By now, we have all seen this hilarious (and eerily spot on) sketch by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake (and subsequent similar ones).
I am also sure you all have at least one friend or colleague who is overly fond of the hashtag, putting so many in their social media content that it #sometimes#becomes#hardto#decipher#what#itsabout. Both the comedy sketch and your friend demonstrate too much of a good thing.
And no, hashtags are NOT ruining the English language… When used properly.
If we take one step back, those who aren’t familiar, here is the hashtag formula:
Hashtag = “#” symbol + relevant keyword or phrase
You should be using hashtags strategically in all of your social content. Here is why:
#1 Find information and follow trends
Now more than ever it’s important to stay on top of things when it comes to running your business. With enhanced connectivity online and information at everyone’s fingertips, why not tap into the information using hashtags? Call up a search for something specific. Maybe you are trying to find information on #EmployeeEngagement. You will be surprised at how many tips and tricks you will find through articles that have been put out there through social media.
#2 Generate discussion and make connections
Hashtags are an amazing tool that can be used to start up and join discussions that are relevant to your brand interests, your product, or your industry. For example, if you wanted to see who was talking about entrepreneurship, and what they are saying, you can search for #Entrepreneurship and a list will pop up. From here, you can reach out to specific people and comment on discussions.
Another thing it is useful for is to follow discussions about your own brand. Why not track what people are saying about you? It is a great way to track your online reputation. First, you should try to establish some sort of online presence. It can build into a really effective customer service tool when you are able to interact with your customers.
#3 Promotions and Contests
This is a great way to encourage user-generated content. For example, if you were going to organize a photo contest, you would have people tweet or post photos using a specific hashtag like the #Jackspatio contest that was run by Jack Astor’s this summer. You and everyone else can easily follow along with all of the entries. This generates more traffic for you and users will have fun interacting with your brand.
#4 Targeting specific audiences
Just like you may be joining in conversations, you can also target your information towards people who you think would be potential new business prospects. For example, if you sell jewelery and your target market is for weddings, maybe you should be posting images of your work using #Wedding or #WeddingWednesday.
#5 Real time interaction
There are so many opportunities online for hosting chats, or perhaps you are hosting a webinar. If you provide a hashtag for people to use, participants can participate by asking questions and sharing content. A great example is #SMTLive. They Social Media Today regularly puts on webinars rich in content, and you can follow along with the webinar through twitter. Even if someone couldn’t attend, they still benefit from the information and it establishes your brand as an expert in the industry.
I realize that with small business and start-ups time is short, but capitalizing on efficiencies is what is going to make your strategies more achievable. Hashtags take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of using them in your content, you will find that you have made your social strategy more effective.