Our step-by-step guide to how brands can find and react to hashtags on Instagram.

Happy National Pretzel Day! Pretzel Day is just one of hundreds of unofficial holidays — holidays that are often celebrated more on social media than anywhere else.
For marketers, jumping in on these holidays can be a good way to generate engagement and awareness, especially by using a hashtag. This not only works for unofficial holidays, but for other popular culture occurrences as well, say the premiere of a new “Game of Thrones” season or during the World Series.
But just taking part in one of these events on social media can raise questions. Is it worth joining in the conversation? Is it a good fit for your brand or will it seem as though you’re trying to hard?
We look at how social tools can help us find those answers.

How to find popular hashtags?

There are several weekly recurring hashtags that a brand can jump in on at any time. On Monday, there’s #MondayMotivation and #ManCrushMonday (or #MCM).
For finding what’s going to be big ahead of time, sites that track unofficial holidays like Days of the Year are a good way to discover new opportunities. A look at the trending hashtags on Twitter can reveal what’s currently popular, even cross-platform.
For this blog post, we’re going to look at the campaign around #NationalBeerDay on April 7th.

This post by GoPro was the highest engaging Instagram post for National Beer Day. With over 165,000 likes, they engaged followers by asking them to share their favorite brew in the comments. Try NewsWhip Spike to find the viral content around unofficial holidays in real-time. 
Of course, before you blindly jump into a campaign, you can measure what’s worked historically, and find out how you’ll benchmark your own success.

Test the waters with analytics

It’s vital to measure the popularity and effectiveness of these hashtags for a few reasons. It lets us know if our brand can see similar success, what the ROI could be, and the best and worst examples from other brands and participants.
Using NewsWhip Analytics, we took a full examination of the engagement the hashtag drove for brands. Brands who participated in the campaign contributed to a total of over 414,000 likes and 11,000 comments.
instagram National Beer Day
We can also look at our engagement chart to see what times the Instagram likes and comments were focused around. There’s a big spike in engagement around lunchtime and toward the end of the work day, as well as after work hours.   
National Beer Day Analytics engagement
If we want to visualize which exact brands drove the most likes and comments around #NationalBeerDay, we can do that too. The pie charts below show us which brands dominated the conversation. (Click for full size)
national beer day instagram pie
Further than that, we can dive into the top individual posts ranked by Instagram likes. We can separate them out by whether they’re a video (201) or photo (200) post. It’s interesting to see the success of big non-beer brands like GoPro, UFC, Lululemon, and Whole Foods joining in.
National Beer Day content table
Beyond this, we could zoom out to include publishers and personal accounts to pinpoint the most influential sites, authors and articles. For brands that might be trying to run a more substantial campaign, this information could be useful.
Brands looking to measure their own success should also consider how many likes and comments their brand usually gets on the platform. How many followers do they have? What would a successful post for them look like?

What to know for creating content

With so many brands eager for opportunities like this, how do you stand out amidst the digital noise?
Think outside the brand. If you think creatively, you can find chances to segue your brand into the social conversation. This in mind, it’s vital to remember your brand’s core themes and voice for any content you produce.
Dating brand Zoosk may have missed the mark a bit on National Beer Day.

Zoosk combined the presidential campaign with #NationalBeerDay. The brand attracts over 100 likes for their best posts—this one, at 69 likes, fell a bit flat.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s National Beer Day was whimsical, bright, and tongue-in-cheek, much like their other posts on the platform. The post received 2,198, right under their 2016 average of 2,421 likes per post (based on content from January 1st to April 25th, 2016).

?Somewheeeere over the rainbrew…? Happy #NationalBeerDay, everybody. Cheers! ?

A photo posted by Amazon (@amazon) on

The most important thing to consider is whether your content is adding value to the conversation. That value could be informative, educational, or just entertaining.

Lululemon had one of the most engaging Instagram posts during the campaign. A fitness brand, their National Beer Day post went beyond their brand.
Their travel recommendation still fit in their brand voice and added value for their followers—Millennial, health conscious women who aspire to live their lives to the fullest.  
With these insights in mind, your brand can start jumping in on trending Instagram hashtags and drive engagement. 

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