Hashtag Etiquette on Twitter

Hashtags are the keywords of Twitter. They are so effective that other social platforms and digital spaces are implementing them. That being said, there is an absolutely wrong way to use hashtags for a business’ reputation and perception online. The same way Google has SEO guidelines and algorithms to prevent keyword stuffing, your business needs to do a self-check on how you are using hashtags on social.

Via Flickr by  James Mitchell

Via Flickr by James Mitchell

Businesses want their Tweets to be seen, so they often make the mistake of stuffing their posts with as many hashtags (or keywords) as possible. An example:

Buy our product! #product #anothernameforproduct #industry #relatedindustry #relatedindustry #relatedindustry #companyname

Yes, hashtags can be helpful in getting your content exposure. Too many hashtags turns users off. When you hashtag stuff, you become:

  • a spam email
  • a flyer shoved in their fact at an event
  • a blind telemarketing call,
  • a pop-up ad

Fix It Tip: Stick to 1-3 hashtags at most for each Tweet.

Via Flickr by mikecogh

Via Flickr by mikecogh

Alright, you‘ve got it, 1-3 hashtags! You start sending out Tweets that look like this:

Buy our product! #product #industry #companyname

But you don’t see any improvement in engagement or reach. One reason for a lack of engagement in the above example is the hashtag placement. Social is about having a conversation, and sticking hashtags at the end still gives off a distinct advertising feel.

Fix It Tip: Place hashtags naturally into the conversation, such as:

Buy our #product – it improves #industry. #companyname

As you may have noticed in that example, it is okay to put a hashtag at the end of a Tweet as a statement point. But the majority of hashtags should be placed naturally in the Tweet.

Via Flickr by mikecogh

Via Flickr by mikecogh

Let’s keep improving the Tweet! Even with the fix it tip, the Tweet is still obviously advertising because of its wording. Here is a real life of example of what you are doing when you directly ask people to buy stuff on social. Two friends are talking in a coffee shop and you interrupt them to show off your superamazingawesomelifechanging product. The friends will be annoyed and will never buy from you. Multiply that example by millions and that is what you are doing on social when you directly advertise.

Fix It Tip: Inject some empathy into that Tweet! Instead of using hashtags as keywords to gain customers, think of them as tools to help the customer find the product they need to make their life easier. An example:

This #industrytask makes your life difficult. Try #product to get back to easy work and easier living. #companyname

You may have noticed the trending hashtags on Twitter. You know they are popular and want to use them to get exposure. DiGiorno Pizza thought the same with their Tweet.

digiorno-pizza

Here is the problem – the #WhyIStayed campaign was about domestic violence and having real women explain why they stayed in abusive relationships.

pizzafail

Fix It Tip: Always. Research. Hashtags. This is a good example of why you need to. The trending hashtags are a conversation. You can’t jump in without knowing what it’s about. Another real life example – let’s say you are at a party and you overhear someone talking about peanuts. Excited, you jump into their conversation, raving about this awesome peanut-centric recipe you have, only to find out they were talking about how one person’s cousin just died from a peanut allergy. Not only is that immensely awkward, but you became “that guy.” Don’t do it on social! DiGiorno Pizza feels so awkward about their fail that they haven’t been on Twitter since (which is a whole other social media mistake, but that is for a different post entirely).

It is a good idea to research any hashtag you want to use. Find out:

  • what it actually means
  • who is using it
  • how are they using it
  • how often it is being used
Via Flickr by cogdogblog

Via Flickr by cogdogblog

Lastly, I will tackle the Shakespearean question: To use or not to use branded hashtags? A simple branded hashtag you put at the end of every Tweet (ie: #companyname) is a good idea. You can even have branded hashtags for campaigns or special things your brand does that sets you apart from the competition. Just don’t use all of them all the time.

Bonus Hashtag Tips: Since hashtags are on multiple platforms, you may be wondering, “How in the world do I use them everywhere else?” Here is a quick cheat sheet:

Via Flickr by clasesdeperismo

Via Flickr by clasesdeperismo

  • Facebook: I don’t believe you should use them at all, but that is a personal choice. If you want to use hashtags on Facebook, I would stick to one at the end of a post.
  • Instagram: More hashtags are okay on Instagram. Try 3-5 in a post and make them more personal and less trendy. Hashtags are a way of conversing on Instagram rather than to find images.
  • Pinterest: Preferably, hover around 2-4 per post. Often Pinterest users don’t care about hashtag content in a post, they just want the information on the Pin. If you want to use more you can, but I stand by the fact that keyword stuffing on any platform makes your brand look scammy and unprofessional.
  • Tumblr: Use as many hashtags as you want since they are nondescript. However, your brand will win the favor of the difficult Tumblr audience if you research the crap out of popular Tumblr hashtags to understand the platform’s unique conversation.
  • Google+: Since not everyone uses Google+ for audience expansion, there is not much etiquette on hashtags (besides keyword stuffing). Stick to 2-4 hashtags, either throughout the post or at the end.
  • LinkedIn: No hashtags on LinkedIn. Come on, people, LinkedIn is a classy professional place. Using hashtags is the equivalent of wearing sweatpants to a merger meeting.
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Should You Choose Facebook or Twitter for the Start of Your Social Presence?

