What I would use is social proof techniques. All good landing pages with a CTA should include social proof. Simple quote some of the best messages on your page and make these shareable. By using these rich snippets (and tracking them) again you will be able to measure social influence. Unbounce are great at adding shareable messages embedded in the page.

Unbounce example of embedded sharable message


The key to all of this though is to have a measurement plan in place first. Set goals (in this case goals on impact) set targets pre-campaign and then monitor. Reporting on the above after the campaign with no goal set is going to give you a nice to know metric which won’t be widely accepted by senior management. By setting goals and targets with senior management pre-campaign you will automatically have their attention after all it’s something they have now have a vested interest in. When you achieve more than your target then you will really have there attention especially if you have set values. For more detail on goal setting and measurement models see my previous blog item: Focus reporting – ditch vanity stats for ones that provide insights.




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Posted in Goals, Insights

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