Brands in 2013 are more socially active than ever but are they socially effective? The challenge for big brands lies in creating the right engagement opportunities and keeping the interest of their audience. The constant need to measure, evaluate and re-align your approach to social engagement is what excites and terrifies brands in the same breath, but ultimately being able to measure output provides a discernible metric that can be applied to improve positioning and increase standout in a crowded space.

The socialisation of the web has been a rapid phenomenon that shows no signs of relenting. It has meant that brands are party to consumer conversations where insight, which was once unobtainable, is now at the touch of a button. These areas are open for engagement and provide advertisers with a lucrative database that only serves to benefit both brand and customer. Previously a consumer was bombarded with irrelevant ads. Now, brands can now target and understand their wants and needs better than ever before.

As consumers now engage with each other in real-time, brands must adopt this approach too. According to a recent report by Nielsen, time spent on social media in the U.S. across personal computers and mobile devices grew 37 percent to reach 121 billion minutes in July 2012, up from 88 billion minutes in July 2011. So as a brand, if you’re not talking, you’re missing a trick! Tracking customer interaction provides insight, intelligence and helps brands to target consumers much more effectively and efficiently.

Hashtag targeting

One such method of tracking subjects of interest is the #hashtag. It is slowly becoming commonplace for advertisers and consumers to use the hashtag as an organic way of searching user’s interests and a way of associating opinions to specific topics. In fact, according to real-time social analytics provider Topsy Data, the five most notable Twitter hashtags alone generated upwards of 11.7 million mentions over the last year, making hashtag targeting an invaluable and increasingly essential tool for brands.

Companies are visualising the potential that hashtag tracking brings to advertisers; so with the introduction of new cross-platform hashtag targeting capabilities, brands can visualise and interact with consumers that are talking about them in real-time. The opportunity for brands is huge as they can now influence and monetise their earned media, making their paid media smarter and more effective. For example, a brand can identify consumers who use the hashtags #nike #olympics #fitness on desktop computers, tablets and mobile devices and build a campaign with full page ad roadblocks on desktop and mobile platforms targeted to these same consumers online within milliseconds. Similar to search advertising, brands like Nike can reach consumers by targeting hashtags based on categorised terms like #olympics, #fitness with campaigns relevant to running and athletic equipment.

There are so many forward thinking practices being made available daily for brands to better engage with their audience and those that jump on them, they will reap the rewards. Consumers want to be heard and engaged with, so silent, uninformed brands will soon be side-lined in favour of their intelligent, knowledgeable counterparts.