When a business decides it’s time to keep up and get their brand on social, it is extremely overwhelming. There are many social network options, but most new-to-social businesses settle on Facebook or Twitter as their first online marketing platform.

Via Flickr by Jason Howie

Via Flickr by Jason Howie

Why is this? Well, Facebook and Twitter are warring clans for the dominion of social media. While Facebook is the innovator that amped social media into what it is today, Twitter was ahead of the curve in creating a new form of social networking. Since their rise to popularity, Twitter and Facebook have been borrowing site layouts, keywords, hashtags, content formatting, and algorithms from each other. Much like the rivalry between Microsoft and Apple, Facebook and Twitter are in a casual war.

So, when businesses are new to social, they gravitate towards one of the two giants. They have a tried and tested layout that attracts users from every demographic. No matter what your business is, you can find your audience in the folds of one of these platforms.

But which one do you choose? If you only have enough time or room in your budget for one, you have to look at who your target audience is.

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

For larger businesses that have a target audience that spans across the country, Twitter is your best bet. The audience of Twitter is vast and the platform makes it easy for your audience to interact with your brand. As long as you understand how to craft your messages, use hashtags, create a conversation, and how often to post, Twitter is going to be your best platform.

Via Flickr by Ricky-Lai

Via Flickr by Ricky-Lai

For the smaller or localized businesses, head to Facebook. The users want to interact on a more personal level with Facebook. They want to have conversations with their brand and stay up-to-date on what is going on. Local businesses thrive on Facebook because the people want to support their city and create relationships with owners. They also love bragging about that awesome boutique on Main Street or the greatest tacos ever at the 3rd Street Mexican restaurant. You are likely to get high interaction and more referrals on Facebook.

However, I highly recommend you get on both. My starting price for my social media services cover both Facebook and Twitter posts. This is because I believe businesses need to be on both and it does not take up a great deal of extra time to create different messaging for each platform. Your audience is not restricted to one platform. There will be some of your audience on Facebook but not on Twitter and vice versa. To stretch your reach as far as possible, starting on both Facebook and Twitter will give you excellent leverage.

Originally posted on LinkedIn

How to Choose the Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business

So you realize that you need to be social. But where do you start?

It can be overwhelming. There are numerous platforms and every social media advice website will tell you something different. Here is what it comes down to – you need to evaluate your brand message and your marketing goals and find platforms that match the “persona” of your business.

“But how do I know which platforms match my business?” Luckily, I am here as a social media expert to break it down the main platforms for you.

Via Flickr by marcopako

Via Flickr by marcopako

Facebook. Many say Facebook marketing is as dead as paper marketing, which, if you follow my posts, you know is not the case. It is good to have some Facebook presence no matter what your business is (however retail, restaurants, and local businesses do the best). It’s a numbers game – there are over 1.2 billion active users as of January 2014. You can’t ignore that big of platform. Granted, Facebook’s algorithms make it hard for your messages to reach that platform, but if you do a little bit of research you can greatly use organic reach Facebook to your advantage.

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Twitter. With the right hashtags, you can do anything on Twitter. Yet the best businesses on Twitter are the opposite of the best businesses on Facebook. This is because retail, restaurants, and local businesses have a dedicated customer base while other businesses have more casual relationships with the audience. This is where Twitter comes in. Twitter allows you to connect with other businesses, prospective customers, and industry enthusiasts who will promote you for free – as long as you use the right hashtags. I insist the majority of my clients get both a Twitter and Facebook. They are the two powerhouse platforms you can’t ignore.

Via Flickr by Link Humans UK

Via Flickr by Link Humans UK

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is THE platform for B2B marketing. Yet LinkedIn can be tricky. You need to have one employee be the “face” of the company, meaning they create, manage, discuss, and make connections on the company’s behalf. It can be tricky to outsource your LinkedIn marketing. Usually it is best to do in house after researching the best way to use LinkedIn as a connector tool, not as a spam marketing robot.

Via Flickr Zack D. Smith

Via Flickr Zack D. Smith

Google+. I admit, I have a love-hate relationship with Google+. There is a lot to be desired and I don’t see its use as a social media platform – outside of its affiliation with Google. With Google’s search engine rules, having a Google+ page is practically a must. With a Google+ page, you get higher search engine rankings and more credibility in Google’s (AKA – Internet God’s) eyes. If you rely on high search engine rankings for your business, get a Google+ page.

