How to Use Hashtags for Online Marketing
Now that Facebook has introduced hashtags, they are of even more use to digital marketers looking to get their site found before a competitor’s. However, that’s assuming that everyone gets it right, which of course they don’t.
Hashtags are really just another way of searching for content that interests you. Savvy marketers know this and use various techniques to ensure that their content is as visible as possible.
Photo Credit: halfbrown
Unfortunately, hashtags have also quickly become one of the most irritating things on the net, thanks to hashtag stuffers and general abusers. You know the type, those that are incapable of using a sentence without #hashtags #on #every #single #word. Whilst this is often an attempt at being funny or ironic, sometimes it’s used as people actually do think this will ‘amplify an audience’.
It won’t of course, it just irritates the user that is sent here, there and everywhere during a search and it’s likely they will pay no attention to the content at all.
Cardinal rules of hashtag usage
- Use sparingly
- Use intelligently
- Don’t use other people’s
- Don’t overuse so that it looks like a whole sentence in one tag (suchaslikethisasnoonewillunderstanditjustbecauseofhowthebrainworks)
- Do use keywords
- Ensure that it’s relevant to the post/content
- Keep phrases short and snappy
- Use lower and upper case letters
Hashtags for brands
The use of a primary hashtag on all brand related stationary, media and packaging can really help to strengthen a brand. It’s an ideal way of ensuring that you have a snappy little phrase or word, which customers can immediately associate with the brand.
This can also be placed on website landing pages and used in Instagram or Vine, to ensure that images and video by the brand are easily discoverable. It’s worth carrying out some keyword research here, so that your brand can really compete.
Secondary hashtags and use on social
Once you have settled on your brand’s hashtag, you can begin to experiment with secondary tags, such as product and event tags. These are especially useful for promoting upcoming events or new product release, amongst other things.
As you can see by the above example, this can be clickable content on social that take the user to the page where you want to direct them. Try to stick to one or two key phrases and ensure that they are immediately legible when viewed.
To do this, it’s sometimes necessary to mix up lower and upper case letters, for example, #hashtagshituk can be interpreted very differently to #HashtagsHitUK!
It’s also wise to ensure that hashtags are well aligned with your industry and brand, so if you have a site that sells shoes, you could have #shinyshoes #UniqueShoes and so on.
Join the conversation
You may have come across this phrase before in advertising material when a company is promoting a Q&A session, or simply attempting to reach its audience by hosting a Twitter chat.
Here you can use your primary tag along with a tag for the conversation. So, if you’re hosting a chat about whether kids should use social media and you’re a kid’s clothes reseller, you could have your primary tag of #KiddyClothing and a conversation tag of #KidsOnFacebook.
Then it’s just a case of starting the conversation and waiting for replies, which should be answered more or less immediately if you want the campaign to have any success. Modern internet marketing depends on you connecting with and engaging your followers and this is a great way to achieve this.
Always bear in mind that the internet is now a social place and as such, you should speak with a personal tone, not a corporate one. Choose a member of staff that can think on their feet, are friendly and diplomatic and you can’t go too far wrong.
Piggybacking is for the unimaginative
Some people will tell you that a brand with a successful hashtag that’s gone viral is a great chance for you to ride on the back of this success. This isn’t a good idea; in fact the best ideas are those that you think up for yourself.
Think about it. A user is searching for the hashtag of a particular brand, as they know that it means some good offers are available; instead they find yours, which is unrelated to the brand they are searching for. Would you be happy? This is more likely to lose you fans and gain you a reputation for cheating, more than any positive effect it may have.
Dealing with hijacks and other problems
Hashtag hijacking does exist (the above is an example of that), so you should monitor channels where you use them to ensure that you have control. This has happened to even the biggest of brands, such as McDonalds, and it’s vital that if happens to you that you address it.
This should be done in a similar way to social media complaints:
- Be transparent, tell your audience what’s happening
- Be good natured and friendly in your dealings with people
- Apologise to any followers it may have offended and explain the situation
- Use it as a PR exercise
Internet trolls love to make trouble, so it’s important that you don’t take it personally or let it annoy you. Followers may very well surprise you with their support if you handle the situation correctly.
Tracking, analysis and tools
Firstly, use Google Trends in order to carry out some research for your industry and locality. There are plenty of software options for tracking hashtags that you use, so that you can measure their performance, Hashtracking is one that gives reasonably in-depth insights, whilst tweetreach is a very popular tools used by many marketers.
You may have to experiment in the first instance when researching hashtags, but you will soon get the hang of it, especially if you already carry out keyword research for your site and content.
Hashtags are extremely useful as part of your social marketing, so learn to use them properly, track them effectively and don’t be tempted to use for irony, although a little humour can be a good thing.