:: Tony Ferraro, Twubs.com ::
Are you struggling with the noise of social media? Twitter and Instagram are so full of people’s coffee shop stories that your message simply fights to get heard. Social media has become what “party lines” were 40 years ago, cluttered with too many people talking about different things all at the same time.
So, how can you bring clarity to your social conversation? The answer is hashtags.
Hashtags cut through the “noise” of social media, but without a clear strategy, you’ll just be creating even more noise.
I recently attended a marketing conference in Las Vegas along with hundreds of marketing executives from the nation’s largest retail brands. As I walked around the room, I asked the same question, “Do you use hashtags?” The answer was always, “Yes, we put them in our ads.” To which I replied, “Why?” No one had an answer beyond, “Everybody’s doing it.”
Hashtags can be used to move and engage your tribe, and extend your brand, but to achieve success, your strategy must include moving them to something for an intended purpose.
Here is a simple, but effective hashtag strategy you can leverage to cut through the social media noise and make your campaign work for your business.
Create Your Hashtag
The hashtag you select is important, so do your research. Make sure your tag is not being used by a great number of other folks for something completely different. If it is, searching on any of the popular tools, such as Twubs, Twitter, or Tweetdeck, will be just as fruitless as it is right now because there will be an overwhelming number of tweets that have nothing to do with you.
If possible, select a hashtag that is closely associated with your brand or industry. Every day, hundreds of hashtags are registered and the ones that gain the most traction are those that are easy to remember and naturally associated with the brand. On the other hand, some registrations come with a series of unrelated letters followed by an abbreviated year, i.e. “HFL13.” The bottom line is that it is harder for tags without a clear identity to get traction.
Since Twitter has a 140 character limit, be sure to make your hashtag short. If your tag is too long, people will not use it because it takes up too many characters, and they’ll end up using their own. If you find that your customer base has created a different tag and it is getting broad traction, do not be afraid to adopt it. There is no better way to flatter your customer than to listen to them. Adopting their tag instead of your own tells them you are doing just that. Additionally, movements are not developed, they are discovered. If one is in progress, jump in.
Market Your Hashtag
Put your hashtag on your products and ads. The more you use it, the better known it will become and this will help you for two reasons.
First, your tag will quickly become known as yours. Others will not use it because it is in use. If you fail to make it known that you are actively using it, you may find others using the hashtag for other purposes.
Second, hashtags are becoming like trademarks or URLs. They are one-of-a-kind monikers that have the power of directing a crowd. You want your users to know who you are and a hashtag helps make that happen. The more you use it, the more they’ll know how to find you in the “noise.”
Use Your Hashtag
This is where hashtags get fun. You can use yours to do several things.
First, to drive people to a relevant conversation, use an embed widget that aggregates hashtag related tweets into a brandable interface that is portable to your website. Embedding the feed into your website related to your branded conversation will provide real value to your users and allow them to participate in a conversation without having to follow each other. The benefit is that you control the branding. This is better than simply putting your Twitter account feed on your page because it creates diversity of conversation and does not automatically put all of these tweets onto your Twitter profile.
Second, create a branded hashtag landing page. It’s important to build a dedicated page that you control around your hashtag with filters to control content so that your users can better consume specific blogs, tweets, photos and videos related to your hashtag.
Finally, consider starting a tweet-chat. A tweet-chat is a regularly scheduled event that you moderate around your industry, product or service. Using your hashtag, people interested in your topic will use various devices to follow your conversation and tweet to answer moderated questions that you post at various times. To initiate one, pick a time and market it. Once it is started, you can post a new question every so many minutes during the scheduled time frame that people will follow. A great example can be found at http://twubs.com/agchat. This chat garners the audience of farmers across America, various writers and publishers within the agricultural community, and even the Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture can be found participating from time to time. Chats are a great way to cut the noise out of the conversation, while building a relationship with your core constituents.
Hashtags present a great strategic value for mobilizing, connecting and activating your customer. The strategy behind how you use them is very important. Make sure you register your hashtags, as well as offer some level of protecting your brand. But, the most important factor is that you have a clear strategy. Hashtags can be very powerful tools, if you use them correctly and with intention.
About the Author
Tony Ferraro is president and CEO of Twubs.com, the leading hashtag registrar that provides brandable hashtag landing pages and Twitter group, search and live event display tools used by more than 20,000 organizations globally. Twubs.com allows users to quickly and easily search for social media content via hashtags. After selecting groups they’re interested in, Twubs provides a central community-driven hub or “Twub” where they can access real time tweets, Instagrams, and videos without having to click on an external link (www.twubs.com).