Via Flickr marioanima

Via Flickr marioanima

YouTube. YouTube is more of a supplemental platform for your marketing plan. Only certain brands are good for YouTube. If you have the opportunity to make instructional videos, product reviews/highlights, or “commercials” online with your product or service, then YouTube is a great platform for you. Just make sure your videos are professional and high quality!

alicegop

Pinterest. Pinterest is a great platform if your business is highly visual. If you have high quality product photos or offer services that are eye-catching, get your boards started! The pinning platform is best for craft, home decor, home improvement, wedding, food-related, and retail businesses.

Via Flickr Play Among Friends

Via Flickr Play Among Friends

Instagram. Like Pinterest, Instagram is great for highly visual businesses. The difference in Instagram – you need to be very interactive as well. On Pinterest, you can get away with throwing up content without a whole lot of interaction. On Instagram, you have to be involved. You have to know the best filters, know the hashtags, and know your audience as well as constantly communicating with your audience.

Via Flickr by manoftaste.de

Via Flickr by manoftaste.de

Blog. Bottom line – blogs are important for pretty much every business. Blogs are your opportunity to showcase your knowledge about your industry. The golden rule is to never write an entire blog post as self-promotion. You should always blog to give away “free samples” of information to your audience so they want more.

Originally posted on LinkedIn

Why Facebook Organic Reach is Extremely Difficult

With the many other social media platforms out there, businesses are giving up on Facebook and moving on to what they think are bigger and better opportunities. While I believe ditching Facebook is a really bad decision and there are ways to grow organically still, there is a reason why businesses are jumping ship. Facebook’s algorithms are making it extremely difficult for businesses to grow organically.

Facebook isn’t trying to be mean to businesses and force them to pay for advertising, although that is a big perk since many businesses who choose to stick with Facebook pay to grow. There are so many Facebook users and brands on Facebook that it takes a lot of management and algorithm updates to ensure the news feed does not become overcrowded and too messy to deal with. Especially since there are more than 18 million business pages on Facebook that are all trying different methods to get their content more exposure.

Image from BufferApp

Image from BufferApp

The algorithms have hundreds of thousands of ways to determine what shows up on users’ feeds. This is why it has become too difficult for businesses to figure out an exact method to get their content and brand noticed by thousands of users. There are four things that affect the content that is seen:

  • What kinds of posts receive more interaction from users
  • Device the user is accessing Facebook with
  • The speed of internet the user has
  • How the user interacts with Facebook ads
  • What posts a user chooses to hide or report as spam

Here is the good news! A small reach does not necessarily mean that you are not doing well on Facebook. Instead, when you look at metrics, you should measure traffic to your website, leads, and buys from customers as a result of Facebook. If these are contributing at all to your business’ growth, then you should stay on Facebook and ignore how big your reach is.

For a better chance of exposure on Facebook, you can look at my previous Facebook posts and try this odd tactic – do not post at peak times. There are many guides about the best time to post on Facebook and other social network sites. I even have articles about this! However, many businesses are saying they are having more success by posting at non peak times. The thought is since there is little sharing from other users at these times, your content will get noticed more by people who are on Facebook. This is further proof that sometimes a small reach is not detrimental to your Facebook marketing time.

The Stats Don’t Lie: Pinterest vs Facebook

I may be confusing you all. Last Friday I wrote a post about why you still need Facebook as part of your business’ social media marketing plan. I still wholeheartedly think you need your Facebook still, and Terri Lively’s comment sums up why perfectly:

terri tweet

However, Pinterest is quickly growing into a social media beast that businesses can no longer ignore. These stats prove why you might want to see if Pinterest fits into your marketing plan.

Pinterest Positives

Via meeleeo.com

Via meeleeo.com

Via meeleeo.com

Via meeleeo.com

Those on Pinterest are actively searching for products and solutions to make their lives easier. This makes Pinterest extremely profitable for B2C companies selling physical products. On Facebook, users are more like window shoppers, so your chance of selling products on Facebook is less.

On the other hand, Facebook users will take advantage of deals advertised on Facebook more than ones advertised on Pinterest. If you have a lot of coupons or special offers planned, Facebook is the place to advertise them.

Via meeleeo.com

Via meeleeo.com

Once Pinterest users see something they like on the platform, they become huge supporters of the brand and products. This is why Etsy shops do so well on Pinterest over Facebook. Users on Facebook need to see the product or business page multiple times and get friend recommendations before they decide to convert to customers.

