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Using hashtags effectively on social media


The recent news that hashtags are coming to Facebook is no surprise to most people in digital marketing, as it’s been rumored for some time now. Whilst Mark Zuckerberg’s company might be just jumping on the success Twitter has seen with hashtags, that doesn’t mean they won’t be effective.

According to Facebook, hashtags are a “simple way to see the larger view of what’s happening or what people are talking about,” according to a report from The Telegraph. However, for business, they are also an excellent tool for cutting through the social media swath and attracting a target market’s attention.

Choosing your hashtag

Creating effective hashtags is no accident and should be based on brand and industry as much as possible. Tags that work have a close relationship to the brand, they stand out and gain the most traction. It’s equally important to try and make all hashtags short and memorable as these are the ones that people tend to pay the most attention to.

Whilst some marketers recommend ‘listening’ to your audience and “piggybacking” on hashtags that are being used successfully by other brands and followers, this is not a great idea. It may give some short-term success, but overall it’s much better to develop your own unique hashtag that people will come to associate with your brand.

This means that your audience will be able to find you easily, as well as any conversations relating to your brand. Experiment, carry out market research and choose a primary hashtag to attach to your brand, then you can drive conversations with keyword hashtags.

Conversations

Hashtags are searchable, so do bear this in mind when choosing keywords. Ensure that it’s closely affiliated with the subject of the conversation you’re trying to create. Answer any replies quickly and only when relevant to the conversation, to drive it and create definition.

Also remember that hashtags address your brand audience and as such, should be tailored to suit their interests. Hashtags can be used to promote special offers, a new blog, new products and services and so on, as well as your overall brand.

Taking this approach and targeting well will also mean that you attract further followers.

Monitoring and managing conversations

Hashtag conversations should be closely monitored to pick up what is being said about your company. If you’re unlucky enough to have a complaint hashtag go viral, then damage limitation is the key to managing it.

This means that rather than ignoring the problem, it’s generally necessary to make the appropriate apologies and defend your brand. Unfortunately, internet trolls are common and sometimes these will attempt to damage your brand for no other reason that they fancy causing some mischief.

You can of course block the offending user, but it’s better to make a formal complaint if you want it stopped. Ensure that all marketing staff are familiar with the social media site’s terms & conditions and complaint procedures to avoid making things worse and be as transparent as possible to your followers.

Be aware that hashtag ‘hijacking’ does happen and if it affects you, then respond by creating positive PR that leads to useful and professional content. It’s also wise to monitor your followers and remove those that spread spam content.

Promote your brand hashtags

Use your main hashtag on all of your advertising literature, in the footers of email and social media. This is the best way you can begin to get the brand associated with it and allow people you do business with to find you quickly.

Create a branded hashtag landing page on websites and mobile sites, so that you can analyse keywords and content that your audience looks for. This will also raise the profile of your tag, if done properly.

Hold a tweet-chat every now and then surrounding something that is creating a buzz with your audience. This can be anything from television programmes to the launch of a new product, just set the time and then market it through all available channels.

Once you’ve done this, it’s just a simple matter of posting a new question every so many minutes and moderating the incoming conversation. This engages your audience and helps you to begin to form a brand relationship with them.

With this in mind, remember the nature of social is personal, not corporate, so ensure that posts are friendly, adapted to your audience (age, sex and so on) and not too heavy duty.

Hashtags are an excellent way of marketing your brand and connecting with your audience and can help to drive traffic to your content. If you don’t have the time to use them properly, it’s not really worth using them at all and if you overuse them, you risk alienating the customers, so use wisely.

Article by Mark Mitchell of MySocialAgency a UK based social media agency. Follow Mark on Twitter here.

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