Tracy Petrucci: May 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Small Biz Tip: How To Use A HashTag

One of the questions I get asked most often in my classes is, "What is a hashtag?" and how do you use them?

A hashtag is when you put a # next to a word or phrase #likethis. When you use a hashtag on Twitter,  Instagram, or Pinterest it creates a clickable link to all the of the photos or tweets that have also used the same hashtag.

You might use a hashtag for any of these reasons (and more):

1. It helps other people find you! If you use a hashtag to describe where you are, anyone else searching for that hashtag can find you, follow you, or retweet your message. Maybe you're at a hot new restaurant and you hashtag the name of it #HotRestaurant. Well now you've made it possible for others to find you when they look that hashtag up. Anyone who is curious who else is at the same place, or even other businesses trying to find customers or size up their competition, may be looking at it. All of the photos or messages that use a hashtag end up in the same place so others can peruse them in one spot.

Here is an example... I ate at Gabardine in Pt Loma a couple months ago. I took a photo and used the hashtag #gabardine on Instagram. After a few minutes some of my friends had liked the photo, but so had a few people I didn't know, including Gabardine's Instagram account.

Anyone looking at photos of #pointloma or any of the other hashtags would see my photo. I don't use hashtags anymore on Instagram because I have made my account private and don't really worry about new people finding me, however for a business, this is a great way to get new exposure.

2. It can add to your story.  On Twitter, you only get 140 characters to describe something, so using a hashtag can add a lot of explanation or extra info to your sentence by cutting out the need to use extra words. For example, "It's Friday night but I'm up late studying, AGAIN. #nursingstudent". Adding the hashtag nursing student just reinforces the statement about being up late studying, without the user having to go into anymore detail, yet you now know much more about the story.

It can reinforce a feeling too, even on platforms where character limits are not an issue. "It feels like Summer around here! #happy #beachlife". The point is, she only wanted to talk about the fact it feels like summer, but can add that she's happy about this, and is probably hanging out on the beach, by adding a simple hashtag.

3. It can organize a conversation or contest. I've run many successful contests or conversations by making entrants use a custom hashtag. It creates a place where I can keep track of who is entering, what they are saying, and so forth. Click here to see what I mean and for a real life example.

You can not OWN a hashtag. They are public item, and you need to be creative when using hashtags so the right people find you at the right times, especially when talking about using them as a marketing tool. I will write a follow up post with more tips on actually using them.

He Talks In Hashtags
I meet a lot of people who underestimate the power of Twitter, but it only takes a quick look around at the major brands, tv stations, and advertisements to see that most businesses are using hashtags in marketing for various reasons. They are not silly... do you really think such huge organizations would be using something if it didn't work, or if only a tiny minority of people were participating? Additionally, things like hashtags can level the playing field for small businesses to compete, and they shouldn't be scoffed at for business purposes. You can however, scoff at the guy from The Bachelorette this week who constantly used hashtags in normal, real life conversation... I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet.

Here's an article I liked highlighting some brands using hashtags, and stay tuned for a follow up post with tips on using hashtags for marketing your business.