Talking Shop: #hashtag help

Ah, the beloved hashtag. This recent invention appears everywhere in pop culture, often ironically. It's changed how we search and connect on social media. An understanding of the hashtag is crucial for the success of a social media campaign.

So how do you go about finding the right hashtag for your post? Strategy, like most things with social media, is king. Winning at social media is rarely dumb, blind luck. It takes thought and planning, just like anything else you do in your business. Putting in a little time up front pays off huge in the end. You wouldn't want to be the person standing on a street corner, screaming randomly about your business and hoping it's close to someone who might want to purchase something, right? The same is true for social media. You can yell and scream a lot and hope it gets you what you want or you can intentionally create something meaningful.

First things first - who the heck are you trying to reach? There's a high likelihood you'd like to reach new customers but who are they? Having a clear definition of your customer will help you narrow & specify your tags. All those questions you asked yourself about your customer when you created your business plan are really going to come in handy now. (Didn't create a business plan? Never fear - there's always time for quick walk thru.)

Now that you know why you're even using a hashtag (or why you have social media at all for that matter) let's talk about types of hashtags.

The Location Tag: Where do your customers exist in the world? Are they confined to a certain location or are they broad and worldwide? If you're an online boutique, you're not as dependent on a certain location so using #denver or #colorado will only get you so far. Obviously, you can't tag every city or country around the world. If your ideal customer could live anywhere, a location tag might not be the best fit.

The Photo Specific Tag: This is the tag that is in specific reference to some aspect of your photo and is more of a generic tag than one targeted to your brand or market. These are more like stumbling around, mindlessly shouting at a lot of people versus specific conversations with interested advocates so use them sparingly and know they probably won't get you that amazing thousand dollar sale.

The Community Tag: Different communities use different hashtags to talk to each other. Furniture manufacturers and vegans use vastly different tags to talk to each other. Do some research on what hashtags are most popular with your followers and which hashtags successful brands in your industry are using. Use these tags to join (not monopolize) the conversation. Add your voice and interact genuinely with others. This is the tag type that will probably create the most meaningful new connections.

The Brand Tag: How do you know what your customers are saying about your brand? Sure, they might leave you the occasional comment or take it one step further and pen a nice email, if they're feeling generous with their time. Why not empower them and make it ridiculously easy to talk about and with you? Create your own brand specific hashtag and share it everywhere. For example, we use #denverstylemagazine and we tell pretty much everyone to use it. We get a lot of @ tags on a day to day basis and there's usually more than one person on our social media accounts so we tend to not see (or remember to respond) when someone @ tags us (unless it's on one of our photos.) But since we use the tag #denverstylemagazine and we actively track the tag (using an auto IFTTT email) we know exactly who is talking about us and what they're talking about at any given time. We use specific brand tags for specific aspects of our business - #dsmworkshop is about the many workshops we offer, #dsmcommunity is about our monthly community Mix & Mingles. Your brand hashtag can be funny or cute but it should always be easy to remember.  Once you've decided on a brand hashtag, put that baby on everything. Hang tags, the signature of your email, your own posts - the more you talk about it, the more your customers will use it to interact with you.

The Useless Tag: There's nothing wrong with using a harmless silly hashtag every once and while. A random and obscure tag probably won't gain you 1000 followers but it will show your brand's personality and that's sometimes even better.

Looking for more information on the ins and outs of social media? We're hosting the fourth installment of our Social Media for Brands workshop in December. Bring your laptop and we'll walk through creating a calendar as well as a couple dynamic posts to get you started. Seating is limited and even though it's weeks away spots will go fast -grab yours now!