Posted by : Amanda Stein Friday, August 9, 2013

First off, this title is a good example of what a best practice isn't. The overuse of any tool often causes it to lose its effectiveness. There's no denying that hashtags are convenient, powerful tools to draw attention to certain words, concepts, ideas, and ultimately businesses. Of course, not every tool is used for business and hashtags are no different. All it takes is one glance at any social media platform to see them used for entertainment (#justsayin, I'm looking at you!).

However, any social media marketer worth their salt should be using hashtags to draw awareness to their brand. Not only is it possible to get a lot of attention using hashtags, but by "hashing" the right keyword, you could take your brand worldwide. The key is choosing the correct words to hash and not overdoing it. Take the title of this post, for example. What is the key point in the title? If you tried to figure it out by what words are hashed, there's no way to do it. A good example of the same title, hashed correctly, might be: "#BestPractices for #Hashtags in Social Media Marketing."

I would recommend using no more than 1-2 hashtags per post to keep the focus of your message narrow. Adding more not only dilutes and confuses your message, it makes your post look like spam. This accomplishes exactly the opposite in terms of effect on potential customers. The perfect post is content-heavy with a hook that sends the reader to your site. With today's proliferation of social media sites that support hashtags, marketers are crazy not to take good advantage of them.

Properly used, hashtags draw people to a topic - #webanalytics, for instance. Anyone interested in finding information on web analytics will be drawn into the conversation by following the hashtagged keyword. If you're an expert in web analytics and you want your message heard, post it with a hashtag. Users across multiple platforms (Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Vine, and many more) who are following conversations about web analytics get to see what you have to say. This is a good example of categorizing your content. You may be expert in other topics, but the post in question deals with web analytics. By hashing your post, you've linked it to a long string of other posts (a conversation, if you will) that will reach more people.

As hashtags are searchable on social media platforms, proper use in your posts gives you the opportunity to build buzz for your company, product, service, or event. You're even able to interact live with your customers by allowing them to ask you questions by posting to a suggested hashtag. Russell Brand's "Brand X" live TV show is an example. At the beginning of every show, he invites viewers to interact via social media. If you're giving a webinar, this is a perfect chance to have immediate feedback and interaction before, during, and after the webinar.

Hashtags also give you a chance to interact with more personality. Take Red Bull, for instance. They have a perfect hashtag for their product: #givesyouwings. This hashtag embodies their entire advertising campaign. A different approach, say #RedBull or #wings, may either have been too bland (the former) or two vague (the latter).

Before toddling off to the social media-verse and hashing what you may think is the perfect keyword for your business, it's a good idea to do some homework first. Things to look for include whether your hashtag is already in use and what those conversations look like. Even the most innocuous word can open your business to exposure you'd rather it not get. Likewise, if your choses hashtag is actually related to your business make sure you investigate the conversation before joining it. Maybe it's being used as a complaint tag or "bashtag" for your industry. Generally speaking, you want to avoid that conversation unless you're really confident you can provide a positive solution to those complaining.

So, get out there and start hashing! Make sure you choose your hashes wisely, keep the message focused and brief, research your chosen words before posting, and don't over-hash.

About the author:
Nick Beske is the lead creative and founder of Point Click Productions, a design and marketing agency that helps small businesses make a big impact. You can connect with Nick on LinkedIn and Twitter


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