The Only Pinterest Negative…

Via meeleeo.com

Via meeleeo.com

When Pinterest users are on the platform, they are actively engaged and have a high rate of conversion. However, users spend less time on Pinterest than they do on Facebook. This is why certain marketing posts will do better on Facebook because you have a higher rate of visibility.

Why You Still Need Facebook for Your Social Media Plan

Five years ago, you could go up to any twenty year old on the street and ask them what their favorite social media website was and the answer would be Facebook or Twitter. Now there are so many options for social media that the answer could also be Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, and more. This is part of what has caused social media marketing to evolve into the monster it is today, and why many businesses mistakenly believe they should be on all of them.

Via Flickr by Chris Heiler

Via Flickr by Chris Heiler

I feel that social media marketing is currently in a transition limbo. Now is the time where platforms need to be actively making changes that excite and engage users to keep them there. Facebook users themselves aren’t going anywhere. Facebook was an innovator of social media and that place is still respected. Even though there is no shortage of users, businesses are starting to shy away from Facebook and focusing on other platforms.

Many changes can be attributed to this shift. For one, Facebook recently changed their algorithms so content from business pages is hidden from user’s feeds if they do not already actively engage with the brand. This takes a lot more effort and convincing on the business’ part to get their customers to go to their page and like posts. Even when you pay for advertising and get many likes on your page, it is hard to get those people to stay active on your business page.

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Via Flickr by mkhmarketing

However, just because something is hard doesn’t mean you should quit! Many bloggers are debating the value of Facebook for businesses and convincing them to leave that platform. But I don’t understand the logic in eliminating a huge platform that reaches more REAL people than any other platform. It is true that certain companies do not do well on Facebook, such as B2B businesses. I can understand those companies focusing their social media time in other places. But for the majority of B2C businesses, Facebook is invaluable.

  • On Twitter, you have to scream to get noticed in the slew of the news feed since everyone has hundreds of followers who are Tweeting three times a minute.
  • Instagram is valuable, but not large enough to sustain an entire social media plan.
  • Pinterest is wondrous, possibly the new Facebook for B2C businesses, but currently the majority of the audience only works for certain businesses.
  • Google+ has the potential to be the new Facebook, but we are still a long way off from seeing that.
  • LinkedIn is strictly B2B and is not going to change any time soon. Even with LinkedIn being B2B, it takes more work than Facebook to successfully market on that platform.

These other avenues are extremely valuable to a social media marketing plan, but cannot sustain it. Like it or not, Facebook still needs to be a building block in your marketing. It does take a little more time and effort these days, but it is absolutely possible to make Facebook worth your marketing time. You can look at my numerous other posts for ideas on leveraging Facebook to your advantage and get a better ROI.

What is your opinion on Facebook’s value? Leave a comment or reply to me on Twitter @HS_Writing! To seen an opposing argument against Facebook, check out this post on Social Media Today.

The Facebook Machine and How It Decides Your Content is High Quality

One of the most important parts of social media marketing is creating quality content. You want content that is exciting to your followers so they respond, share, or click through to your website. Not only should you post content that you think your followers will enjoy, you also need to make sure the content is up-to-snuff according to Facebook’s high standards.

Facebook uses algorithms to set their quality standards so each user sees exactly the content they want to see and share with others. Have you noticed that Facebook ads reflect a status update you just made or a Google search you just performed? This is part of their algorithm that tries to give each user relevant content, down to the ads they see. Facebook analyzes:

  • The source of the content to make sure it is a trusted authority.
  • If the content is unique, fresh, and original.
  • How many times the content is liked or shared because it tells Facebook that many people enjoyed the content.
mkhmarketing19

Via mkhmarketing

This algorithim is part of Facebook’s evolution. Previously, it just showed all friends posts in your news feed in the order they were posted. Now the default setting is to organize the content by “Top Stories.” Some users (like myself) hate this option because I want to see everything that is getting posted, but many users just keep that default setting to see what is most popular.

Facebook has recently updated its algorithim to track, not only likes, comments, and shares, but also the quality of the source. Therefore high quality news sites will get a higher rank in the news feed over sites that are created simply to get likes and shares, such as Upworthy.

Via Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Via Official U.S. Navy Imagery

As mentioned before, Facebook grows smarter by tracking what each user clicks on, talks about, and searches in order to custom deliver content that user wants to see. Facebook even has options for the user to tell Facebook they don’t want to see that kind of content. To make sure your content meets Facebook standards, here are three things you can do:

  • Improve your SEO techniques by researching popular key phrases and inserting them correctly into your content. This is a new Google Panda update that mandates phrases as more valuable than keywords.
  • Make all content high quality that you would want to read. Quantity is not your friend any longer.
  • Register for Google Authorship so your blog post is under your name. This will make it a trusted authority website.

Do you have questions about what Facebook wants to see? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing!