How to use #hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and other social media
Hashtags have been a popular tool on Twitter for some time now and it came as no surprise when Facebook recently introduced them, especially since it’s been rumoured for quite a while.
However, just how useful are hashtags to both social media users and marketing departments? Do they have any real value and if so, how can they be best utilised to ensure that they complement social media marketing, rather than just annoy people.
The short answer is yes, they do have value to the marketing professional, but as with most things, only if used properly.
Where to use hashtags
One of the best uses of hashtags is to strengthen brand recognition and ensure that consumers can find you easily on the social networks that use them. Choosing a strong tag and adding it to all of your promotional material is much more likely to stick in the mind than a web address and will help to increase social followers.
In order to create a hashtag that works, choose as short a phrase as possible and ensure that it’s closely related to your brand and industry. One of the best examples of this is Sharpie, a company that found the best way to relate to their young audience was through encouraging self-expression.
This led to a campaign that was intended to align the brand with creativity and Sharpie encouraged followers to tag conversations about artistry with #Sharpie.
Marketing depends heavily on knowing your audience, so when using tags it’s important to make sure that these speak to the target market and is something that they can readily relate to.
Once you have done this, you can experiment with different words/phrases, whilst ‘listening’ to your followers to see which has the most success. It’s then a case of adopting this phrase as your primary hashtag. By choosing something that’s not too generic and is likely to get your brand picked up in search, especially if it’s memorable, you have the best chance of hashtag success.
Join the conversation tags
Some marketers will tell you that piggybacking on the hashtags of others is a good way to go, as you’re essentially utilising an already successful hashtag. However, this isn’t recommended; for a start, it’s likely to annoy a user who is looking for the actual brand relating to the tag, and overall it won’t help strengthen brand recognition for you.
Lots of popular brands are using ‘join the conversation’ hashtags these days and that’s because it’s a great way of connecting with an audience. It’s wise to try and keep topics closely related to your brand, but the conversation can be about anything.
So if Sharpie were to choose a topic, it could be something surrounding art and favourite artists, for example:
Join the conversation: #Sharpie #FavouriteArtists
This encourages the audience that the company already knows is interested in art to get involved and spark discussion. This allows a brand to build a relationship with the customer, so that they are much more likely to remain loyal to the brand.
Of course, special offers, events, new blog entries, new products and so on can also be promoted in this manner.
Remember not to overuse hashtags though, nobody likes an illegible hashtag such as: #idontreallyknowwhatimdoing! Ensure that words are separated when using phrases too, so that they are easy to read at a glance: #BreakItUp.
Holding a tweet chat can be effective, as all you really have to do is post a new question a few times a day and answer all of the responses quickly. Choose something topical that’s in the news or about a TV program and you’ll be surprised with the response you receive.
Pitfalls to look out for
Firstly, it’s wise to ensure that you address the audience in a friendly, humorous and personal manner which they are likely to respond to. Again, this means knowing your target market thoroughly, the kind of language that they use and the terminology which they are likely to use.
The thing about social is that it’s social and therefore if you come across as a stuffy corporate voice, it’s unlikely that anyone will respond and it could even damage your brand.
Additionally, hashtags can be hijacked by internet trolls and used in such a way that it damages the brand. When this happens, it’s vital to respond initially telling your fans what has happened and appealing for their help.
Fans will generally respond in a positive manner if you do this and getting them involved is a damage limitation PR exercise. Try to make light of it and again, use humour to diffuse the situation, whilst remaining completely transparent about everything that is happening.
As with everything social, the only way to deal with it is to be open, honest and if it’s down to a mistake on your part, apologetic.
Remember when using hashtags not to use #too #many# #in #one #post as this is annoying to most people, as you can see. Also make sure that the spelling is correct or you may find your hashtag going viral for all the wrong reasons.
Measuring the effectiveness of hashtags
Before we get to tracking, it’s worth mentioning that you can use keywords for your hashtags that are in line with your business. Try Google Trends to see what popular terms are being searched for in your industry and again, experiment in the first instance to see which ones perform the best.
Key points to remember when using hashtags:
- Use thoughtfully and sparingly, don’t just tag everything in sight
- Ensure that hashtags serve a purpose, don’t use them for trying to be funny
- Use strong terms with specific meanings
- Prompt conversation and ensure you get fully immersed in it when it begins
- Create a primary hashtag to strengthen your brand and use it on your advertisements, stationary and website
- Create landing pages for your site with popular hashtags you are currently using