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What is a Hashtag and how do I use it?

In the age of social distancing, we rely more than ever before on social media to connect. Whether it be connecting with brands, the news, friends, or fun animal accounts – we are all looking for a way to feel included in the online community. Hashtags have been around for many years as ways to help algorithms connect conversations and boost discovery. However, as a digital marketer, I often come across hashtags being used ineffectively.

1. A hashtag is a connector
When you place a # before a word, it lets social media algorithms determine that your post is part of a specific conversation. If the post you are producing is important to a specific audience, a hashtag will help individuals identify the content that is relevant. Just like you can follow accounts, you can follow hashtags.

For example, #BlackLivesMatter is a hashtag that helps accumulate important news and information about protests, organization donations, and document police violence. Individuals follow the hashtag to keep in the loop on those specifics.

2. Trending Topics
If enough accounts use a specific hashtag or a recurring one such as #TBT or #ThrowBackThursday, Twitter can determine if it is a trending topic and Instagram places you in the search discoverability. The benefits of using a trending topic hashtag include increased exposure of your content, your followers being told you are posting about that topic, and ensures that you are a part of a larger narrative. However, if the content you are posting does not have any connection to the hashtag being used, it will receive little to no engagement and possibly backlash.

3. A hashtag is not a way to place emphasis
Just because you place a # before a word, it does not make that word more important. Many individuals fall into this trap which then leads to the content being linked to conversations and narratives it was not intended for. This commonly happens when hashtags are placed on adjectives instead of topics.

4. Over hashtagging
One might think that if one hashtag connects the post to one conversation, multiple hashtags will connect the content to multiple conversations.

While in theory that makes sense, in practice, the post loses public appeal and may not apply to all the conversations it has been linked to.

5. Do your research
Before you use a hashtag, do a quick search on what types of content it has been associated with in the past. Innocent sounding words in combination might lead to a conversation you and your brand would rather steer clear from. If you are creating a new hashtag so that you can easily follow content created about your brand, you’ll also want to make sure nobody else has used it before and it’s not associated with a competitor, making it ownable.

6. Best Practices
Each platform is different in terms of character count and functionality. While hashtags initially were only used on Twitter, they are now commonly used across all platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn). Whenever possible, it is always better to incorporate your hashtags into the copy of the content you are creating and hashtagging a word mid-sentence rather than placing a bunch at the end.

Best practice would state to use two hashtags on Twitter or LinkedIn, two-five on Facebook, and up to seven on Instagram.

Hashtags when used properly can increase SEO on your content as well as connect you to new followers. To learn more about creating a hashtag strategy for your social media content, drop us a line.

Abby Radovski is an Account Director with ruckus Digital.

How sports and athletes have pivoted to keep us entertained

How sports and athletes have pivoted to keep us entertained

At APEX PR and ruckus digital, we are fascinated and focused on brand pivots, especially in the wake of COVID-19. While almost all brands have shifted their operations to keep going either with their traditional services or by assisting frontline workers and those in need. This is exemplified by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) who converted their Scotiabank arena into Toronto’s largest kitchen, which serves up to 13,000 meals a day to front-line workers and shelters. This was only possible due to a sports fan’s worst nightmare, sweep season suspensions of all major sports leagues including the NBA and the NHL.

The announcements of suspended seasons primarily came in March. And up until recently, sports around the globe (besides Korea) have been on pause since. This has created a huge hole in not only the fan’s lives but players. Some have used this free time to stream on twitch, while others have taken their social media game up a notch. Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner, Toronto Raptors’ Malcolm Miller, and Toronto Ultra’s Methodz who teamed up to play a Call of Duty War Zone tournament. This uptick in athlete streamers is bringing greater awareness of e-sports and has brought twitch back into the spotlight. TSN’s digital SportsCentre, which is hosted on their IG story daily, started a segment where the host Marissa Roberto would recommend her favourite video games, further pushing e-sports into the limelight as all other sports were on pause. 

