I haven’t written much for this marketing blog, it’s been fairly abandoned, since I have been so busy marketing. Honestly nothing has compelled me to try to add anything to the blogosphere in quite some time, until now.
I have been plugging along, coming up with my own ideas on how to create engagement on social media through trial and error for about two years. A recent Google search on the topic showed how little data and training there is out there to teach people how to effectively use social media. There are basic guides from 2 years ago like “what is a hashtag”. Perhaps everything is moving so fast, by the time someone writes a guide about it it has changed. Or perhaps people are just not using social media effectively for B2B. Either way, I have compiled a brief quide with a rather basic looking Powerpoint here at Slideshare. And what follows is a step by step guide on how to effectively use hashtags to promote your business on Twitter.
HASHTAGS ARE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO EACH BEYOND YOUR FOLLOWERS, WHICH IS THE POINT OF MARKETING ON SOCIAL MEDIA, RIGHT? People are 55% more likely to RT posts with hashtags AND You can track which content is most popular much more easily when you use hashtags.
WHEN NOT TO USE A HASHTAG:
Do not cut short a really good quote or fact in your Tweet to put in a hashtag. The content of the Tweet should take priority. Think about it, the hashtag is there to promote your content – not the other way around. Do not use hashtags that no one else is using. Just putting a hashtag on a word, without knowing its relevance, is not effective. Not only will it not help promote your content, it could have the added effect of making you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Let me show you what I mean:
Here’s a Tweet from an article in Forbes: “These DARPA Darlings Just Raised $20M To Build A Super-Powered Google For The Internet Of Things via @forbes”.
Think about your audience in particular, but let’s say our audience is people who have the power to purchase your company’s software. These are some ideas – which of these tags would you choose? #DARPA, #Google, #DOD #seriesafunding?
NONE, IS THE ANSWER
One of the first things you should do, before you use a hashtag, is see if others, especially those you follow or are in your industry, are using it. This can be done with a 2 second search on Twitter. These tags are not incorrect, but they are way too broad to reach a very specific audience who, in this case – are CIOs, CTOs or Innovation Executives in large organizations. How, then, can you find the right hashtags?
COMMON SENSE AND CREATIVITY GO A LONG WAY.
Be specific. If you use #DARPA, you are going to reach people and businesses who Tweet about the military or the broad topic of tech. Try searching that tag on social, you’ll see how broad the audience is. The first thing you can do is put a hashtag right on that word #internetofthings or even better #iot. You’ve seen it before, it’s a popular hashtag in your industry. You do a search for #iot – people you follow– and see #bigdata and #datasecurity which are topics in the article. You could use #Google #DOD or #seriesafunding but again, you’d be reaching a very broad audience. The point of all this is selling a product to your known audience, so you really want to stay inside your customer base.
Once you’ve got #iot #bigdata and #datasecurity in there, you still have room for more text. How else can you promote this? Why not tell a little more of the story instead of using the stock Tweet that Forbes provides. You’re more likely to be ReTweeted. And make sure to use the writer’s handle. Add him to your list of #iot influencers, and he may even RT it to his followers! He’s certainly more likely to RT than Forbes will, although if your Tweet is really great there is always a chance a publication will RT. I can’t tell you right now which hashtag will work for your business – but you need to start somewhere. See which hashtags resonate the most with your audience, and use them accordingly.
WHEN TO USE A HASHTAG:
Any Tweet can benefit from a hashtag. Statistically, you are more likely to get ReTweeted with a hashtag. However the opposite proves true with overuse, misuse or misspelling of hashtags so be careful. When you load a Tweet with multiple hashtags, the rate of ReTweeting actually goes down. And if you use hashtags outside of your industry base, you will get impressions and engagement from non-relevant parties. Again, check to see if members of your community use the hashtag before you try out a new one. You will add no value, and if anything look unprofessional by using a completely random hashtag. Hashtags are a language, you wouldn’t walk up to someone with a word you invented, and expect them to understand you – don’t do the same with a hashtag! Try this exercise – sign into your account – think about a hashtag you’ve used that you don’t think others have used – and search for it.
USING A HASHTAG NO ONE ELSE USES.
This is my pet peeve, it really makes me cringe. You’re using a hashtag no one else is using to promote your blog or brand (not conference)? And you’ve been using it since 2014? Time to clean house. Think about why you’re using it: The marketing manager before me used it, we thought it was a cool way to promote the brand, we thought it was a cool way to promote the blog… The thing about a hashtag is that it’s a conversation, and if you’re having it alone – it’s less of a conversation than a broadcast that no one is listening to. Give it a break for now, you could be utilizing more effective characters in your Tweets.
NEW TO YOUR JOB AND NOT SURE WHAT YOUR INDUSTRY HASHTAGS ARE?
Ask your team for relevant keywords, and type them into Twitter. If you have industry lists in your Twitter account, see if any of influencers use particular hashtags and start to test them out. If you don’t have lists, jump in and read a bunch of industry articles and if the writers or the people in the articles are on Twitter, see what hashtags they use. Keywords will lead you to relevant accounts on Twitter as well. Check out a few to see what hashtags they use. Test and see which hashtags resonate with your audience. Identify 5 relevant hashtags to keep in your arsenal that will always or usually work with your content. These are usually synonymous with your website keywords. Don’t forget to be open to use others when appropriate, say you’re posting content which is slightly different from your norm but still of interest to your audience. Note: A hashtag that is popular now will change as the industry changes.
