Before we talk about how you should use a hashtag, do you know why you should use a hashtag? Hashtags make it easy to join conversations that are already taking place around a certain topic of interest. For example, if you search for #Maine on Twitter, Facebook, Google or Instagram you will be introduced to people tweeting, posting and blogging about Maine as a subject. You might even find a few of my posts in your search results!
The benefits of using hashtags are:
There are many reasons why you (yourself) or you (your business) should use hashtags but more importantly you need to make sure that you are using them correctly. Many people use hashtags incorrectly, and that will only reflect badly on you or your business.
The correct use of hashtags:
1. Search the hashtag before you use it
The most important thing to remember is to search the hashtag before you start using it. If you’re using a common hashtag like #Maine, it is not as important. However, if you are creating a new hashtag, such as Verizon did with #RealityCheck to promote a new promotion, you will probably find some inappropriate tweets that you would not want associated with your business.
2. Use hashtags that people would most likely search for
I am referring to using a hashtag to emphasize the content you are promoting. If I tweet a picture of the fall foliage here in Maine I might use #Maine to emphasize what I am talking about. I would not however use #MaineTreesShedLeavesInTheFall. No one will ever search for that hashtag, and honestly it just makes you look stupid.
3. Make sure that you are not using too many hashtags in one post
If I am writing a blog post about the Maine foliage and I include #MaineFoliage #MaineLeaves and #MaineFall it appears as if I am trying too hard. Yes, we all want to show up in search results but using all three hashtags is just silly, and don’t forget that hashtags are included in your character count, and you are only allowed 140 on Twitter.
So tell me, are you a hashtag addict?
DISCLAIMER: #3 above does not apply to Instagram. A recent study shows that when you use more hashtags in a post on Instagram, you will receive higher interactions on that post.
A friend of mine recently started her own private practice in the health care industry. She said to me “I would love some business advice, I have some Facebook questions, etc.”
Her questions got me thinking, if you are a small business owner starting out on your own, and your background isn’t in marketing, how do you know where to start?
I put together this list to help you navigate the seas of online marketing and to help you immediately start growing your customer base.
1. List your business on all of the online directories:
I am referring to sites such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Merchant Circle and any that are prevalent in your industry. In today’s world everyone is searching for their next hair dresser or housekeeper online, make sure you are there to be found.
2. Create business pages on the main social networks:
I am not suggesting that you start marketing your business on every social network out there, pick the major ones and start there. I’ve outlined the heavy hitters below. I always recommend that you start out small and build your way up, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Remember, if you’re not maintaing these accounts by constantly providing updates, and responding to comments, it will not represent your brand well.
a. Create a Facebook Business page, and start promoting local community events in your area, as well sharing information from other business pages that is relevant to your business. Sharing information and commenting on posts from other business pages will help you gain more visibility for your page and help build your community.
b. Create a Google+ company page. This will be tied to the Google listing that you created for your business, which is called Google+ Local. By using your Google+ company page the same way you use your Facebook company page you will be influencing how you show up in Google results. You can learn more about Google+ here.
4. Secure your business name online:
For the accounts that you are not going to be active with today, such as Twitter, or Foursquare, you should create an account there anyway so you can secure your company name before someone else does, as well as your vanity URL. For example, twitter.com/jennimacdonald.
5. Create a Blog:
If possible create a blog to show that you are an expert in your industry. You need to be constantly updating your website/blog with new, relevant information in order to improve your google ranking. However, if you do not have time to start a blog today it’s ok, all of your social network activity for your company will help your Google ranking as well.
6. Be consistent with your marketing strategy:
Try to make sure that you are updating your social accounts at least three times per week. I recommend publishing updates once per day. You need to be consistent in order to keep your viewers engaged and to keep them as a follower for your business.
7. Find influencers in your industry:
Search for experts in your industry online in places such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc. Follow these influencers to start building relationships with them for your business. Also, makes sure that you find and follow major competitors for your business. Following competitors will give you great ideas for your marketing strategy, as well as what not to do. (This is my biggest piece of advice, and a must for your business)
8. Have fun:
You need to be transparent, in other words be yourself. In today’s world you need to earn the trust of your customers, and by being yourself (the business owner) online it will make it very easy for you to be transparent. Talk about your challenges as a business owner, and your recent discoveries. People can connect with humans, they can’t connect with robots.
I hope you find this helpful, and you feel like it will be easy to get started. If you have any questions please post them below in the comments. I love talking with business owners about their marketing strategy.
Take the leap and get started, there’s no time like the present.