On the social front, Serge Ibaka, Host of How Hungry Are You, and the scarf-wearing Raptor (Not named OG) took to social to start a couple of new series. The first, named “How Bored Are You?” where he shares the everyday activities of quarantine including working out, household chores, and even his favourite TV shows. The segment had about 17 editions before he started hosting the IG live segment, “How Talented Are You?” where fans can show off their various talents. The show has stars also drop in such as Demar DeRozan who matched Ibaka’s $20,000 pledge to COVID-19 relief measures.

My favourite athlete during this time was Canadian Soccer star Alphonso Davies who spent his time signing stacks of player cards, being everyone in quarantine, and staying away from the Coronavirus which helped grow his Tik Tok follower count by more than 500K.

With a limited amount of sports news and event to broadcast, our national sports broadcasters Sportsnet and TSN quickly came up with the idea to re-run the Toronto Raptors historic NBA championship run over 24 consecutive nights until they once again, hosted the Larry O.B. trophy. South of the border, ESPN brought back its iconic “The Ocho” to ESPN2 where they replayed some of their previous airings of niche sports such as Cornhole Championships, Cherry pit spitting, and of course, dodgeball.

Now, sports are gradually returning. The UFC was the first major North American league to return with UFC 249 taking place without fans in Jacksonville Florida on May 9. Across the pond, German Bundesliga football returned on May 16, also without fans, and now Serie A soccer has resumed as well the EPL is returning on June 17. North America is also planning the re-emergence of sports with the MLS set to play a World Cup style tournament at Disney World in Orlando, and the NBA planning a reduced participant season also at Disney world. While the MLB and NHL are yet to pick a date or location for their return to action, the NHL has plans are underway including a finalized plan for a new 24 team playoff format.

While it was nice to see a different side of many of our favourite athletes, the return of sports will be a welcomed distraction to everything we’ve gone through in the last three-plus months.

Aaron Short is an Account Coordinator at Ruckus Digital

Need help with your social strategy? Drop us a line.

Design and Business in the world of COVID-19

Recently I was able to attend Remote Design week by the Design X community, a community of designers here in Canada and around the world. One of the many talks that had great insight into our current situation was by Adam Fry-Pierce, Director of Customer Experience Programs at Invision. He talked about many great insights from design leaders on design and business during COVID-19. I will be discussing 4 of these insights and what design leaders believe is going on currently and will be happening in the near future.

The first insight from Adam I would like to talk about is that The Digital transformation has accelerated. Digital now has not only been becoming one of the best channels to connect with customers but according to Adam in most cases, Digital is the only place to connect with the customer. Brands that used to be able to connect through in-person customer experiences now have to pivot to connect digitally. B2C brands are turning to digital design teams to quickly help them pivot to the current climate.

The second insight that Adam talks about that is very relevant is that Teams are designing for the “social distance economy”. Businesses within various industries such as restaurants and sports are creating new revenue channels.  Design has never been more important, so this means design teams are now having to really understand the current problems and having to come up with new experiences and solutions.

The COVID-19 has created a climate of empathy and caring is the third insight Adam discussed. Teams are now starting their meetings differently and expressing empathy, for example asking questions like “How are you?”. This climate is having teams come closer together and be more human. Design and business leaders are expressing empathy towards various aspects within their teams such as their families, peers, and the local community.

The last insight which I think is one of the most important ones is that Designers need to know how to communicate their business value. Design leaders and designers need to focus on the importance and urgency of communicating in the business language to be able to really rise.

Invision provides some great free resources for designers which I’m reading now.

Remote work for Design Teams By Ben Goldman, Abby Sinnott, and Greg Storey

 Business Thinking for Design Leaders by Ryan Rumsey

Vanessa Cuartas is an Integrated Media Designer at ruckus Digital.

Need help with your social strategy? Drop us a line.

Virtual Media Training

APEX’s new virtual media & narrative training module is an adaptation from our groundbreaking conventional approach and is designed for brand leaders and area experts to provide undeniable value during these trying times. It’s hard to connect in a virtual world. For this reason, we have developed a system to help spokespeople shape a distinct and sensitive COVID-19 narrative that will break through the clutter and provide value to the audience.

To learn more:

View Product Sheet

7 tips for creating social-first content

It’s safe to say that there is no lack of content to be consumed on social media—so how do you create something that stands out and performs well? Here, we’ve rounded up our best tips to help you get started.