WHEN TO USE OTHER PEOPLES’ HASHTAGS? ALL THE TIME!
The content you create – whether it’s a white paper or a Tweet – needs to be crowd sourced to be effective. That means you’re using keyword and social research to figure out what your personas’ in your industry want and need. The same thing goes for a hashtag. You want to be joining the conversation as often as possible and an easy way to do so is using hashtags. So that means taking the journey we just did to optimize Tweets with hashtags – PLUS keeping an eye open to new hashtags too. Hashtags can lead you to new people to follow, new content and eventually new customers. If you’re ever unsure about a word’s meaning NEVER use it. Wikipedia and dictionaries are great – but best practices would entail you should check in with your product team or seasoned sales team member. They may have insight that can help. Using hashtag that only those “in the know” use can be powerful as only very relevant people will be using it.
WHEN TO USE YOUR OWN HASHTAG
Best Practices are that you should really only “make up” hashtags for conferences or contests. Hashtags have been around since the late 2000s so I think we all know some ground rules about creating them:
- Not too long, not more than 2 words strung together is a good rule
- For conference hashtags, using the commonly used acronym for it makes sense.
- For new conference hashtags, if you can actually have a word or what sounds like a word, this is more effective than multiple consonants strung together
- Using the year in the hashtag – SXSW16 – heightens excitement and interest
- Make sure you’re not using an offensive word. The surprising thing though is that most of us seem to forget one of the most important things about creating our own conference hashtags – checking to make sure no one else is using them. If you absolutely need to, it’s probably ok to use a hashtag that a very small, one person company uses for an event 5 months after yours. If a huge company like Salesforce or Cisco is using it, don’t use their hashtag – no matter when their event is held.
HOW TO PROMOTE HASHTAGS
Live Tweeting updates from live sessions at company events can increase hashtag use by 40%. ReTweeting all mentions of your conference or brand hashtag both says a big “Thank You” to those who support you, and creates an awesome buzz in your Twitter feed.
Making sure the hashtag is readily available to everyone on all channels iscrucial. Get partners to commit to promoting with you: Work with your team to ask partners – especially Media partners – for Tweeting commitments as part of their contracts.
There is nothing sadder than a hashtag campaign that never gets promoted or used. How can we make sure our hashtags get their due? Hashtag contests (with the goal of simply getting that hashtag used) are a great way to promote events, and ultimately promote your brand. Here’s a way you can get really creative and have fun. Here are several ideas to promote your hashtag, whether it’s a contest or a hashtag you really want to make your own.
SO, YOU REALLY WANT A UNIQUE HASHTAG? WELL YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO PROMOTE IT! HERE ARE 3 WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR UNIQUE HASHTAG:
- Prizes: Be unique and relevant to your audience. If you’re asking someone to use a hashtag, give something in return. Offer a prize that is relevant to your products or services in some way. A free iPad is unlikely to generate long term gains or brand engagement unless your company offers iPad related products or services! Partner with a company, product or service that has a buzz or some relevance to your audience for your prize. The more creative, unusual and interesting your contest is, the more likely you can cross promote to your media list for more promotion. For example, an industry publication will not write about a Free iPad you’re giving away, but if we create a cool infographic and have an interesting prize with a contest no one else has ever done before in the biotech space– they, and others, may take notice.
- Give them a compelling reason to use it! You need to curate conversations on social, they don’t just “happen”. Just Tweeting one Tweet (or sending out one email): “Tell us your story” is unlikely to get much traction, even with a really good prize. Buzz usually doesn’t just happen, it needs to be crafted.
- Brainstorm an interesting, very specific angle, create graphics and quotable social posts around your hashtag contest. Commission (or otherwise acquire) 3 social media influencers in your industry to tell their story to set up the buzz and begin use of the hashtag to entice others. Others will follow, as they will want to be part of the group and not miss out on the conversation. And as always, make sure you’re promoting the hashtag in emails, on all social channels and in signage.
Is your hashtag using you instead of the other way around?
So you’ve been Tweeting a unique hashtag for your blog or your brand and adding it to your Twitter posts for a while – it hasn’t quite caught on. #awsmsoftware What were your original intentions in using this tag? Did you want to have a unique brand imprint on Twitter besides your handle? Unfortunately it’s kind of chicken and egg – the hashtag no one uses will not help promote your blog or your brand like a commonly used hashtag will. You will have to use your blog or your brand to promote the hashtag – not the other way around – and then possibly it can become a “household word” at least among your audience. Optimize your posts, and once you get more impressions, mentions and ReTweets people will be excited to spread the word about your blog or your brand, and use those specific hashtags. Make sure you’re heavily promoting the hashtag on your blog and other channels. In the short term, it is much more effective to keep to using common industry hashtags and your conference hashtag. However, if you have the time and inspiration to create your own unique hashtag and promote it – in the long term it has potential for branding.
3 THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT HASHTAGS#
- Use your followers, those you follow and influencers to source the correct hashtags for your industry.
- A hashtag will only help promote your content if it is commonly used by those in your industry. Creating a new hashtag has no immediate effect to helping your Tweet, takes up valuable Twitter real estate, and in fact will require you to promote the hashtag outside Twitter to be at all effective.
- Hashtags are very powerful. People are 55% more likely to RT your post if it uses a hashtag. By the same token, using hashtags incorrectly – ie. just slapping a pound sign on a word without thinking it through and proper research – may actually decrease your chance of getting engagement.
See a few more tips on using hashtags for Instagram, Facebook and other channels here.