A group of teens stands in a circle outside, applauding one teen in the center of the circle. The teen in the center is a boy in black pants, a gray shirt, a denim jacket, and black-and-white sneakers. The boy is mid-dance, bending himself backward with his legs slightly bent and one arm extending upward. In the foreground, out of focus, a pair of hands holds up a smartphone and films the scene. Behind the group of teens is a building with a tan brick exterior and concrete steps leading up to a white door.
The original hashtag challenges on TikTok involved music and dancing. While your company's hashtag challenge can be music-themed, it should also promote your products or brand. — Getty Images/Maskot, Maskot Bildbyrå AB

Hashtag challenges are a great way to boost engagement with your followers and solicit creative user-generated content. With hashtag challenge videos racking up thousands, if not millions of views, these campaigns are proven to increase follower counts, improve brand awareness, and produce high ROI. Here’s what you need to know about hashtag challenges and how to create one for your business.

What is a hashtag challenge?

A hashtag challenge is one in which the challenge creator (either an individual or a brand) asks people to perform a certain task and tag their video or image using a given hashtag. Usually with the help of influencers, brands would create online challenges on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to encourage users to share how they use a product or service.

However, hashtag challenges exploded in popularity on TikTok. Early hashtag challenges were inspired by specific dances or songs, such as the artist The Weeknd’s #blindinglightschallenge. This challenge consisted of TikTok users doing a simple few dance moves while the song "Blinding Lights" played in the background. Videos created around this particular hashtag have racked up over 486 million views.

Since hashtag challenges first started going viral, TikTok has taken steps to monetize these videos for brands. Today, the platform offers Branded Hashtag Challenges: sponsored campaigns that companies can use to boost awareness, drive engagement, and build a bigger fanbase.

[Read more: How to Use Hashtags to Promote Your Small Business on Instagram and TikTok]

How do Branded Hashtag Challenges work?

TikTok’s Branded Hashtag Challenges (HTC) allows brands to create opportunities for engagement with their audiences. These ads consist of a three- to six-day campaign in which user-generated content appears on the TikTok hashtag challenge page.

Try to pick a challenge that is both easy to complete and leaves lots of room for creativity.

Setting up the challenge is relatively straightforward. TikTok will lead you through the steps, which include selecting music, creating contest rules, and setting up a hashtag of no more than 70 English characters. Sponsoring your campaign using TikTok’s Hashtag Explorer Plus program will ensure your challenge is seen by more users.

“[You] can place your branded HTC on the ‘Discover Page’. This is where TikTok users go to find trending sounds and hashtags. A banner here for your HTC will direct traffic to the hashtag page, the central hub for the challenge,” wrote Tribe, an influencer marketing company.

Tips for setting up a hashtag challenge

Of course, it’s not imperative that you spend big to run a sponsored hashtag challenge. Many brands keep it organic, encouraging their existing followers to participate and working with some influencers to help the campaign spread.

Hashtag challenges should be fun, relevant, and memorable. Try to pick a challenge that is both easy to complete and leaves lots of room for creativity. For example, shoe retailer DSW launched a challenge for users to share videos of themselves wearing shoes with the hashtag #TooManyShoes to be entered for a chance to win a full closet of shoes.

The #improvisewithJUKE campaign, posted by Nissan Australia, aimed to raise awareness of their new crossover car, the JUKE. The brand provided users with music and challenged them to make their own car commercial voiceover. The grand prize: actually being featured in a JUKE commercial on TV.

Work with influencers to make sure your hashtag challenge gets seen. “You can ask them to participate in the challenge and share it on their respective TikTok accounts. This will introduce the challenge to their followers, some of whom will participate in the challenge,” wrote Influencer Marketing Hub. “Influencers can also cross-promote on other platforms and get more people to participate in your challenge.”

[Read more: 4 Smart Ways to Boost Engagement With Social Media Followers]

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