1. Keep copy on your creative to a minimum
Less is more when it comes to social content. The nature of platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest is already quite visual, so what you post should be, too. Have a lot to say? Consider transforming a static image into a short video or moving your message to the caption. Keeping a low word count will also ensure you can boost your content should you decide to later on.

2. Create content to spec
One size does not fit all. Help your content look and perform its best by keeping the respective specs of each social platform in mind. For example, your 1200×628 infographic might look stellar on LinkedIn, but it isn’t optimal in an Instagram feed where a square size is best.

3. Format and audience matters
Just as your audience varies across social platforms, so should your content. What you’re posting should resonate with the consumer. For example, a beautiful lifestyle image that performs well on Instagram might not get as many likes as you would’ve hoped for on a platform like Twitter, where users are there to consume news.

Aside from customizing content to a platform, you’ll also want to ensure you create with mobile in mind, as the majority of people consume content through their phones.

4. Add subtitles to your videos
Speaking of creating mobile-first, don’t forget to add subtitles to your videos! Unless you’re posting to TikTok, chances are that your audience—85 per cent of them, to be exact—are watching your videos with the sound off. Adding subtitles will not only ensure that they’re able to enjoy the video as intended, but it will make it accessible as well.

5. Stay true to your brand’s look and feel
This tip might not seem like a big deal… until you experience the difference it makes.

Staying true to your brand—whether it’s colour scheme, typography, animation style, or the type of visuals used most—will help you build a cohesive feed that stands out.

6. Plan your content based on past performance
Ensure your content continues to meet your KPIs by planning based on data. Check social platform backends, run reports and compare how each piece of content performed. The more you do this, the more you will start to notice trends. For example, you might start to realize that your meme content performs better on Instagram compared to Facebook. Based on this, you might decide to run this content only on Instagram moving forward (see tip #3).

7. Don’t be afraid to try new things
Just because you’re sticking with what works, doesn’t mean you can’t experiment. If you’ve been meaning to try out gifs or want to hop on TikTok, do it! Being a marketer is all about testing and being able to pivot your strategy.

Emily Rivas is the Senior Strategist at ruckus Digital.

Need help with your social strategy? Drop us a line.

“Under Promise, Over Deliver”

Also know as “surprise and delight”. Expectation setting is a huge part of being successful not just from a client perspective, but internally in the workplace. Deliver everything on time, and deliver your best work, every time.

Amanda Carreiro is a Senior Digital Content Manager at ruckus Digital.

Need help with your social strategy? Drop us a line.

“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better”

I believe that people tend to place too many expectations on themselves. College grads think they need to be experts, those starting out think they’re not as far along as they should be and on and on it goes. I know I personally thought I wasn’t ready to be in the workforce because I didn’t know as much as I believed I needed to. But I also knew that the only way you can get there is to work at it. Treat every day as a building block to your success and try to learn as much as you can on any given day. If you pick up one new thing to make you quicker, smarter, more curious every day. You will find the excellence that you’ve been searching for.

Aaron Short is a Coordinator at ruckus Digital.

Need help with your social strategy? Drop us a line.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”

The digital world is constantly changing and as practitioners, it’s important to have the ability to pivot. While it may be easier to remain in your comfort zone out of the fear of not being good at something, it will never give you the opportunity to learn or better yourself. I always keep these wise words in my back pocket when I take on a new challenge.

Emily Rivas is the Senior Strategist at ruckus Digital.

Need help with your social strategy? Drop us a line.

“Be kind to yourself.”

A marketing and communications career is a fast paced one. Towards the start of mine, like many others in the industry, I worked extremely long hours and wasn’t so kind to myself. I rarely stopped. I quickly realized that burnout is a real thing.  I learned that to do the best possible work and to keep up with the fast pace, you must be kind to yourself. That means reaching out for help when you need it and understanding that you won’t always be ‘on’ and taking advantage of the moments when you are.  Marketing is a team sport and a team is only as good as the collective of individuals. It’s important that we are all kind to ourselves so that as a team, we’re ready to go and up for any challenge.


Elspeth Baird is the Group Director at ruckus Digital.

Need help with your social strategy? Drop us a line.