How To Use Hashtags For Small To Medium Sized Business (SMB) Marketers
Hashtags should be a part of your social media strategy! For those small to medium sized businesses out of the loop, Twitter is where the concept got popular; however, virtually ALL social networks NOW service hashtags!
For the SMB it’s a huge opportunity to broaden visibility or, better yet, for ‘broader content marketing reach‘ amongst qualified individuals actually searching for information on a particular subject. While there is no direct SEO value in hashtags, they will increase the search- ability of content… and interaction with content leads to signals that do improve SEO.
Simply put, hashtags are created by pairing a number sign (#) with a word or phrase. By adding the #hashtag to your latest tweet or status entry you can simultaneously have it enter a place where similar information is being aggregated. Think of #hashtags as social network bookmarks for the automatic & continuous collection of content related to that particular topic. For instance, posting a message with #SmallBiz to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus or other social networks will add it to a live aggregation of posts that include the same #SmallBiz hashtag. If you target B to B marketers, they may just find you there.
SMB HashTag Mistakes To Avoid!
Like with any content online, exercise caution! There are some embarrassing #hashtag minefields out there so don’t ever forget to research them before using them. Take a look at the #hashtag in the social network you are working to see what it’s being used for and avoid any potentially embarrassing mistakes:
- Deaf Ears: Understand why a hashtag exists or why people are using it. If no one is paying attention, the effort of adding it will be wasted. And know that the vast majority of hashtags are met with web-wide indifference, so look for where there’s opportunity first.
- Desperate: Don’t overwhelm posts and tweets with too many #hashtags. It’s never appealing to readers and it certainly can make you look desperate. Maybe 2- 4 maximum is best practice.
- Hijacking: Don’t be the problem! Don’t hijack social media with worthless entries and as a result, undermine its value for the people you seek. Certainly not if you want value from Hashtags yourself. Per Nick Denton of Gawker fame, “The idea of harnessing the intelligence of readership has been lost in the quest for Facebook likes. For many, readers have become synonymous with hateful commenters. It’s time for a renewed push to realize some of the original dreams of the web.”
- Bad Taste: The Kenneth Cole brand has had a couple poor taste tweets now, but during the fighting in Cairo when they tweeted with the hashtag #Cairo, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo – KC” they were ripped apart in the media and online for their insensitivity.
- Too Risky: Skittles invited people to tweet about them and then allowed that activity to hit their home page. Amidst all the activity that ensued there were some horrible tweets they may have regretted being visible on their home page. McDonalds wanted to have a collection of customer love stories so they invited ‘love story’ tweets to #McDStories. Unfortunately people tweeted some awful things about their food and the campaign was shut down within a couple hours.
- Unrelated Conversations: Entenmann’s tweeted, “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!”; thereby, entering themselves into a conversation that had no place for ‘baked treat marketing’. There was backlash and soon thereafter they felt compelled to tweet again “Sorry everyone, we should have checked the trending hashtag first.”
SMB Hashtag Marketing Tips!
- Use Camel Case: When using a hashtag with more than one word, capitalize each word = #SmallBiz. Hashtag searches are NOT case sensitive and forgetting capitalization won’t decrease visibility, but it will make longer hashtags much easier to read.
- Target: Enter tweets or status with hashtags only where you can target qualified clients. For instance, it’s likely many small to medium sized marketers follow #SmallBiz #SMB #marketing for advice and resources. All three are highly active hashtags, but they may not be as useful for the business to consumer (B To C) marketer!
- For Sales Add #sales, #ShopLocal +#(your city or town): If you are running a sale these hashtags may be key to spreading the word! Even if shoppers don’t search the hashtag in Twitter, related coupon sites or local magazines or even blogs may share them with their audience.
- For Jobs Add #jobs, #networking, #hiring: Professionals use Twitter to search and it’s only likely they will use the same method in other social networks servicing hashtags. Post a job with the hashtag #jobs or #hiring or #networking, alongside the position and people on the hunt will find it!
- Create New Conversations: For the SMB, create conversations that might serve a local area, a neighborhood, town or county like #TorontoHomes. If the new conversation takes off it may keep your brand visible for a very long run!
- Track Target Conversations: It can be set up in a HooteSuite or TweetDeck account, and depending on who’s entering what into that stream of targeted hashtag consciousness, there may be business at stake! If you’re a real estate agent in Honolulu, it’d be nice to see people tweeting in real- time about how much they want a Honolulu HI Condo with a view of the water. And there’d be nothing stopping you from direct messaging in real- time with some great waterfront listing information!
It’s obvious that hashtags can be a blessing when it comes to your marketing; however there are as many pitfalls as there are opportunities. In order to promote your SMB in social media, think about clever ways to leverage hashtags that add value. If you haven’t yet, jump in with something easy; always watch what’s going on, experiment and be careful!