4 Benefits of Using Hashtags

All over the Internet, people use hashtags to find information and hold conversations. They are even used as language in face-to-face conversations! They have so many uses to help readers find your content and spread your brand name.

Take the #HipmunkCityLove hashtag as an example. Hipmunk, a travel-booking and review site, uses hashtags to spread the love about various cities, including Cancun in the city reviews I wrote for them. Not only does the hashtag spread the word about Hipmunk, but it also allows travelers to share insider information about cities and learn about places they want to visit. To get in on the hashtag game, learn about these four benefits.

Spreading Brand Name

Image via Flickr by melenita2012

Image via Flickr by melenita2012

Like word-of-mouth marketing, social media gives you an amazing opportunity to spread your brand  further than you normally can. Hashtags that catch the eye are a great way to do this. Branded hashtags have immediate business recognition, but are not shared as widely unless the marketing message behind it is really engaging.

If you use a hashtag that supports a conversation related to your business without your name in it, you have a better chance of spreading it. Without a direct reference to your brand, however, people may not associate your business with it. If you start an active conversational strategy where you are commenting and sharing every positive use of the hashtag, people will more easily associate your brand with the hashtag.

Starting a Conversation

Via Flickr by mikecogh

Via Flickr by mikecogh

When you create a hashtag, you are starting a specific conversation about a topic related to your business or industry. People love chatting on social and sharing media in relation to hashtags. If the conversation you are trying to start is interesting enough, people will happily join in.

A precaution: make the hashtag specific so people cannot make any negative commentary. The label #McDStories is an example of a hijacked hashtag. McDonald’s wanted people to share their awesome experiences at McDonald’s. Instead, the audiences used the hashtag as permission to complain about their bad experiences.

Convert Customers and Increase Sales

Via Flickr by mikecogh

Via Flickr by mikecogh

If you have a product you sell, you can create a hashtag around it. This works great if it is a new, anxiously anticipated item, or a very popular product. Encourage people to take photos of themselves using the product and share the images with the hashtag. To incite more interest, offer a prize or reward for the best picture or most creative use of your product. This media sharing will greatly improve your brand reach, converting new customers who want to try your product, and increasing sales.

Positive Customer Service

Via Flickr by cogdogblog

Via Flickr by cogdogblog

When you start and participate in the hashtag conversation, it acts as customer service. People who enjoy your conversation will remember your contributions, creating positive feelings about your brand. This positivity will stick, giving your audience great customer service before they even buy!

The benefits of using hashtags are enormous. Not participating actually puts your business at a disadvantage. Even if you simply join hashtag conversations without creating your own, you need to get in the conversation.

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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.

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

Suprising Instagram Facts that will Change Your Marketing Plan

Instagram is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the social media marketing landscape. Much of its success is attributed to its photo-centric approach that makes it easy for users to interact with brands. However, there are some surprising facts about Instagram that might change your approach to your marketing content.

Via Flickr by danpeerflix

Via Flickr by danpeerflix

There is No “Best Day” for Posting

Posts on Instagram happen 24/7. Much like Twitter, this means there is no best day for posting. Metrics will only tell us that most photos are posted on Thursday, that photo sharing and interaction is most effective on Saturday and Sunday, and that most weekend photo posts receive interaction on Monday.

Photos are Better than Video

Instagram released a 15 second video option to compete with the similar Vine platform. However, videos are created and shared very little on the platform. Only 4% of brands have begun to use video on Instagram and users are perfectly okay with that. The 55 million photo uploads per day are a testament to the success of photos over video. If you want to implement video marketing, stick to YouTube and Vine.

Filter Popularity is Not Necessarily Good Marketing

Instagram is very unique because it allows users to edit their photos with filters before posting, changing the meaning and intention of the photo. While many brands use Lo-Fi, X-Pro II, and the popular #nofilter hashtag for their photos, these do not equal the most engagement. In reality, the filters that get the most engagement are Mayfair, Inkwell, and Normal.

More Hashtags are Better

In social media, there is a general rule of thumb that you should use no more than two hashtags in a post. More than that makes you look like a social media novice. When it comes to Instagram, however, more hashtags create better interaction with your brand and allow more people to discover you on the platform.

Comments are Rare

For every 33 likes, there is only one comment on Instagram. This shows marketers that the platform is not a good place to hold conversations with your followers and customers. Instead, you need to integrate Instagram with other social media platforms that allow conversation, such as Facebook or Twitter.

The 5 Basics of Instagram Marketing

Instagram is a social media platform that kind of came out of nowhere. Now with the update allowing users to create 15 second videos with any filter they want, Instagram is becoming a powerhouse social media network that marketers cannot ignore. Here are five basic things you need to do to leverage the benefits of Instagram in your brand marketing plan.

Via suendercafe

Via suendercafe

  1. Make content authentic and high quality. All photos you add to Instagram should look and be real. Instagram is an opportunity to let customers take a unique, behind the scenes look at your company. All photos should also inspire a reaction, such as interesting, attractive, memorable, engaging, or emotional.
  2. Content streams. Make sure to decide exactly what kind of content you are going to post and schedule it in a calendar. This can range from behind the scenes images, events your company attends or hosts, or close ups of products with beautiful filters. While some content should be snapped and posted in the moment, most of it should be carefully planned.
  3. Post often. When you make your posting calendar, make sure to post consistently and often. This will help keep your brand noticeable in streams and will entertain your followers a great deal more.
  4. Build relationships. Engage with your followers and thank them for liking photos or sharing photos they take of your brand on Instagram. You should also ask followers if you can share their content on your own social media channels. This can turn into a contest where you ask followers to post a beautiful picture concerning your brand and reward them by featuring the best on social media. You can have your followers vote for the best picture so that the poster can win a brand-related prize.
  5. Hashtags. Hashtags are a great way for people to find your brand and to join in on internet conversations. However, you need to only choose hashtags that are relevant to your brand and give more context to your updates. You also should come up with a hashtag that is unique to your brand and post it on all of your content. Soon your followers will use this hashtag in their own photos to spread brand awareness.

