Q&A with Tagboard CEO Josh Decker: Has the Industry Gone Hashtag Crazy?

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ADOTAS — Marketers today are apparently very high on hashtags. This ubiquitous symbol made popular by Twitter has quickly become a staple in commercials and online campaigns as a way to inject a bit of social engagement into the mix. But while hashtag usage has hit an all-time high, are advertisers and consumers reaching their saturation point?

Adotas spoke recently with Tagboard CEO and co-founder Josh Decker (pictured) to talk about the hashtag trend, where it’s headed and how their service works. Tagboard is a company that aggregates hashtag usage across several platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Google+. It is a way not to monitor hashtags, but rather to see what topics are trending across social networks.

Q: Talk about the inspiration behind Tagboard. Why was it created and why is it needed in today’s marketplace?

A: Tagboard was inspired by the way we saw online communities formed. We recognized the ability of the hashtag to become a unifying mechanism to bring people together and help create new communities, and knew there was a market opportunity for a platform that would aggregate social media via the hashtag across multiple networks. We started off by building a simple social search engine as part of a larger suite of products, and were having so much using it internally we decided to just release it. Almost immediately we started receiving interest from a variety of brand verticals.

Q: How does it work, step-by-step?

A: Tagboard has three different applications. For the average consumer just looking to research hashtags, they can visit the main site, type in a hashtag and immediately see social media updated in real time from six of the most popular social media sites including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, App.net, Vine and Google+.

For the brand or campaign manager, we have several different tools meant to facilitate a safe but interactive social conversation with their audience. Businesses, organizations, and communities can create their own “tagboard” and immediately start moderating the conversation, highlighting the most relevant content, removing irrelevant posts, and engaging with their customers or fans. Customization options make it easy for them to brand the tagboard so it matches their brand/campaign esthetic, and tagboards can easily be embedded on owned web properties.

Finally, our Tagboard Live product equips event organizers — from weddings, to conferences, to large-venue sporting events — with turnkey social display options that feature curated media, from both their attendee audience and the rest of the world.

Q: The beauty of hashtags is that they are explicit brand conversations by consumers. Why does this better than other forms of endorsement or marketing?

A: The best part about hashtag conversations is that they offer a true pulse of user sentiment and feedback. It is authentic and organic. The hashtag is cross-network and there is little to no barrier to entry for people to join a global conversation.

Q: Second-screen viewing is very popular among televised events like sports, the Emmys and award shows. What is the value of this and can you state an example of bridging the consumer experience? Any examples with metrics?

A: It is true that second screen viewing has been on the rise and has changed the way people watch live television and events. Nearly 40% of smartphone owners use their phone while watching TV on a daily basis. The hashtag has played a major role in this transition and has unified the conversation and has allowed people to discuss the event across a multitude of networks such as Twitter and Facebook.  When the shows use social media on their shows with the display of the hashtag or hashtagged posts, that encourages others to join in.

Q: From an advertising perspective, what are the ramifications of this technology?

A: At the intersection of earned and paid media is the notion of “native media.” This is the opportunity for advertisers: to join in the conversation that is already happening. This is why you are seeing so many hashtags in shows and commercials. Producers and advertisers know that viewers are engaging in social media conversations, and inviting them to use hashtags can lead to increased awareness and affinity.

 



Q: Is it a dystopian world where all we do is talk via hashtags, like in the video above? We’re curious to know your thoughts.

A: I love this skit. When the hashtag started making appearances in comedies and skits I knew that it had become a household word and had a great chance of success. People can really misuse and overuse the hashtag, sure. But the “noise” creates more opportunities for others to create “signal” by using the hashtag properly, and with facilitation tools (such as Tagboard).

Q: What is the future of advertising and social media?

A: With hashtags, social media and advertising are one in the same. Brands are now in a position to take advantage of native media, with new tools that increase R.O.I. and reinforce brand perception on a grass roots level. Some already are — with over half of last year’s Super Bowl ads using hashtags as the primary call to action — but some are left trying to figure out how to integrate social media with traditional advertising strategies. The future, then, is at the cross-section of social virility and brand facilitation.

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