While Twitter is one of the most basic platforms for social media, it is often the most confusing for many people. Problems range from not understanding how to send out a tweet to figuring out why one would want to. But Twitter is consistently considered one of the top social media platforms and in many ways it be can the most useful, especially for B2B marketing.
What’s a Hashtag?
Hashtags (they look like this: #) are a great example of Twitter confusion 2.0 for new users. Once someone sees the benefits of and decides to use Twitter, one of the first questions I get is “What are hashtags and how do I use them?” We see them everywhere these days on TV, at sporting events, billboards, etc. Some of the biggest events have massive followings on their corresponding hashtags, such as #Grammys #SuperBowl #Oscars and currently #WorldCup, which is the biggest social media event of summer 2014 and analysts say could be the largest in history.
But while these are large global events you can join and participate, how can the proper use of hashtags help you and your business? For anyone wanting to make sure their message is heard, hashtags are a way to target your audience. Even if people are not following you, they will be able to see your tweet if they are following that hashtag. Here are a few examples of how hashtags are being used that may help you see the possibilities of how to engage:
1. Events & Conferences
If you are attending an event like a conference or seminar, most likely there is a hashtag for those attending or for those wanting to follow the events who may not be able to be there. Examples are #WWDC (Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference) #DenverComicCon and #TEDxMH14 (TEDxMileHigh’s 2014 event). Using hashtags for events like this is a great way to promote your next event and get people engaging online. Many event organizers try to establish an official hashtag weeks or even months in advance which also serves to promote the event and get conversations started and information out well before participants arrive.
2. Emergency Services
Hashtags have become so prominent on social media that emergency services and governments will often establish an “official hashtag” during an emergency situation. In Colorado Springs, CO the past two summers have seen two major wild fires. During both, emergency services quickly established and announced official hashtags for people and organizations to get information quickly and reliably: #WaldoCanyonFire and then the next year #BlackForestFire. This allowed everyone to be connected and prevent several different hashtags from being used, thereby collecting the information in one centralized “place” on Twitter. Journalists, first responders and local residents were able to tweet out and receive information in real time.
3. Benefits for Small Business
Using relevant hashtags allows small and big business alike to target their audiences and help establish name and brand recognition. By engaging in specific areas and topics, it provides a platform for your business to establish expertise in your area and grow your audience. But a major benefit of hashtags for branding is that it allows others to keep your conversations going as other followers tweet their experiences. It also pushes accountability for businesses, since people can tweet the positive, as well as the negative about a business, product or service. Studies show that more than 90% of people trust peer to peer recommendations and only 14% trust paid advertisements.
Yes, it is “social” media. Hashtags are a great way to find out what is happening in your local community and to get your brand established there. Here in Colorado Springs, the hashtag #COSprings is a great way to connect and to see what is happening in Colorado Springs.
But one of the challenges is finding and using the proper hashtags. Anyone can hashtag anything. The point is not just to hashtag, but to hashtag strategically. Find out who the leaders in the “Twitter community” in your city are and what hashtags they are using. There are times when a fun hashtag can be added to make a specific point. But finding out where people are talking is the best way to be intentional in your social media communication and strategies. For us at UZU, for example, anytime we tweet about #SocialMedia or #SEO we use those hashtags along with the name of our local community #COSprings.
You can easily find out what is trending in the Twittersphere and what people are talking about. These are tweets that are currently the most popular (duh, trending!). The best way to find these trending tweets is right at Twitter.com. There you can customize your searches for the location and audience you want to focus on.
When using hashtags, there are some practical things to keep in mind. You want to try to keep your hashtag as small as possible. You are limited to 140 characters on Twitter and hashtags count against that. However, make sure your hashtag defines who you are and what you represent. It should be something easy for people to remember and identify with you.
There are also several social media management tools that can help you track your Twitter feeds including the hashtags you are following. Next week we will look at a few of these, both paid and free, to help you track your social media engagement and make sure you are using relevant hashtags in your niche. These will help your business grow and keep your communications team happy!