Have you started using Instagram in your marketing plan yet? Let me know what tricks or techniques you have used that were successful in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing!

How Tumblr Improves SEO Ranks – Part 1

I have decided to change up my days and their topics a little bit. Thursdays are now about YouTube and Vine Video and Saturdays will now be on Instagram and Tumblr. Let’s put housekeeping away and focus on how you can use Tumblr for your business marketing!

Tumblr is a unique way to blog and offers many other marketing benefits over other social media platforms. It is a creative way to express your brand and can cause a new group of fun and loyal clients. Tumblr can also be a great way to improve your SEO ranks. This can be done many ways, including special Tumblr titles, URLs, and keywords.

Many businesses use Tumblr as a secondary blog that helps increase the brand’s SEO rankings. The links you put on Tumblr through photos, videos, and quotes can be optimized in order to direct traffic to a company’s website. There are three ways you can see improved SEO rankings.

Via Flickr dmhoro

Via Flickr dmhoro

Customize Everything

Tumblr makes it easy to let you customize everything for better SEO rankings. Domain names are one of the things you can customize and integrate. This is important since search engines attribute priority to domain names. This procedure is simple and can be done when setting up an account.

Each post can also have its own custom URL. There is a set a custom URL option under the tag box that improves SEO results. HTML codes can be customized as well, even allowing you to post in the custom format. They are the most search friendly.

Optimize Everything

The alt and title attributes can be optimized so they have a better experience in search engine results. This requires some knowledge of HTML code in order to see those results. Keywords can be added to the post under the tags section. This ensures the blog will appear at the top of results that use those keywords, as long as you have done your research and chosen keywords that work.

Provide “Do Follow” Links in All Your Posts

Links that are added to your Tumblr posts are called do-follow links. They help you increase traffic to your website by sharing these links. Fill out your About section with interesting and inviting content, along with the link to your website. Add this symbol: [x] to the bottom of your posts and add a hyperlink to your website on the x. Most users will click the symbol, since it is known for getting more information not shown in the post.

Check out part two of how Tumblr improves SEO next Thursday! In the meantime, let me know what you think of Tumblr as a social media platform in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing!

How to Incorporate Instagram Into Your Social Media Marketing Plan – Part 2

On nearly every social media platform, photos are the most popular kind of content. This is why platforms, such as the Instagram app, that are centered on photos are becoming an important part of marketing plans.

There are millions of users on Instagram and more companies are starting Instagram campaigns to take advantage of this huge customer pool. Brands can get quick messages and photos to their audience in creative and engaging ways. In my previous post, I began advice about incorporating Instagram into your marketing plan. In this post I will finish up, covering hashtags, geo-tagging, profiles, and expanding your brand.

Via Flickr VisitElPaso

Via Flickr VisitElPaso

Use hashtags specific to your brand

Popular hashtags on Instagram are not the same as they are on Twitter. On Instagram, they change so often that they do not do much good. Instead, it is better to make your hashtags specific to your brand, photo, and promotion instead of clutter-y looking popular hashtags. There are many benefits to creating, using, promoting, and monitoring your own hashtags:

  • It is easier for people to find photos related to the brand
  • It makes it easier to figure out who is devoted to the brand beyond likes and comments
  • Encouraging followers to use your own hashtags makes it easier for them to share photos and spread awareness across multiple platforms, like Facebook
  • Hashtags can give you ROI relative to the users engaged in a certain campaign

You can also use group and contest hashtags to get more recognition.

See-ming Lee

See-ming Lee

Geo-tag photos

The geo-tag feature on Instagram is amazing, especially now that users can transfer location information to other platforms including Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter, and Flickr. Since it incorporates multiple platforms, it gets all of your communities involved on a bigger level.

  • Geo-tag helps you promote your participation at events
  • Restaurants and retailers can use geo-tag to promote their location and products
  • Customers can take pictures in your store or of your products and geo-tag them

A photo map of all your Instagram snapshots appears on your profile as well.

Via Flickr Tatiana12

Via Flickr Tatiana12

Use profiles

Use the newer profiles, established in 2012, to tell the story of your company. Instagram photos look great in a collage and give great insight into your brand. Your profile is another great way to give your followers a behind the scenes look at your business. Make sure to balance fun images with business images. Have a call to action on your pictures directing people to your website and other platforms as appropriate with the photo.

Via Flickr Jason Howie

Via Flickr Jason Howie

Don’t only use Instagram

Instagram is great for your social media marketing plan, but it should not be the only platform you use. Instagram works best for marketing when used with other social media sites, especially visual-based sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook. Your Instagram posts can be shared on these sites to spur more discussion, comments, shares, and brand awareness.

Which brands do you feel use Instagram effectively with their other social media profiles? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @HS_Writing!